-by Timothy (Tim) Grivois, Ed.D.
Self-awareness is, according to CASEL, the ability to “understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts.” Last week, I worked with a group of twelve teachers, counselors, and school leaders at Davis Bilingual Magnet Elementary School. Davis is a K-8 school in Tucson Unified School District and serves both Spanish-dominant and English-dominant emerging bilingual students. Our goal was to create something to help students understand and regulate emotions. What impressed me more, however, was how powerful our work became for teachers themselves.
We began each session with a simple prompt. I asked the group, “As you are right now, what is on your mind and heart?” Participants could answer this question silently to themselves or could share it out loud if they wished. Over the following days, I noticed the group’s skill and comfort grow, with people sharing positive and negative emotions. As they talked about why they felt these emotions, many participants saw how acknowledging what they felt tended to improve their overall mood.
At the end of our third day, teachers decided that they wanted to begin all staff meetings with this simple check-in. One teacher shared, “Even if I don’t share out loud, at least I have time to think about what I’m feeling and explore why.” Another said, “Just taking time to listen to each other, without needing to fix anything, feels good.”
While teaching students to be self-aware is important, self-awareness begins with school adults. You’ll see photos of self-awareness strategies teachers built as part of our learning. Each tool represents something they practiced themselves and honors their prior self-awareness skills. Fundamentally, each strategy helps people name what they are feeling and think through how their emotions drive their actions. Our work together will not only develop students’ self-awareness but ensure that teachers have time and space to elevate their interior insight.
Helping students regulate emotions is essential to their social, emotional, and academic achievement. However, supporting and understanding our students’ emotional learning becomes possible when school adults first know how to connect with their own emotions.
(Also, I paid for any supplies they needed that weren’t already at the school. We must stop training teachers to do something and then not equip them with the tools they need to implement what they learn.)
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