Last year on March 27th, we celebrated the first annual International Social and Emotional Learning day, and Austin Mayor Steve Adler saw fit to officially proclaim the same day as Austin SEL Day. It was especially poignant to receive this recognition at that time: last March, we were just beginning to navigate a whole new way of forging and maintaining relationships in and out of [virtual] classrooms and social spaces. As the disruption of the COVID-19 global pandemic unfolded, and the parallel pandemic of racial injustice was profoundly exposed, our district, our city, and our world quickly became acutely aware of how essential social and emotional competencies are in this new, unsettling context. Skills like self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills, emotional agility, executive functioning, and responsible decision-making stepped to the forefront as we figured out new ways to move through our daily lives while holding collective grief, trauma and uncertainty.
Though we know a lot more about how to “do life” in and out of work and school with a global pandemic a year later, our local, national and global communities still need to prioritize and practice SEL skills in the current socio-political context. So once again, on this 2nd annual International SEL day, the mayor’s office has officially proclaimed Friday, March 26th as Austin SEL Day as well!
On this year’s SEL Day, we can reflect on how our own SEL competencies have grown and developed over the last year, keeping important relationships close for our emotional health and staying physically distant for our physical heath. We can mark and mourn the passing of the lives taken from us by the parallel pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice. We can also gaze hopefully into a near future in which we will share physical spaces with important people in our lives, and share in-person affection with our loved ones.
Social and emotional skills facilitate our capacity to experience and express our feelings in healthy ways during these transitions, keeping us in touch with our empathy as we care for ourselves and each other. They also help us define what was important about the pre-pandemic “normal” that we look forward to seeing again, while identifying and working to change the inequities that were considered “normal” for far too long.
What will you do to celebrate International and Austin SEL Day on Friday, March 26? Maybe you could send a text to a person you’ve been meaning to connect with and tell them how grateful you are that they are in your life. Maybe you could try a new mindfulness practice, giving your brain and body some needed space and breath. Maybe you will facilitate or participate in a classroom or community culturally responsive restorative practice community building circle. Or maybe you will share an idea that builds and celebrates SEL skills for the rest of your community to try! Tag us on social media at @austinisdsel and use the hashtags #SELDay and/or #WeAreSEL – We will do a drawing at the end of Austin SEL day, and you could win some most excellent Austin ISD SEL swag!
Thanks for being here with us in our local, national and global community – we are grateful for you today on International and Austin SEL Day, and always.