We Want to do More than Survive! Prioritizing Social & Emotional Learning through Trauma-Informed / Healing-Centered Pedagogy

We Want To Do More Than Survive!
Prioritizing Social and Emotional Learning through Trauma-Informed / Healing-Centered Pedagogy

Coordinated by Friends Council on Education, a team of DEI practitioners from Friends schools across the country planned a gathering for colleagues to focus on the importance of social emotional learning - especially for students and faculty of color - as schools open. This is the second of what will be quarterly DEI forums held through Friends Council in 2020-2021. 

On September 1, 2020 over 50 educators gathered for an inspiring mix of practical guidance and deep questions.

School counselors Brittany Copeland, Germantown Friends School, and Maria Alonso, Westtown School, shared from their wisdom and experience. Brittany spoke with colleagues about trauma-informed self care and the importance of “expanding your village” in these times of isolation.  Maria called for SEL to go deeper than mindfulness to encompass an antiracist curriculum. 

Celeste Payne, Upper School Equity and Inclusion Coordinator, Westtown School,  and Mikael Yisrael, Director of Equity, Justice, and Engagement, Abington Friends School, provided framing and questions for reflection and action.

Celeste reminded us that there are certain trainings that all educators must have in order to be responsible, fully qualified educators. For example, many educators are required to complete CPR training and some in schools are mandated reporters. Required DEI training for educators would stress how vitally important this work is to all educators. Better trained faculty and establishing accountability for this kind of professional development for all will help to transform school communities.

A brief video of Dr. Bettina Love was shared in which she tells a story demonstrating the difference between being an ally and being a co-conspirator in racial justice work. This prompted discussion about how white people can step up, going beyond performative allyship, and take on the role of co-conspirator, willing to take big risks to secure the rights and freedoms of Black and Brown people.  How many of us, like James Tyson did for Brie Newsom in the Bettina Love video, are “willing to put our hand on the pole?”

Mikael openly shared his own use of the Reflect, Reconnect and Re-envision model over the summer in doing his own self-care as an educator of color. Mikael guided our thinking with these queries: 

    1.    Reflect

    •    Reflecting on the impact of 2020 events, etc. individually and institutionally

    •    What has changed for you? What new perspective have you gained? 

    •    What has changed for your institution? What new perspective has your school community gained?


    2.    Reconnect

    •    Relationship building: reconnecting with colleagues, students, and families

    •    Partnering with students and families to establish open lines of communication and remain connected 


    3.    Re-envision

    •    Knowing what we know now, what is the [new] way forward? Individually? Institutionally? Collectively?


The various presentations and small group conversations led to some deep and challenging questions for each of us to ask ourselves:

    •    We are all walking narratives. How do we leverage our own talents, abilities for the betterment of the community?

    •    Who do I need to call and reach out to at this moment? What time will we  devote towards healing?

    •    What needs to be put in place in order to build and rebuild a sense of community and a sense of belonging? What kind of structures and prompts would work to help students and adults have a deeper sense of belonging and inclusion?

    •    What curriculum can we design so we can ensure that these antiracist and violent attacks on black people do not continue to happen?


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