16. Regarding Learning pt. 2
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Good Morning Families, today is Tuesday April 7th 2020 and it is now time for a moment of SEL.
Let’s talk about roads. The roads we travel. Not the physical roads, the metaphorical ones. The ones I mentioned yesterday. The roads we are preparing students for. The roads that may not be prepared for the students. Those roads. All of this is going to be about the metaphorical roads.
One thing we want to consider about this metaphor involves equity and equality. You can think of equity as fairness and you can think of equality as sameness. Equity and equality are big issues in education. These are things that students and families and teachers wrestle with all the time.
It is the job of public education to provide all students who enter, equal and equitable access to an education that prepares them for being able to develop the personal and social skills to be able to build and maintain healthy relationships with and for themselves and with and for others. And yes reading and writing, even though they are labeled independently as academic skills, are in fact personal development skills. And yes, being able to get into college and acquire and maintain a job is a set of social skills. Sorry academics and career and college readiness, you will not escape the long arm of Social Emotional Learning! Why? Because nothing you do is void of thought or feeling. Unless you’re doing the mindfulness work from 2 weeks ago.
But, going back, let me repeat. It is the job of public education to provide all students who enter, equal and equitable access to an education that prepares them for being able to develop the personal and social skills to be able to build and maintain healthy relationships with and for themselves and with and for others. However, what is fair for everyone may not be the same for everyone and, what is the same for everyone may not be fair for everyone. This is the world in which we live.
So, as much as we work to prepare students for all the roads they may choose to travel, we cannot ignore that fact that some roads were designed, either with intention or with carelessness, for some of us to travel them more easily than others.
So, here is where the Social Emotional Learning skills of social awareness and social engagement and self-efficacy are especially useful.
First, let’s start with self-efficacy. If you are interested in self-efficacy or social learning theory I would recommend going to www.albertbandura.com and then click the bibliography page. Essentially, self-efficacy refers to a person’s belief in his or her efficacy to influence events that affect their lives. Over-simply, in school that translates into a student’s belief that they are a capable mathematician will influence his or her performance in math. When we use an SEL approach to support student learning we help students recognize evidence they can draw on to support their belief in their abilities. This of course can also be done through social modeling. That is, the more people see people like themselves being successful, the easier it may be for them to see themselves as successful. So, if you see yourself reflected in a wide range of successful endeavors, the road to your success may in fact be smoother, as you may more easily cultivate self-efficacy for that task.
We know that we can view our social landscape in education and in life and see that we do not always provide our students with access to these smooth roads. Representation in the classroom, in the boardroom, in the newsroom, in the news, you name it, is not equally distributed creating issues for how educators equitably distribute learning. In other words, not all roads are built the same for all people. In fact, many roads were built just for people like me; white, male, cisgender, heterosexual, Judeo-Christian people.
Now that is not to take the responsibility off the student and say that adults must quickly build new and better roads. And, adults aren’t let off easy, we do still need to build new and better roads.
But students, you must work to recognize your strengths, in all areas. Take math, if computation is difficult, that is okay. It will not destroy you. Ask for help, and then recognize yourself as being capable of acquiring help in order to be successful. Recognizing a need, seeking and receiving guidance, and being successful are massive college and career readiness skills. See, you are actually highly skilled. Students find your strengths. Recognize them. Balance your strengths with areas you need to improve. Hold them both. The places where work is difficult in school don’t define you as a student, the way you get help and succeed through those areas does.
Okay, now to social awareness. If you recognize that your roads are relatively smooth, then consider, that may not be the case for all people. You may be sitting with classmates or coworkers who are traveling toward the same goal as you, but their road is full of potholes and dangerous curves. Ask them what their road is like and listen to what they say. They are not making it up if they say their road is treacherous. They are not condemning you if yours is not. You need not feel guilt. You may choose to, but I would suggest you convert that guilt into action. Do something. Use your social engagement to be and ally and help that road get fixed. Here’s one way to do that. After you’ve listened to your classmates or coworkers and you’ve heard how their road is paved find one other person who looks like you. Share with them what you’ve heard, ask them to share with others who also look like you.
This may sound like a “nothing” solution, but unfortunately, we are still in the building awareness and acceptance phase that not all roads are equally or equitably paved. Get into groups, ask the grown-ups you trust, what they think you could do? You know there is one group of people whose job it is to listen and do what large groups of people say. Those people are politicians. If a large group of people say to the Mayor of Seattle, stop doing such and such or start doing such and such, and that group is large enough to either confirm or reject her as a leader, she will listen. She has too or else she’s gone. I am not so cynical as to believe that private money can outweigh public sentiment, provided the public is large enough and vocal enough. That is social engagement. That is how we will get these roads repaved. Again, it will take self-efficacy, you must believe yourself capable of making change, which you are. It will take social awareness; you must listen and consider those around you. And it will take social engagement to effect that change. It will be hard. This road will cause you to struggle. That is okay. It will make you stronger. And if you keep focused on your Social Emotional Learning skills, there will be no bumps you aren’t able to handle and that is some serious learning.
I wish you the very best and look forward to connecting in whatever way we can, tomorrow.
May your thoughts and feelings be with you.