About two months ago I embarked on my journey to obtain my masters degree. Two months in and while I am thankful I started this chapter of my life, I am realizing it is more challenging than I anticipated. I am at National University, working on my masters in Social Emotional Learning. It has already made an impact on my teaching, and made me realize how many mistakes I have made the past several years of my teaching journey. Embedded in the program are classes on Implicit Bias, Multicultural Education as well as Culturally Responsive Education. I have already wrote countless papers, and have completed countless discussion boards. As I do these assignments and complete the required reading, I wonder why is this not a mandatory topic in teacher education programs? I know there is some discussion on SEL, but why not more?! It has made me think about potentially leaving the classroom in the next few years to work with aspiring new teachers as a coach for SEL and classroom management.
Below, you will find a paper I wrote regarding SEL and Culturally Responsive Teaching. It was a challenging paper to write and made me really reflect on my teaching practices. Let me know your thoughts!
Part 1: Social and Emotional Learning
Explain the 5 SEL core competencies as designed by CASEL.
The first competency is self-awareness. This means to understand your emotions thoughts and values. You have a growth mindset and understand your identity and have a sense of purpose. Next is self-management, which is the ability to manage your emotions, have self-discipline, and you set and achieve goals. Third is responsible decision making, which includes making good decisions about your behavior in various situations and understanding the consequences of your actions. You are also curious and have an open mind. Relationship skills are next, which means that you communicate effectively while showing leadership skills and resolving conflicts responsibly. The fifth competency is social awareness. This means you understand other perspectives, show empathy, and compassion and acknowledge the strength of others (CASEL, 2021).
Describe an empowering social and emotional learning environment as it relates to your unique position at school and the role you play on campus
An empowering social and emotional learning environment is one where the five CASEL competencies are taught and modeled on a frequent basis. Students understand the competencies, and what it takes to achieve success. Students identify and manage their emotions and understand their identities. Goal setting, and frequent progress monitoring is done by the students to start to be able to self-manage themselves. Students learn responsible decision making skills and understand their actions have consequences. Students communicate effectively with their peers; they show leadership skills and stand up for the rights of others. Finally, students understand other perspectives that are different than their own. They show empathy and compassion for others and show that other people have unique strengths.
Provide 3 strategies to an educator who is new to implementing social and emotional learning in their position at school.
The first, and in my opinion the most important strategy is the way your mornings are started. I was taught that every student should hear their name at least once during the day. This starts with greeting students at the door by name, and when we live in a world without COVID, a special handshake/fist bump. After the morning greeting, a morning check-in with a quick meeting should take place. A check in allows you to see numerous things about your student. You can tell who is participating, who had a good night, or a bad morning. A morning check-in is key to starting your class because it allows students to do a check-in with their emotions and identify how they are feeling (a self-awareness and self-management skill).
After a morning check-in students should either determine their goals for the week or monitor the goals, they have already set for themselves. This is a self-management skill and allows students to reflect on what they want to do for the week. This is a good way to start the morning because it helps students to guide their focus for the day and focus on what they want to accomplish. Goals can help to motivate students and give you a sense of purpose.
A third strategy to promote social and emotional learning in your classroom should begin at the start of the school year. This is to create a class contract, which is essentially your classroom set of rules and expectations. To promote responsible decision making, students should have voice in creating the contract. The contract should include students hopes and needs, as well as your own expectations.
Part 2: Culturally Responsive Teaching
Explain what culturally responsive teaching (or culturally relevant pedagogy) is, and why it is important for every school to have.
Culturally responsive teaching is when an educator focuses on the learning capacity of their diverse students. The educator centers their lessons on addressing the diverse needs of students and building cognitive capacity. Culturally responsive teaching is important for every school to have because it addresses the needs of cultures who are underrepresented and who may lack cognitive capacity.
Describe a school OR classroom environment that embeds culturally responsive teaching seamlessly, where each student is represented, included, and empowered.
According to (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 1995) a classroom that embeds culturally responsive teaching is a classroom where teachers relate the academic content to their students’ cultural backgrounds. The text states that a classroom who focuses on culturally responsive teaching understands that “our emotions influence our motivation. In turn, our emotions are socialized through culture”. The author also states that to ensure each student is represented it is important for educators to establish inclusion, so each student is respected and connected to each other and to the educator. To empower students’ educators, need to worry less about extrinsic motivation, and start to work with their students on intrinsic motivation. If students are to be empowered, they must be motivated and to do this, they must have voice and choice of their learning.
