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Persevering Through the 2021 Academic Year: A Needed Time for Celebrating One Another

     For the June webinar, the focus of Inspire Teaching and Learning and Harmony SEL switched to the celebration of all that has been put forth by educators and students in the past year as well as the hopes for the year ahead.

    The moderator for this panel presentation was Dr. Sara Rimm-Kaufman (Commonwealth Professor of Education from the University of Virginia). The panel of educators included Alejandro Diasgranados (2020 National University Teacher Award Grand Prize Winner), Whitney Green (Award-Winning School Counselor), Sarah Frayer (Award-Winning Elementary Teacher), and Dr. Monica Loyce (Principal, Thurgood Marshall School).

    A large part of this discussion focuses in on identifying social and emotional skills teaching during 2020-2021 as well as what can be taken forward to the year ahead. Panelists discussed how the previous year had the COVID-19 Pandemic, observations of racialized tension, and civic unrest. In this time, the educators were tasked with being a source of stability in a time when so much was unstable and shifting. A panelist noted the importance of praising positive social-emotional skills such as emotional self-management whenever it was observed so such behaviors would be reinforced. Another observation was that this year challenged educational systems to reach out more to communities and parents than ever before so that they were also learning some of what the student may be needing away from the school setting. Throughout each of the panelists’ comments, a central theme emerged of recognizing what the student was experiencing and encouraging processing as a growing opportunity.

   The next section highlighted what can be done in future years based on what was learned from 2020-2021. Dr. Rimm-Kaufman mentioned the need for educators to have support, effective leadership present, and aligned institutional actions/policies with social-emotional learning. This allows for educators to begin looking at the necessary components for effective teaching of social-emotional learning, which include creating a sense of community, meeting student development needs, and explicitly teaching the skills desire.

    As this previous year showcased, students and teachers may have experienced difficulties in attaining the desired goals and yet the outcomes and lessons have shown the hard work that all are putting forth. The panelists mentioned how much the students missed that sense of community and those opportunities when they did feel as though they belonged within the inclusive environments developed by educators. Engagement was difficult in the previous year, but there are lessons to be seen on how much students can indeed do when educators encourage self-determination and positive esteem-building projects. As for explicitly teaching those social-emotional skills, the panelists all agreed that the students would have struggled further if they had not already had some of these concepts built throughout the school setting and curriculum.

    That last piece is what they want to encourage for the future years as a reminder to students about the importance of taking these lessons and utilizing them as a guide for future educational and life success. It is clear that students are in different places in terms of educational preparedness and emotional turmoil, but it is also clear that educators are working tirelessly to ensure they are meeting students at where they are at.

    To view the recorded webinar, you can visit this YouTube Link. For more information on these monthly webinar, check out the Inspire Teaching and Learning website.

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