The First Step: Self-Awareness

Welcome back, Austin ISD SEL fans! We’re back with another school year full of exploration and discovery. Your favorite blog about Social and Emotional Learning in Austin ISD [and beyond!] is a hub for resources and an invitation to address the inquiry:

HOW DO WE CREATE SAFE, INCLUSIVE, CULTURALLY RESPONSIVE, ACADEMICALLY ENGAGING, AND EQUITABLE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS IN WHICH STUDENTS GROW THEIR SEL SKILLS?

Great question! Let’s get to work y’all.

This year, our blog will address the six competencies rooted in and illustrated by the Austin ISD SEL wheel. The wheel is divided into three primary areas, centered around the learner. The learner, from young student to adult educator, will engage in experiences that grow these competencies throughout their lifetime. In a safe, inclusive, culturally responsive, academically engaging and equitable learning environment, we are all able to fundamentally integrate our competencies to the higher level of understanding, which encompasses the skills in the outer ring of the wheel.

We’ll start with the first skill in the top right of our wheel: Self-Awareness!

WHAT IS SELF AWARENESS?

The concept of self-awareness is complex and multifaceted, with definitions ranging from neuroscientific to theological. According to Austin ISD’s Social and Emotional Learning goals, self-awareness involves

[Developing] skills to have knowledge of one’s emotions, [developing] an accurate and positive self-concept, and [recognizing] individual strengths and external support systems.

Our district defines this skill set as:

• Recogniz[ing] emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior.
• Assess[ing] personal strengths and limitations, and recogniz[ing] that these are not fixed.
• Understand[ing] own cultural and personal identity and how it may inform perceptions of others.

The Center for Academic and Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL)’s definition for self-awareness is

The ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior. The ability to accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a “growth mindset.”
– Identifying emotions
– Accurate self-perception
– Recognizing strengths
– Self-confidence
– Self-efficacy

https://casel.org/core-competencies/

How can we support our students’ development of self-awareness?

Edutopia offers strategies and resources around creating classroom environments that grow self-awareness, because

Scientists believe that self-awareness, associated with the paralimbic network of the brain, serves as a “tool for monitoring and controlling our behavior and adjusting our beliefs of the world, not only within ourselves, but, importantly, between individuals.” This higher-order thinking strategy actually changes the structure of the brain, making it more flexible and open to even greater learning.

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/8-pathways-metacognition-in-classroom-marilyn-price-mitchell

Giving students the vocabulary to identify their feelings and moods and establishing class time for checking in on feelings can be a concrete way to build self-awareness in classroom environments. Many educators have successfully incorporated a feelings check-in practice in their classroom using variations of a feelings wheel like this one:

Finally, the concept of mindfulness is a natural companion to the development of self-awareness skills. This Berkeley Greater Good article discusses how mindful self-awareness is key to building empathy, and offers research and resources for developing those interlinked skills. Also, our own James Butler‘s mindfulness newsletter that comes out on a monthly basis is chock full of concrete classroom practices to build mindfulness and self-awareness for educators and students.

How are you planning on helping your students grow self-awareness skills in SY19-20? How do you plan to grow your own self-awareness and reflection practices? Let us know on social media @austinisdsel, and leave us comments below!

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