Social Emotional Lessons through Current Event Discussions!

It’s the second day of school and I’ve guided my students in short meditations, discussed how it’s a communications class, and ya, got into some heavy discussions about the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

I’m teaching three grade 5/6 classes this year (the first time with my own classes for many years). I’m accustomed to teaching high school Drama and English so this is pretty new for me and yet, so very familiar. Hanging with young people is one of my fave things to do! So, I’m so thankful that beyond running a non-profit with human rights teaching materials, and working with teacher groups and students on issues of bullying, mindfulness, and social emotional learning that I’d feel energized when with these young people.

Anyway, back to the day.

So, naturally, given my passion for social emotional intelligence and for believing above all else that I must help each person I teach learn about themselves in a more profound way it’s no surprise that I’d open the topic about the darker side of humanity with my students on September 11th. Kids really learn from stories and ones told from a place of vulnerability and truth can provide the most memorable lessons. So, today I told them that on that day when I was teaching at Point Grey, I heard of the news of the planes on the way to school and walked to my office, my heart in my throat, praying that my dear friends living in New York were alive. That feeling. I shared that with these kids and then we got talking.

I love good discussions and am pretty skilled at fielding excited ones and every class had that going for it! The students and I had such engaging dialogue and they got to experience me as facilitator, respecting each and every one of them while fielding the questions and student to student discussion. It was magical! Three of them came to me separately to let me know that they loved the class…sigh (even if they were sucking up…I don’t care. I loved it!).

Opening conversations on issues of the darker side of humanity is not supposed to be comfortable. It can’t be. Yet, if done responsibly, highly attuned to the language you use, it will go well. What winds up happening is that you get to talk about the potential for good or bad behaviour in people. We talked perspective and truth. Already! I love these kids (even the one who claimed to a ‘teacher’s nightmare’)! It’s always super empowering to practice mindful communication with young people. Broaching important topics about life, humanity, and the difficulties of living in this world can transform a classroom.

As I told them today, I’m teaching you English but more importantly, I’m teaching you how to be a healthier, happier, more focused human beings. I think they liked that.

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