Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools

Classroom Practice

30

Nov

Preventing Microaggressions: Creating a Safe Space to Discuss Race in the Classroom

By Chloe G. Bland, Ph.D., Chair, Psychology Department, Assistant Professor, College of Saint Elizabeth, Morristown, NJ

As white educator, my first and central responsibility is to become aware of the myriad power dynamics that exist in my classroom because any lack of awareness of my power, my privilege, and our shared cultural norms makes it very likely that I will perpetrate a microaggression as I interact with my students.

Therefore, I heighten my own awareness of where I personally fit in the system of power and privilege. As a faculty member, I always have power and privilege. Add to that white privilege and my own history of ignorance about race. It is incumbent upon me to use my power and privilege to support, validate, and legitimize discussion of race in the classroom. Otherwise I am in grave danger of creating a hostile environment for my students.

I find it important to keep up to date on strategies that work to reduce my own perpetration of microaggressions in the classroom. Sue, Lin, Torino, Capodilupo, & Rivera, (2009) suggest letting your students know that discussing race is okay by actively creating a safe space at the very beginning of the year. For example, this can be accomplished with activities where students get to bring a part of themselves to class and share it with the group.

The Artifact Game

I have used multiple variations on this theme. However, my favorite activity is the artifact game. I first learned this activity from Elizabeth Williams-Riley and Bari Katz at the Common Ground Institute sponsored by the American Conference on Diversity in January, 2016. Each student brings in an artifact—defined as some specific, tangible object but nothing more detailed than that so as not to influence students’ choices- that is representative of who they are, broadly construed. Everyone gets a chance to share their artifact and why it is important to them. The magic of this exercise is that it instantly exposes our complex identities. We often think we know our students, and our students often think they know their peers. Yet, there is always so much more beneath the surface.

Once we become familiar with each other’s nuanced identities, there is a palpable shift toward a kinder and more respectful classroom climate. I developed and teach a class called, The Psychology of Racism, where I do this exercise in the beginning of the semester, before we delve into the sensitive topic of racism. The atmosphere instantly changes. For example, I have had students from vastly different backgrounds and cultures begin to identify with each other. The personal stories that emerge from this exercise bring students closer and open a space for more difficult and deeper conversations.

Validating Feelings

Another important piece in creating an atmosphere that is safe for everyone is to validate experiences and feelings of all students. Too often, when race is discussed in a classroom setting white students get uncomfortable and try to shutdown or defend themselves (I know this from being the person who is uncomfortable with the discussion). Some of the subconscious avoidance tactics I have personally employed when finding myself in an uncomfortable discussion of race include eye rolling, shifting or slouching, doodling, fidgeting, becoming quiet or trying to defend oneself, or crying. While crying is not always problematic, it can be used by people in the majority culture to shut down conversations about race when they feel uncomfortable. Such reactions create an unsafe space for everyone in the class, but particularly for People of Color. The underlying message that is communicated when white students take these actions is, “I am fragile and refuse to engage with issues that challenge my worldview.”

Part of our jobs as instructor may include speaking to white students who display these typical reactions to discussions of race. When I was a scared white student just waking up to the racial realities in the United States, I believed anything I did or said was okay because I knew I was a good person and always had good intentions, even when i did or said something that offended those around me. I have learned that in fact, I was wrong. Good intentions do not have a privileged place in discussions of race. We must hold ourselves accountable for the effects of our words and actions, regardless of our intentions.

Chloe G. Bland, Ph.D., serves as Chair of the Psychology Department and Assistant Professor at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, NJ. Her email is cbland@cse.edu

 

25

Oct

Bully

Teachers Can Impact Bullying More Than They Realize

Summary:  This article reports on programs that can help stop bullying and the role that SEL can play in creating safe spaces for students. The role that teachers can play in stopping bullying is also outlined in this article.

Source:  Amelia Harper, Education DIVE, October 24, 2017

Categories:  Anti-bullying, Positive Relationships, Classroom Practices, SEL Basics

11

Oct

Positive Words Go a Long Way

Summary:  This article talks about the long lasting effects of positive language and support for student effort.  The author suggests five ways that positive language can be used to empower students.

Source:  Alissa Nucaro, Edutopia, October 2, 2017

Categories:  Classroom Practice, Positive Relationships, School Culture/Climate

11

Oct

Empathy Instilled Through Fictional Literature Can Curb Bullying

Summary:  This article supports the idea that fictional literature can help students understand relationships and help to curb bullying.  “When students read works of fiction that reflect the diversity they will encounter in their daily lives, they are less likely to bully those who are different from them”, author Michael Dahl writes for eSchool News.

Source:  Linda Jacobsen, Education DIVE, October 11, 2017

Categories:  Empathy, Anti-Bullying, Classroom Practice, Emotional Intelligence

22

Sep

Compassion as a Classroom Management Tool

Summary:  This article shares the reflections of a second-year teacher on her change of heart in how she managed her classroom.  Instead of using an approach characterized by strict rules enforcement, she adopted an approach based on compassion and caring for her students.

Source:  Andrea Marshbank, Edutopia, September 19, 2017

Categories:  SEL Basics, Emotional Intelligence, Positive Relationships, Classroom Practice

15

Sep

Panelists: It’s Time to Re-think the Approach to Social-Emotional Learning in the Classroom

Summary:  This article reports on a panel discussion about the expanding evidence base regarding the value and interconnectedness of social, emotional and academic development during an event hosted by the Aspen Institute.

Source: Pat Donochie, Education DIVE, September 14, 2017

Categories:  SEL Basics, SEL Research, Classroom Practice

13

Sep

Embedding Social-Emotional Learning in High School Classrooms

Summary:  This white paper is the result of 20 years of experience working with secondary school leaders and classroom teachers. Engaging Schools advocates that embedding SEL instruction and support into classroom learning is foundational to reaching all students every day. 

Source:  Larry Dieringer, Engaging Schools, September 12, 2017

Categories:  SEL Basics, SEL Research, School Culture/Climate, Classroom Practice

10

Sep

Student CIrcle

Students Learn Leadership, Soft Skills with Genius Hours

Summary:  This article talks about the use of “Genius Hours” as a way to personalize learning and develop a sense of community in the classroom.  Students have the opportunity to come up with creative questions and then answer that question through project-based learning.

Source:  Amelia Harper, Education DIVE, September 6, 2017

Categories:  Student-Centered Learning, Classroom Practice, Student Achievement, School Culture/Climate

25

Aug

Integrating SEL with ELA, Math, and Social Studies: 5 New Resources

Summary: In partnership with educational leaders in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania participating in the “Collaborating States Initiative”, CASEL has published five new resources to guide state leaders and educators in integrating social and emotional learning (SEL) with classroom instruction.

Source:  CASEL (www.casel.org) August 2017

Categories:  SEL Basics, SEL Research, SEL Teacher Training, Classroom Practice, Student Achievement

23

Aug

Helping Teachers Thrive

Summary:  This article offers suggestions for school leaders to help their teachers build resilience as the new school year starts.  This is important in weathering the day-to-day storms but it also helps teachers to thrive!

Source:  Elena Agullar, Edutopia, August 21. 2017

Categories:  Leadership Qualities, Emotional Intelligence, Classroom Practice, Performance Values, Positive Relationships