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41. Regarding the Heart of Learning & Teaching pt 3

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Good Morning Families, today is Wednesday May 20th, 2020 and it is now time for a moment of SEL.

Today we are continuing our journey into the heart of learning and teaching. The subtitle of the book is Compassion, Resiliency, and Academic Success.

So, we talked a little about compassion, so today we are going to focus on that second word, resiliency.

The word resiliency means the ability to recover from a difficulty or challenge or adversity. The Heart of Learning uses the definition, “the ability of an individual or community to withstand and rebound from stress.”

People use that word to talk about “bouncing back” from something. Like, when we get a vaccine for coronavirus our society will come back from social distancing. We will be resilient.

Here’s what the Heart of Learning and Teaching says about being resilient. Many studies about resiliency reveal that resiliency is “primarily a process” and that “most of the dispositional characteristics associated with resiliency, and the coping skills needed to adapt to stressors, can be learned and supported.” That’s fancy talk for saying, you can learn it.

Resiliency is an SEL skill that you can build like a muscle. It will involve some self-awareness, that is you’ll need to be able to recognize and understand your thoughts and feelings, it will involve some self-management because you will need to be able to interact with and make choices regarding your thoughts and feelings, and it may involve some social awareness, particularly if the difficulty or set back or adversity involves others, or is occurring in a social setting. Also, being able to recognize and use the power of community and social support, which is one of the greatest tools to becoming resilient, will require social awareness.

So, let’s look at those three skills that underly resiliency. And let’s pick a context to work with. Remember, Social Emotional Learning skills are contextual, so we’ll need a context for our example. I will use the context of starting a new school. And I will use it as I am a new 6th grader at a large middle school, where I was a 5th grader at a small elementary school. In my example I am not doing well in math and I feel stupid, everyone is better than me.

The first skill you’ll need for resiliency is to recognize that you are experiencing a challenge or adversity and possibly several unpleasant feelings and thoughts. In my 6th grade case the subject of math is challenging, feeling that everyone is better is challenging, telling myself I’m stupid is challenging. There’s probably more but that’s enough for our example.

So, once you’ve recognized these thoughts and feelings you need to be able to use your self-management skills to work with these thoughts and feelings. First, is the recognition that this math class may take more work than you’re used to, in order to be successful. That’s really what is happening when a class is challenging. It means the amount of time and attention will need to be increased. When you think about it in those terms, you might be able to avoid the emotion trap of feeling bad and focus on the “time and tools” model of landscaping

The “time and tools” model is simple. If you have job to do, it will take a certain amount of time and a certain number of tools or materials. That’s it. Time and tools. Not a ton of emotion, just simple time and tools. Some jobs take more time and tools, and some take less.

So, this math class may take more time and tools. But that time and those tools will be really hard to use if you are telling yourself that you are stupid, or you are using social comparison to measure yourself against others. So, you will need to recognize those messages and manage those messages and the feelings that come with them.

This can be trickier. But, remember, you know about social comparison and you know about self-bullying. You also know about catastrophic thinking and you know about making things personal and pervasive and permanent. In fact, we’ve learned about all those things during these moments of SEL. You can use your SEL skills of self-compassion, and perseverance and you can work through those thoughts and feelings.

We don’t want to oversimplify this process, but if you’ve been learning and practicing your SEL skills, then you know how to do these things. The next step is using your social awareness skills to recognize a way to get support. That may be talking to your teacher, asking a classmate for help, or talking to another trusted adult. That’s the power of community. There will always be helpers, if you know how to see them.

Once you find the supports you need, you need to allow yourself to accept them and allow yourself to be successful, even if it requires more time and tools. Once you have done all this you have demonstrated resiliency. That is, you faced a challenge and you bounced back. Math was hard, but look, Mr. Manzo still made it through grad-school, and if he can do it, anyone can.

Resiliency is a very important for schools to recognize in students, because not all students are coming into schools starting from the same place. In fact, many students are working through some very challenging experiences. Some students are even working through trauma.

That is what we are going to start talking about tomorrow, but we wanted to have some understanding of resiliency first.

We look forward to connecting with you all in whatever way we can tomorrow as we continue our exploration into the heart of learning and teaching.

Until tomorrow may your thoughts and feelings be with you.

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