Many of us have quoted the Chinese proverb: ‘Tell me, I’ll forget; show me, I’ll remember; involve me, and I’ll understand’ when addressing the human aspect of teaching and learning. For this season, I want to revamp it in order to summarize my Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Teaching experience during the last couple of years, particularly 2014:
Tell me where to cultivate my curiosity, and I will share my findings;
Show me how I can transform what I know, and I will contribute to improvements;
Involve me in learning through feelings, and I’ll understand how to be a purposeful lifelong learner.
Exchanging ideas and spending quality time with family in this Christmas season has somewhat made reflect about schools’ journeys in the pursuit of new understandings, as well as the necessary efforts to establish and maintain positive relationships, and to make responsible decisions. For this reason, I thought of 3 questions that could help me summarise how I feel I (and my students), within my learning community, have learned to appreciate the value in to managing our emotions while setting ways to achieve our goals and showing empathy for one another. Thus, considering that the best learning scenarios are generated when everyone involved understands his/her responsibility and acknowledges the efforts made by others, here are 3 key questions in my reflection of Social and Emotional Learning in 2014:
Are we utilizing and involving our learning community (schools and parents) as we aim to generate new understandings?
It is only logical to think that new knowledge acquired and novel ideas to be developed will have an impact not only on each of us as individuals, but also on our community. Have we informed our community about the findings of our research projects? Have we engaged them in discussing them and sharing what they think? Have we allowed them to share their inquiries and wonderings with us? Practicing and experiencing communication and empathy requires at least two people; thus, if we make an effort to share learning as part of our everyday social skills, not only will we become sensitized about the ways in which everyone is experiencing the learning process, but we will also witness how the intersection of thoughts and the connections different minds connects enhance our environment.
Are we aware of all the projects taking place in different subjects across programs in the school?
In order to achieve a sustained level of interdependence, learners and teachers need to be a part of a collaborative process that encourages them to look at their potential and devise ways to contribute to a diverse range of projects. If the school community is not used as an idea/skill development laboratory we will be ignoring great opportunities to iterate and refine competencies that can inspire sophistication of craftsmanship. Learners (teachers included) need to be acquainted with all the happenings in their community in order to express willingness to collaborate, in order to be invited to be part of a project and to truly develop the sense of belonging that will make them be conscious and conscientious community members and contributors.
Are we aware of the reflections fellow teachers and students are undergoing?
Being aware of how learning is shaping views of those around us will help us understand why they are displaying a certain set of attitudes that might not have been evident before, and will also enable us to observe how knowledge and new understandings are being handled, managed and shared through everyday interactions. As one (if not the most) valuable constituent in the learning process and inquiry cycle, reflection is a deep and internalized process that awakes one’s keenness and fervor to further our learning, to utilize our passion, and to innovate. Thus, by being aware of how certain experiences have had a positive impact on those around us, we will witness how motivation and enthusiasm flow in our environment, becoming a contagious attitude that inspires everyone. Why would one reflect if there wasn’t an opportunity to bring our newly polished, refined and redefined self so that, collectively, the level of efficacy and resourcefulness is elevated.
Reflecting on these three questions helps me illustrate what Weare (2004) states about emotional literacy as our ability to makes sense of and apply knowledge about our own and others’ emotional states with skill and competence. Moreover, if it is understood that achieving this plateau involves self –awareness, building a sense of connectedness and trust, communication and conflict resolution skills, building healthy relationships, empathy and celebrating success at all levels, one can clearly see how innovative learning and new understandings in the school belong to everyone and each individual needs to be a part of this universe of connectivity.
How did this happen in my environment?
- Engagement was not negotiated; it was a permanent state of mind that allowed us all to be a part of every task and experience. I encouraged students to include questions that they would like me to respond after every piece of written or spoken production, in order to establish dialogue. I myself went ahead and inquired about their thoughts, and they all became involved in an exchange of ideas that easily transformed into an anecdotal account of views that became exceptional companions of their performance.
2. Reflection was not regarded as the last tick in the box, but as a process that involved us
all, that informed us of how we were experiencing learning. Moreover, reflections were used as instruments to further learning and as resources that everyone involved could utilize to deepen appreciation of the ideas shared.
3. We did not simply hope for social and emotional skills emerge, develop and consolidate; we addressed real life situations that allowed us to think of solutions, and evaluate initiatives with our and someone else’s heart in mind. Likewise a strong emphasis was placed on managing one’s behaviors in order to favor the construction of learning environments in which our mental abilities responded to the emotions generated, hence making everyone feel proud and accomplished.
4. And most importantly, we had fun. We utilized humor as a way to practice complex structures and to live the language.
These 4 aspects are most significant part of the invisible curriculum, of that series of moments that are the result of the ideas and expectations that we planned. It was this way how our learning acquired a soul acquire a soul- when ideas were exchanged, listened, appreciated, valued, treasured and readied for future use. In a few words, there was no soulless teaching and learning at all.
I am, I care, I want to, I can and I will were fragments that were utilized on many occasions when new ideas were being formulated; we were flexible, providers and receivers of trust, accountable, motivated, and interested; and if we were to look back, we would see how every piece of the architecture of our learning experience matters and has a deep meaning when trying to define the person we are as we learning and share among others.
And, since the order of factors does not alter the product: we learned because we were happy = we were happy because we learned.
In the IB programs, Social and emotional learning and teaching is fostered through various attributes of the Learner Profile and further supported by the ATL via the affective skills cluster of the self-management category. What is more, its essence is presence is found a specific criterion in subjects such as Mathematics, and Physical and Health Education. In Mathematics, criterion D encourages learners to apply mathematics in real-life contexts, by justifying whether a solution makes sense in the context of the authentic real-life situation, which implicitly should urge them to consider their community in their decisions. In Physical and Health Education, criterion D also motivates learners to explain and demonstrate strategies that enhance interpersonal skills. In Language Acquisition, on the other hand, strand 3 of most criteria clearly demands students to identify ideas, opinions and attitudes to make connections with own experiences, attitudes and points of view. These 3 cases visibly exemplify how the forum/space to allow for quality SEL to occur is part of the IB DNA.
Some interesting resources on the topic:
Hargreaves, A.(2003) Teaching in the Knowledge Society. New York: Teachers College Press.
Weare, K. (2004) Developing the Emotionally Literate School. London: Sage Publications.
Zins, E. J., Weissberg, M.C., Wang, M.C. & Walberg, H.J. (2004) Building Academic Success on Social and Emotional Learning. New York: Teachers College Press.