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Good Morning Families, today is Thursday June 11, 2020 and it is now time for a moment of SEL.
Social Engagement is a powerful tool in the Holistic SEL tool kit. It can be an avenue of expression. When we experience difficult emotion information it can be challenging to hold. Having an outlet for expression can be supportive for social and emotional wellbeing.
There is not one right or wrong way to utilize social engagement because just like all things with holistic social emotional learning what is best will depend on the context and the culture of a given situation. That leads to a whole bunch of questions students learn about in their reading and writing classes. Who, what, when, where, why, how; those are the questions that will help you determine how to best use your social engagement skills.
Sometimes you may need to be active and seen, sometimes you may need to be silent and listen, sometimes you may need to take the streets, sometimes you may need to cheer from the sidewalk. It will depend on your understanding of the who, the what, the why, the how, of what is going on.
Knowing how and when to ask those questions is a part of the skills that we practice when we use social awareness. Social awareness is a lot like self-awareness, expect it is applied to groups. It’s about you and your role as an individual in a group and your role as a member of a group. Social awareness helps people to recognize and understand the many groups they belong to, the many groups they do not belong to, the way to support groups they belong to, the way to support groups they do not belong to, and the way to work for and between groups and social situations when there is unwanted conflict or uncomfortable emotion information. It’s about recognizing what the groups you share a sense of belonging with value. It’s about recognizing what groups you don’t share a sense of belonging with value.
When it comes to belonging to different groups there are a couple of things to know. Remember when we talked about what a sense of belonging means? To remind you, a sense of belonging is a feeling you get when you are accepted into a group that you share a connection with. Now it can be a little tricky because, when it comes to social categories other people may assign you to a group that you do not feel a connection with. This happens all the time for transgender people because they are assigned to a social category based on presentation of gender and not their self-concept of gender. This can also happen for peoples who are born into multi-racial families. Society may still assign these folks to one particular social category without these people being able to have a voice in that. The assignment to a group being based only on what others perceive as the person’s presentation is not equitable.
Social awareness plays a big role in self-concept and identity. Self-concept is the term for a lot of the ways you think about yourself. Identity is about many of the same things but would also include behavior choices among other things. The groups you share a sense of belonging with will have a big impact on self-concept and identity. Here is a way to start building that social awareness for recognizing big parts of all of these things. See if you can identify some of the groups you share a sense of belonging with. Start with the basic things. Where do you live and who do you stay with? That is a group you are part of. Maybe think about the things you love. Those can be called interests. Interests can help you recognize groups you are a part of. For example, if you are interested in video games, you may be part of gamer culture. You may identify as a gamer.
How does this connect with social engagement? Well, recognizing your sense of belonging, with a variety of groups can help you start to find the context and culture of how to use social engagement during this time of great change. Where and how you decide to engage is going to be related to the groups you share a sense of belonging with.
We’ll use our family as an example. We have light skin. That’s a group we share a sense of belonging with. We also work in public education. That is another group we share a sense of belonging with. For years, our public education system in Seattle has been both good and bad for people, just like many large institutions in our nation. The places where we have done good for folks, we’d want to increase that. The places where we have not served our kids and families, we need to fix that. Having both light skin and being part of the public-school system comes with power. Some of the power we’ve worked hard to earn, some, we were given because of who we were born to. There are many, many ways we can work with what we have to make change so that our public-school system can be better particularly for those who are furthest from educational justice. Here are just some of the ways we can work in the spaces we frequent. We can make sure that our systems are utilizing holistic SEL, and not trying to misuse SEL to get students to conform to social management systems built entirely on the fallacy of white normative thinking. For as you should know by now, holistic SEL is not about telling you who you should be, it’s about supporting you to be who you are. We can continue to connect with families to gain input from them about our practices and theirs. We can support our staff in developing critical holistic SEL skills so we can meet our students with loving kindness and high expectations. We can make greater space for student voice and expression in building our systems and in our classrooms and community. We can listen, read, reflect, be creative, all the things that can support making the changes to our school system that are long overdue for change. We can keep focused on this inequity long after the thrill of marching is gone. Of course, we can also still march, it never hurts to lend physical presence to social causes.
If we can do this in our spaces, you can do it in yours. Whatever and wherever they are. Try to identify a few of them. See if there is away you can also bring in your thoughts and feelings and experiences, while also making a space for others who may be different from you.
((Audio interviews available on the links above))
Very sincere gratitude to everybody who lent their voices to the sharing this week, from all about our city and our region in these various social engagement opportunities.
We wish you the best in all the work you choose to do. Until tomorrow, may your thoughts and feelings be with you.