17. Regarding Learning pt. 3


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Good Morning Families, today is Wednesday April 8th, 2020 and it is now time for our moment of SEL.

How are you feeling? What thoughts are you thinking? How are you feeling in your body? How do you want to express yourself? How can you express yourself?

It’s always okay, in fact I’d encourage, pausing every couple of days to revisit these basic questions of self-awareness. I’m going to model that process for you today, as it apply to myself. The event or context I’m using these questions is the the announcement on Monday that school would be closed for the remainder of the year.

As Governor Inslee was speaking here are some of my thoughts. And in this model, I’m going to also connect those thoughts to the feelings that were with them. In some instances, I noticed a feeling first, that I was able to connect to a thought. In other instances, I noticed a thought first, that I was able to connect with a feeling.

What thoughts was I thinking?

As the press conference started I first I felt a sense of hope. I connected that to my thinking about how I notice our cases of coronavirus are not increasing as greatly as they could be. I thought, “It’s working! Social distancing is working. The sacrifice is making a difference. We’re winning.” I recognized a slight surge in pleasantness and energy. When he acknowledged how hard our health care providers are working and protecting and healing us and how these social distancing measures we’ve taken were working I thought about those health care providers, about grocery store workers, about delivery drivers and I felt deep gratitude and I’d say a stir of something I would call civic pride.

However, the more closely I listened to Governor Inslee’s tone and the more I paid attention to his body language, I started to feel apprehensive that he was going to also deliver some difficult news. As I was aware of the apprehension, I noticed my thoughts racing to try to predict what he might say, so to protect me from feeling surprised. When he started to talk about schools, I notice a feeling of dread. When he said schools would not open again this year, I recognized feeling fear and I heard myself say the word “no”. To be honest, I can’t tell you if I felt fear before I noticed the thought of saying “no” or if I was thinking “no” and then felt fear. It happened to fast for me.

As he continued to speak, I noticed that I was not listening to him at all. I was going through many thoughts and feelings all at once. I recognized thoughts such as “What does this mean?” For me, that question is an acknowledgement that there is something unknown. For me, that can lead to fear. I also recognized thinking, “This is bad.” Also connected to fear and connected to both sadness, and anger. I recognized thinking about all the school things that students and families would not be experiencing. I felt sad. And, as is my way, I also recognized protective anger that something has made me sad. And then I also heard myself say, “This is unfair for these kids.” That is connected to just straight up anger. Maybe a little pity also. And probably, if I were to really sit with this, much deeper stuff as well.

As I experienced these different thoughts and feelings I recognized my body shift from initially feeling light and even bouncy with hope, to moving through tension in the neck and shoulders, the furrowing of the brow with apprehension, an emptiness in the stomach with dread, a heaviness in the chest with sorrow and an antsy feeling in the legs with anger.

How do I want to express myself? I want to gather all of us in Seattle Schools, students, families, staff, and I want us to march to end the virus! I want to riot in the street. I want to set some giant bonfire that destroys all the viruses in the world. I want to play music so loud that it melts the virus down.

Of course, I can’t do any of that. What I can do is to recognize my thoughts and feelings. I can work to not judge myself or others for their thoughts and feelings. I can monitor and choose healthy behaviors for my thoughts and feelings. I can encourage others to also choose healthy, pro-social behaviors for their thoughts and feelings. I can continue to write and record these SEL moments in the hopes that they provide some amount of comfort or peace for the students I have been entrusted with, for their families who I serve and for my colleagues who I support. For me there is tremendous hope in the power of Social Emotional Learning.

This is my bias. I am not sure that by and large the stress we are feeling as a nation is related to the lack of access to math and reading and writing. I’m not bagging on those things, but I’m just not convinced we are in a national deficit of access to that material. However, I do believe that our thoughts and feelings are weighing on us all in different ways. I do believe that the physical connections we are not able to access right now are weighing on us in different ways. I do believe that as we trudge onward, we will experience many uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. We may even encounter unwanted conflict along the way. We may already have.

These SEL Moments are written a day before they are posted. So for this I was fortunate to have the benefit of an entire day to process our school closure. Guess what, that wasn’t enough time. I’m not sure I still fully understand my thoughts or feelings about this. I believe, and experience has supported this, that my thoughts and feelings will likely change many times, perhaps even in the course of a few hours. I also know that eventually I will begin to understand this “new normal” that will be the remainder of the school year. I do know that there will be new innovations and powerful new tools that we will be able to take back into the classroom, when the time is right. I know that there will be moments of joy and excitement and there will be moments of loss and sadness and anger. All of these things and more will be available to us. What we do with this will help define who we are.

Here are somethings I heard today from students sharing in our online learning classes. From kindergarten there was a lot of talk about bicycles, two wheels, balance bikes, several stories about bells on bikes. There were lots of shares about lost teeth or loose teeth, with particular emphasis on the going rate the tooth fairy is shelling out for those teeth. Which, if you’ve not checked recently, is definitely a growth market!

In 3rd grade I heard a lot about cheeseburgers, Netflix, video games, boredom.

4th and 5th grade, believe it or not, they have about as mixed feelings with online learning as they did with in-person learning. And bear in mind, these 4th and 5th grade teachers have worked more hours than they do in school, to create relevant, rigorous, relational, results orientated learning content and delivery methods complete with supplemental videos containing music and time-lapse cleaning and jokes and joy. And, if you ask our students in these online, whole group settings, how they like it, you’ll get a general response of silence and mumbles maybe something of a collective “meh”. But if you ask them one-to-one, they express that they really like connecting. And even though my own 5th grader asks me, “Do I have to do this online thing?” He still fixes his hair and shoos me away before the camera starts so I can tell he’s excited and fearful of my magical powers of embarrassment.

That’s a small window into what’s on the minds of our “students on the street”. Actually, not on the street but in their classrooms which are now the places they live or stay. These are their new school learning spaces. Wherever and whatever those spaces are. We still see them each day on our screens and to be honest, I’ve never enjoyed screen time as much as I am right now.

I wish you the very best and look forward to connecting in any way we can, including screens, tomorrow.

Until tomorrow,

May your thoughts and feelings be with you.

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