Beginning Important Conversations

I don’t know about you, but I am finding this December to be such a whirlwind. There are the expected classroom celebrations, holiday concerts, neighborhood caroling, and toffee making.

But what I wasn’t expecting this December were the vigils and remembrances. Reflecting on the recent senseless deaths of young black men and the two-year anniversary of Sandy Hook, I feel the heartbreak and urgency of other mothers around the country. And while I haven’t broached the topic of Sandy Hook with my seven-year-old, I’m beginning important conversations about the inequity and injustice in our society.

As an educator at times like these, I struggle with what I can do beyond having these conversations and attending candlelight vigils. I am grateful for the work we have done over the last six years with Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) around Caring School Community (CSC) and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). While I find clear connections between intentional SEL and its potential impact on the broader world around us, I am heartened to hear others making this connection as well. As I cooked dinner on Sunday night, I heard Andrea Spencer, coauthor of the Child Advocate Report written in the wake of Sandy Hook, give an interview on NPR. I guess the lesson that occurs to me is that we have to get and support a broader perspective on children’s needs as part of schools, classrooms, teachers, administrators, she said. Everyone needs to be more cognizant of the social-emotional aspects of children’s development.

So as you wind down for your well-deserved break, I wanted to let you know that in January we’ll post some of the stories from Oakland that my OUSD and CASEL colleagues and I shared at the national Learning Forward Annual Conference earlier this month. These stories capture how educators are integrating SEL across the district. We hope this offering will help support you as you incorporate SEL into your own practice. And I invite you to share how you are weaving SEL into your work and your life in the comments.

With SEL, our classrooms can be a powerful force in shaping a more equitable, compassionate society. Here’s to all that we can do to make our schools and society welcoming, safe healthy places for children and adults. Wishing you the happiest of holiday seasons.