Holistic Healing Pedagogy: Part II
Since I chose not answer the questions at hand and instead use the opportunity to give my two (and a half) cents about everything else, I will answer the specific questions here.
1. Ideally, every classroom should have implemented SEL in their daily instruction prior to this pandemic. However, the issues that have risen during this time gives us cause for mandatory implementation across the state (country). It will be impossible and highly damaging to attempt to teach students in the same ways we did before this occurred. The events that have taken place over these past months, and will continue for months (years) to come, has impacted students in a variety of ways that they have internalized but perhaps have not yet expressed.
Not all students have others in their lives to engage in healthy dialogue surrounding current events. Many students remain in unsafe, unhealthy, or traumatic environments during the shelter in place without school as an escape. Many of the systemic inequities that were once hidden are now becoming more visible forcing schools to finally address these issues. The combination of factors affecting students' lives throughout this time is not just an opportunity to utilize SEL strategies, but to make them a mandatory part of the daily routine.
2. Remaining connected via technology is highly important. Maintaining open dialogue and providing spaces for collaboration and thought-provoking topics to be taught and learned is vital. Perhaps the most effective instructional strategy right now is the use of creative project-based activities. From therapeutic art to creative writing, science in the kitchen and outside, drama, website design, creating podcasts, vlogs, and blogs, oral historical storytelling, personal narrative writing, familial/ cultural/ ethnic research, and online book clubs.
This is a perfect time to get creative in designing lessons and moving away from outcome based projects to focusing on students' learning processes. Another great thing is that our teaching need not remain focused on test scores. Take the opportunity to have fun and be creatively inspired in your daily instruction. Allow your students to teach you and others their individual skills and talents. Let your students be your inspiration and motivation to venture outside of the textbooks and curriculum.
Allowing students to be independent learners by making autonomous decisions about topics of interest and using creative processes for completing assignments increases engagement and positive learning outcomes. Include more options for students to work on assignments individually or collaboratively.
Being genuine and vulnerable with students and creating spaces where they continue to feel connected socially, emotionally, and intellectually. Provide many opportunities to reflect on emotional well-being, anxieties, fears, and the like without judgement. It is imperative that we remain human by practicing patience and forgiveness with ourselves and one another.
Engagement through humor, laughter, silliness, song, dance, exercise, jokes, or playing freely is a necessity right now. Students need multiple outlets for stress relief and it is important that we provide them the tools to do so.
3. Coming from an Early Childhood Education (ECE) background using SEL and developmentally-appropriate practices has always been required. So for me, this is organically a part of my daily practice. Being that brain development, developmental psychology, and SEL are not addressed at all or in the same manner as in ECE programs, teachers may not feel equipped to use SEL strategies in their classrooms. This is where preparation and training are key. Teachers want to feel confident in their skills in order to utilize specific strategies. Fear of failure often keeps teachers keeping with scripted curriculums. Although teachers are told to implement ever-changing pedagogies and instructional tools, we are not often shown how.
4. To successfully implement SEL into every day instruction, teachers need explicit training, modeled lessons, a variety of examples, tangible activities, options for implementation, and meaningful feedback.
What may possibly be most needed is understanding the urgency in improving our students' lives. Teachers must believe that it is necessary for students to learn and grow in healthy and empowering environments.