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SEL Harmony Webinar: A Look at Bridging Racial Experiences

On April 29th, Harmony Social-Emotional Learning and Inspire Teaching and Learning led a webinar discussing how two classroom teachers came together to discuss differing racial experiences. Dr. Melissa Collins, a second-grade teacher from Memphis, Tennessee and Mr. Michael Dunlea, a third-grade teacher from Tabernacle, New Jersey, led the discussion. Mr. Dunlea teaches at a predominantly White school and Dr. Collins teaches at a predominantly Black school.

During the discussion, they showcased how technology was utilized in bringing their students together. Empatico is a resource wherein differing classrooms can connect with other classrooms across the country to better understand what it may be like in a rural, urban, or racially diverse classrooms. As the presentation began, they highlighted how the main thing when building these connections is creating contracts of expectations and values to ensure the students are invested into this experience. They also created a buddy system so that every student in the classrooms had someone who was checking up on each other and someone who would be able to provide a listening ear during these meet-and-greets over teleconferencing mediums. Yet, this connect went beyond those meet-and-greets and many students would send letters or gifts to their buddies as the class year progressed.

This classroom experience was also meant to not stray away from differing racial experiences, but rather highlight to students who they can discuss and challenge things such as racism. One of the earlier activities they did was create a poll and see how many students in each classroom had never heard certain names before (the names ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Ruby Bridges to Breonna Taylor). This poll displayed how different the students’ knowledge bases were when it came to certain figures related to Black history and Black current events. In addition, they would do activities such as discussing what superhero powers they would utilize in order to challenge racism in the world.

Part of this classroom connection was also about enriching the communities and having opportunities for parents to see what their students are learning from one another. Many of the activities in the classroom also include topics such as acts of heroism and acts of positivity in the world. During the school year, they also were able to learn about some international cultures and present on some of the traditions they had not known about previously. Dr. Collins also applied for a grant from the Kind Foundation which allowed her to bring a few students from Tennessee to New Jersey in order to meet their buddies in a face-to-face field trip. Such a trip ensured that the students were able to see other parts of the country and enrich those connections already made with their buddies during the year before.

This webinar showcased an important topic in social-emotional learning which is building community and empathy-enrichment through the connections made within the year. For the Youtube video, you can click here: April webinar video and you can watch other Inspire/Harmony videos at the Inspire website .

The next webinar will be on June 24th, 2021 and will be titled “It’s Time to Celebrate What We’ve Accomplished and Be Inspired For the School Year Ahead”. To register, go to the Inspire registration website.



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