Ahhh, The second half of the school year. As a former high school social studies teacher, I always remembered that my 9th and 10th-grade students would suddenly return so mature after winter break. I don't know if it was that time away, but they always came back differently. Maybe the culture in my classroom was a little more set, or we were finally all familiar and genuinely excited to see one another. Still, we seemed to gel a bit better in the year's second half.
Then there are just the weeks and weeks without a day off, and with being all familiar with one another, conflict can erupt. I used always to joke that if there were going to be a fight in my classroom, it would be from January until spring break. The longer students went without a mental break, the more tensions would rise between students impacting my classroom culture.
To help us with the second half of the school year, we need to consider our student's social and emotional well-being to help support their learning. I love Elena Aguilar's definition of educational equity because it centers the learning and social-emotional well-being rather than being a this or that. According to Aguilar,
"educational equity means that every child receives whatever she/he/they need to develop her/his/their full academic and social potential and to thrive, every day. By thrive I mean academically as well as social-emotionally... Emotional well being is as important as academic success in this definition." (Aguilar, Elena. Coaching for Equity, pg 6)
I believe that you need to support students socially and emotionally for students to reach their academic ability.
Conditions that Support an SEL Culture
That all sounds great, right? But the question becomes how and the answer depends on your starting point. To help you reflect and do an inventory of what's been going well and what could be within your sphere of control to help support students so that the second half of the year continues strong, we have a reflection tool for you to use. This reflection centers on the social and emotional well-being within the context of learning to have a consistent and supportive culture for your students.
You can preview and download the reflection below:
Being Intentionally Inclusive
Writing this blog reminded me of another I wrote called How to Make Your Classroom Inviting for All Learners. Within the blog, we created a graphic of self-reflective questions to invite your students into the learning. I wanted to include that graphic here because pairing both of these reflections can help achieve educational equity within your classroom. For more details about this graphic, check out the original blog by clicking on the link above.
Kristy Lathrop, a partner consultant for ACP, always encourages teachers to be productively pessimistic when designing and reflecting on anticipating potential pitfalls. I encourage you to do the same with either of these reflections. Celebrate your wins so far this year, but it won't be helpful to score yourself high or only focus on the positives, but rather be productively pessimistic about uncovering an area that will help your classroom culture to avoid that learning lull that can happen at this time.