Provide 3 strategies to an educator who is new to implementing culturally responsive teaching practices, in their position at school.
The first strategy is to understand your own culture, and your own biases. Without understanding yourself, you are not going to be able to understand others. To do this you need to attend trainings, talk with colleagues, and build your knowledge on what it means to be bias, and how to tame your own (National Education Association, 2019) .
The second strategy takes place in the classroom and includes creating a positive classroom culture where you are working with a community of learners. To do this you need to create a classroom that is emotionally and intellectually safe where students have voice in their education. To create a classroom that is emotionally and intellectually safe you will need to establish inclusion which includes having students create a class contract that establishes their hopes and needs (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 1995).
The third strategy is to not be afraid to challenge all students, regardless of race or culture. All students need to have experience solving real-world issues that require high levels of thinking as well as collaboration skills. Have students collaborate with each other on projects and reciprocal learning strategies. (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 1995).
Part 3: You Can't Have One Without the Other!
Describe a school OR classroom environment where social and emotional learning exists, but culturally responsive teaching does not. What are the strengths of this environment? What are the weaknesses of this environment?
Social emotional learning competencies are the soft skills that many of today’s employers are looking for. These skills include being able to identify and manage our emotions. Make responsible decisions, being an effective leader and being able to understand other perspectives (CASEL, 2021) . These are important skills and if students in this classroom have these skills, then it will probably be a classroom that runs relatively smoothly. There are probably not too many outbursts, and if there are a few, then students understand how they are feeling and are able to continue. Students take on leadership roles and collaborative learning can take place because students are making responsible decisions and understanding where their peers are coming from.
However, if there is not a culturally responsive education happening, then students who are of a diverse population are going to be missing out on rigorous activities that they should be participating in. Just because a teacher is teaching social emotional skills, does not mean that teacher is asking rigorous questions to all their students. It also does not mean that the minority students are being challenged to increase their cognitive capacity. While a student may do great with their social emotional skills, if they are of a diverse population, teaching these skills to them and failing to address their culture with appropriate education is doing them a disservice.
Describe a school OR classroom environment where culturally responsive teaching exists, but social and emotional learning does not. What are the strengths of this environment? What are the weaknesses of this environment?
When a class incorporates culturally responsive teaching all students, regardless of their culture are academically challenged. They are understood by their teacher because the teacher has taken the time to not only understand their own culture, but the culture of their students. Students and teachers both feel respected and connected to each other. Students are given voice and choice regarding what they are learning and how they show their learning.
However, none of this matters if social and emotional learning does not exist. Social and emotional learning is the key to running a successful classroom. Without social and emotional learning, students are unable to identify and manage their emotions. Meaning when they are having a hard day, there will be frequent outbursts in the classroom. Students may not make good responsible decisions, because these are skills that are not being taught at school and may not be taught at home either. Social and emotional skills are the heart of running a successful classroom and even with culturally responsive teaching, a student is going to struggle in the class if social and emotional skills are not being taught.
Design a school OR classroom environment where both social and emotional learning and culturally responsive teaching exist. What would a student see in this environment? What would a student hear in this environment? What would a student feel in this environment?
A school environment where both culturally responsive teaching and where social and emotional skills are taught would be a great place to be. Students would see people who look like them when they read texts. They will also see work on the walls that was done by them, that demonstrates high levels of questions as well as diversity. Students will hear stories about people of different cultures and will work collaboratively with their peers to understand different perspectives. Students will hear words that promote a growth mindset as well as being mindful. Students will feel respected and valued by their teacher as well as their peers. Students would be aware of their emotions and how to manage them. They would also make and reflect on goals they to stay motivated and engaged in class.
EdJustice. (2019, October 11). 5 things educators can do to address bias in their school. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://neaedjustice.org/2019/10/11/5-things-educators-can-do-to-address-bias-in-their-school/.
What is the Casel Framework? CASEL. (2021, October 11). Retrieved November 30, 2021, from https://casel.org/fundamentals-of-sel/what-is-the-casel-framework/.
Wlodkowski, R. J. J., & Ginsberg, M. B. (1995, September 1). A framework for culturally responsive teaching. ASCD. Retrieved November 30, 2021, from https://www.ascd.org/el/articles/a-framework-for-culturally-responsive-teaching.