As we conclude our twenty-fifth year in public education, we're reminded of the possibilities within a learner-centered vision. When learners are immersed in Socratic environments where they are free to think deeply and ask questions that guide inquiry, there are no limits to what can be achieved. As we reflect upon this past year, disappointment settles in the reality that many districts are choosing to departmentalize instruction, relying on teacher-centered models and anthology-based curricula to fill the many academic gaps observed in learners. As individuals deeply connected to transformation, we continually identify ways to push through regression to bring about meaningful growth. Our persistent mindset and commitment to progress have brought us back to a piece we composed in May of 2022, published in Education Reimagined's Voyager Magazine titled Inspiration Ignites When Least Expected. Through the eyes of our fifth-grade learners, this narrative provides a view of how learning can unfold naturally when time is given to make personal connections within evolutionary environments of creative thought.
Here, we see first-hand the integration of Social Emotional Learning, where individuals were asked to reflect upon a life lesson they learned as they persevered through a challenge in their life. It was clear that within their writing pieces and conversations, the metacognitive experience of identifying attributes utilized while facing adversity enhanced their perspective on their ability to navigate obstacles. Rather than being overwhelmed or stressed by the notion of confronting an uncomfortable scenario, the plan they put in place empowered them to accept the circumstances and, in some cases, overcome their struggles. More importantly, reflecting on their process gave them the confidence to embrace and take on challenges they never thought possible rather than shying away from them altogether.
When referring to SEL, we reference the adaptable skills learners need to emotionally and effectively engage in productive struggle. In essence, when learners embrace difficulty, they can grow as balanced, self-regulated beings with an understanding that failure should not be feared because it is simply a part of life. When the notion that lessons can be learned from mistakes is internalized, learners take the necessary risks to grow as thinkers. The shift in ownership one takes over their learning continually amazes us when facilitating learner-centered environments. Since most learners come to us from traditional settings, they are often timid, relying solely on the teacher to give directions, make corrections or elaborate on concepts. However, as time passes, learners begin leading the way as their ability to take on challenges and responsibilities expands. In contrast to a teacher-centered model, where Social Emotional Learning is an add-on in lessons throughout the school day, it is integrated into all learning opportunities presented. Social Emotional Learning becomes a way of thinking within an embedded culture that utilizes reflection, problem-solving, and communication as a means to grow.