School would have started August 18, but it didn’t, and we all know why: Covid-19, the novel corona virus that has wreaked havoc and taken lives and livelihoods across the globe, is still in full swing. For the safety of everyone, and to give educators and district leaders the chance to organize high-quality virtual learning experiences for every single student, school will now start on September 8.
Creating Virtual Space for Community
Austin ISD has publicly committed to creating safe, inclusive, culturally responsive, academically engaging, and equitable learning environments, and now we’re navigating the logistics of doing that virtually. Luckily, as we highlighted back in April, educators are some of the most resourceful and creative people in the world. Teachers and school leaders all over our district have been working literally to around the clock get ready to welcome students back virtually, and are finding novel, intentional ways to foster connection and community in their learning spaces:
- The SEL Three Signature Practices are embedded throughout our virtual academic curriculum, co-created by teachers, instructional coaches and academic leads!
- Educators at every level are exploring ways to build community virtually and invite student voice and collaboration!
- Teachers and leaders are considering their roles amid the amplified needs of students across the board during this ongoing time of uncertainty, while learning to address ZOOM fatigue and strategies for mental wellness for ourselves.
- Expanding on our SEL Symposium’s theme of creating everyday brave spaces, professional educators are considering and adapting to myriad factors that can impact student learning in agile, responsive ways.
Ultimately, as we all move through this historical moment together, the goal is to create space in our learning environments to encourage story telling: building community creates brave space in which learners can tell their stories, and hear the stories of others. In the article “Strengthening Resilience Through the Power of Story,” the author discusses how
Stories — both sharing our perception of experiences and listening to those of others — are at the heart of working this [resilience] muscle, and not just for kids. Through story, we can come to terms with, and make meaning of what happened and must be faced, and this applies to people of any age.
Though it was written in 2017, the concept of using story-telling to help each other make meaning of what is happening in our world right now has never been more relevant. The article also shares some rich ideas for story-telling in the learning environment for both students and adult learners, with the ultimate goal of building resilience, increasing empathy, and deepening communal connection.
The richest resource we have to navigate this uncharted educational territory is the lived experiences, expertise, and compassion of the talented professional educators in our district. How are you making space for stories in your learning environment? How are you building community during distance learning? What stories are giving you hope? We want to hear how you’re doing out there, as we move through this shared reality. School Year 20-21, bring it on!
Leave us a comment here, or tag us on social media @austinisdsel! #WeAreSEL #InThisTogether