Strength, Hope, Caring: December 2020

Well, y’all, we made it to the last month of 2020. It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? We’ve had many opportunities to practice SEL skills of all kinds, move through some big collective trauma, and navigate personal and professional situations that lots of us never imagined. And still the pandemic rages on, and we’re immersed in a holiday season that may feel very different than it has in years past. It is precisely times like this in which humans reach together for the very ideas that holidays around the world generally lift up: Strength, hope, and caring for each other.

The Blanton Museum of Art has worked with Austin ISD in many capacities, including partnering with our SEL department to connect art and SEL ideas. The goal of these collaborations is to increase access to its collection for all students, and reinforce social and emotional learning concepts through examination and discussion of art. This amazing video, and the one below, are opportunities to virtually visit these two pieces in the museum’s collection. We are invited to consider how art can inspire us to think more deeply about our own experiences and connect with the stories of others. Check out these downloadable journal pages for Strength and Hope and Caring for Ourselves and Others to take your SEL art journey even deeper!

Safely Together

If you are looking for ways to stay socially connected to your family, friends, and loved ones while remaining physically distant this season, you sure aren’t the only one! Finding opportunities to intentionally share stories can happen in-person or virtually, and is one of the best ways to keep and grow connections with the people around us. Though being on an internet call with loved ones is definitely different than being together in-person, asking meaningful questions and practicing active listening can help build and deepen relationships.

S.P.A.R.K for Community can help us stay connected with a card game designed to build and nurture relationships through storytelling. S.P.A.R.K has all of their robust sample decks available for download/printing, including a new holiday deck, as well as this guide to playing the game with classrooms, colleagues, family, you name it! Rachel Rosen and her sparky S.P.A.R.K team is planning to host a demonstration of their new digital game play platform on January 5th for all interested educators – find out more from their website! Rachel and her team have been compassionate supporters and partners of our SEL team for awhile, and have especially stepped it up during these challenging times.

Doing Hard Things

The holiday season can be stressful under regular circumstances, and this year provides a level of uncertainty that might exacerbate this dynamic for many. Please make sure you do some radical self care this December, maybe including some exploration of mindfulness practices. This excerpt from the work of Glennon Doyle is a call to grace, strength and hope:

We humans have an uncanny ability to learn. We grow. We overcome. We adapt. We rest.

We change our minds. Make amends. Laugh. Blow milk out our noses when laughing. We plan. We cease. We strive.

There is no end to what we can do.

But sometimes it feels too hard to do anything. Breathing seems like hard work and the days seem long and nights bound to infinity.

We can do hard things.

Have you ever watched a kiddo tackle new reading or math and emerge from all of the effort triumphant? No gladiator’s gloat can compare.

When kids learn in school, like the gladiator in the ring, they are fighting for their lives. And  they do hard things.

When a man becomes a dad and learns to become a father along the way, the wonder is real and the triumph is no less hard-won.

As we grapple with this thing of living, encountering the unknown graces and shadow places; still learning to be present, be kind, be “here now”; we are still growing. The hard everyday things of filing taxes, getting the kids to their places on time…fed, forgiving, and hoping for the future can be very hard daily things. We do hard things.

We do hard things because they must be done or we have a hope in doing them, something better and more desirable than the present situation will become.

What are you doing these days to find strength, hope, and caring? What are you celebrating as this year wraps up? What are you looking forward to in the new year? Tag us on social media @austinisdsel, and drop us a line in the comments. We are so grateful that you are on this journey with us. Bring on 2021!

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