Riding the Waves of Change

The only constant is change, and we’ve all been managing a lot lately. The past year has represented a massive disruption for so many people. We’ve had to navigate many shifts and changes, both on large collective levels and everyday, individual levels. We’ve also done a lot of this navigation with various levels of grief. Whew! It’s a lot, y’all!

There are hopeful signs that life might start having some more familiar aspects soon, and considering a post-pandemic world on the horizon presents yet another set of adjustments. Therefore, we have so many opportunities to practice our SEL competencies – for example, responsible decision-making skills. [Sometimes known as “adulting,” which is a) often hard under the best circumstances for adults and b) important to teach to young people, so they can practice!]

Responsible decision-making is rooted in having a sense of what we value – we can learn to use our emotions as information to help us make choices grounded in our values. Dr. Susan David offers this TED talk about exactly this idea:

She explains by saying,

“Our emotions contain flashing lights to things that we care about. We tend not to feel strong emotion to stuff that doesn’t mean anything in our worlds. If you feel rage when you read the news, that rage is a signpost, perhaps, that you value equity and fairness — and an opportunity to take active steps to shape your life in that direction. When we are open to the difficult emotions, we are able to generate responses that are values-aligned.”

Dr. Susan David, TEDWomen 2017

Elena Aguilar, president and founder of Bright Morning, offers this activity as part of a process to identify and reflect on core values:

  1. Download Core Values.pdf and read through them.
  2. Circle the ten values that are most important to you.
  3. Narrow that list of 10 down to five – the five that are most important to you.
  4. Then narrow that down to three. These are your top three core values.

Do this annually to see if there’s a change in your core values. Some people’s values change over time, and sometimes in response to the context they’re in or life events. – Elena Aguilar, 2018

When we practice responsible decision-making rooted in our values, we grow our resilience and emotional agility, which in turn increases our ability to make more responsible decisions. This positive feedback loop can help us find our way though the waves of changes and uncertainty, whether in the ripples of daily life, or within a once-per-generation tsunami-scale event.

Responsible Decision-Making in the Classroom

As educators, we have a unique opportunity to deeply consider our choices in our work with learners, and help the young people we encounter process their feelings and tell their stories, even as we process our own experiences. Dr. Ghouldy Muhammad, author of Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy, offers these concrete ideas for making decisions around classroom content and lesson development:

  • Out of all the things in the world why are you teaching this? (know purpose)
  • Are you energized about the teaching and learning?
  • How will your lesson or unit help a child to learn something about themselves or others?
  • How will you make it impossible for students to fail?
  • How will your lesson or unit help a child to learn new skills?
  • How will you change as a result of the teaching?
  • How will your lesson our unit help a child to learn something new?
  • Remote Learning- What family connection can you make?
  • How will your lesson or unit help a child to learn anti-oppression and anti-racism?
  • How will this lesson spread and amplify joy? Do you include joy about people of color?
  • What texts will you layer to support the learning? (texts matter)

How are you practicing your responsible decision making skills lately? How have your values informed your choices, in and out of educational environments? And, what are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments, and tag us on social media @austinisdsel! Take care y’all.

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