Forum 3.1

This forum is a place for you to share your takeaways and learnings from week 3 – Social and Emotional Learning + Positive Psychology.

In the comment section of this page, please respond to following three questions:

  1. What is one takeaway or learning you had from the phone conversation with your learning partner this week? It can be something your partner shared with you or your own idea that the conversation helped you flesh out.
  2. What was your experience like with this week’s daily peace action? Is this is action that you could see incorporating into your personal life, your teaching, or with your students? If so, how?
  3. In the video below Barbara Wien tells a story about a young Native American boy who tells his grandfather that he feels like he has two wolves inside of him fighting – one violent and one peaceful. He asks his grandfather which wolf will win. The father replies, “the one you feed.” How do envision yourself incorporating social and emotional learning and positive psychology into your teaching so as to feed the peaceful wolf?
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23 thoughts on “Forum 3.1

  1. 1. My partner and I have had some trouble connecting so I hope to update this tomorrow once we finally speak.

    2. This weeks peace action was my favorite thus far. I was able to write a letter each day and most days more than one for a total of 11 by weeks end. Most were hand written and some I even had to mail. This forced me to view my life and those in it through a different lens. It improved my mood and allowed me an opportunity to reflect on my actions as more than the mundane mechanics of existence and see them as contributors to or detractors from the joy and growth of others. This is something I think I will not
    only continue, but introduce in the classroom in the fall as a weekly exercise. I see this as a way to help students refocus on their circumstances as well as alter the climate of our classroom.

    3. Ahhh… How to feed the peaceful wolf?I think we must make it a priority to always provide students with examples of what peace and equity and justice look like so they can recognize violations of these principles. We must provide opportunities to practice peace and a safe place to discuss the instances in which those in the community fall short so we can learn not only about the consequences of such actions but how to redirect ourselves and make positively framed statements to hold one another accountable as well. Lastly, I think it is essential to give students tools and teach strategies that students can apply in order to engage the world peacefully and make choices thar advance peaceful pursuits.

  2. 1. I had a really meaningful conversation with Pam. It was really cool that I had met her last week during peace education gathering so I had a face the the voice when we spoke, and that I already knew a little bit about her amazing work with the youth poets at Wilson. I was really moved by her story of being a 3 time cancer survivor and her letters of gratitude to her family who supported her through that experience. Having Pam as my partner and the topic of social/emotional learning this week was really serendipitous. I spoke to Pam today while I was in the airport coming back from a trip to California to attend my grandmother’s funeral who was also a life long inspirational fighter like Pam, and a 3-time cancer survivor herself. It also moved me to hear Pam talk about the support her daughters have provided her over the years. I told her the last weekend/week had been very mom-centric as I spent it with my mother, all of my aunts, and other family members as we all mourned the loss of my grandmother who was a mother to nine children. It seemed very appropriate that this week was about social/emotional learning because although it was a hard trip, I did at times feel so moved and even empowered by the emotion and expression of love around me with my family, which was especially special because my family is very loving but not always very expressive in quite this way. My take away: emotion can indeed be empowering, and social/emotional intelligence is so important for health and healing.

    2. The peace action this week is a lovely one. I only managed to write one letter so far, but I plan on writing more. I felt happy the whole time I wrote the letter for two reasons: 1) it reminded me of all the reasons I am grateful and appreciative of all that that person adds to my life; and 2) I just kept imagining how happy this letter would make this person and how happy it would make me if someone wrote something like this for me.

    In terms of incorporation: I love sending post cards and I always intend to send them more often. I have one friend who I exchange post cards with a few times per year and we both love this tradition so much. I’d like to start sending post cards to more people — not just when I travel, but just to drop them a note and send them something that they can hold in their hand.
    I am also thinking about incorporating this into a training session at work (One World Youth Project). We do a workshop that explores different leaders/teachers/educators we have had in our past and lead them through a whole process of the different qualities that they had, how they encouraged us, etc. and write all of their names on different colored post its on a big paper and post them around the training space for the rest of training. I think this is nice because I feel it brings the positive energy of these previous positive people into the psyche/energy of our student leaders for the week and helps them think about what kind of leader they want to be and why. As an addition to this exercise, we could have our students write gratitude letters to these people who have had such a positive impact on them. Besides the beautiful and meaningful gesture, I believe writing this out could really help the youth leaders pinpoint elements of leadership that they would like to carry forward in their own work.

    3. I want to feed my positive wolf much more on a daily basis. I want to focus on the hundreds of things I can be so thankful for and appreciative of in my personal and professional life. I believe that if I bring this peace practice to my own life and way of being in a more intentional way, it will spread quite fluidly into the work that I do with those around me (our students, my colleagues, etc.).

  3. During my conversation with Mary Ann, we discussed our progress on the daily peace action and wound up on a tangent regarding health. Mary Ann brought up the importance of taking care of yourself and how this becomes more difficult during the school year. This comment, along with Daniel Goleman’s video, and a book that I’m reading, made me realize how important taking care of myself is for my community of learners. If I do not care for myself, I will not have the positive state of mind, body, and/or spirit to effectively care for those around me. This is very similar to the idea that if I do not have personal peace, I will not be fully able to achieve social, political, institutional, or ecological peace. This is hard to practice because I am always involved in my work and my students and caring for myself often feels selfish and takes a back seat.

    I really enjoyed this week’s daily peace action. It was personally rewarding to sit down, choose a friend/family member I am grateful for, write a note expressing my appreciation, and sending it in the mail. It feels good to know that they will receive the note randomly and will, hopefully, find some happiness from reading it. I would like to continue writing gratitude letters to family/friends and may set a personal goal of how many letters I should write each week. I also want to incorporate this into my classroom because it requires reflection by the writer, makes the receiver feel good about him/herself, and helps students practice writing skills. I am thinking about having students write at least one letter each week and choosing a different person for each letter.

    I want to train my students’ brains to have a more positive outlook on the world, by incorporating gratitude letters (1 day a week) and journaling about a positive experience (4 days a week). I want students to feel like they can express their emotions and feel supported in the classroom, which requires a classroom community where everyone feels safe. One way that I can build this community is by having students share things that are going on in their lives with a partner each morning. I imagine this as a time to share something positive, something negative, something the student is feeling, etc. These discussions can become a spring board for conversations on how to express our feelings. I want to help my students develop respect and empathy for each other, others, creatures, and nature. I must model respect and empathy and can use world events as a way to discuss respect and empathy on a global level.

    • Hello, Cassandra. I appreciate you connecting this back to the 5 spheres of peace that the National Peace Academy uses to structure their educational work. I also appreciate how you are already thinking about how to incorporate an exercise like a gratitude letter into your classroom. Another way to get at some similar conversation and reflection is using a circle process as opposed to paired discussions. We are going to look at the circle process this coming week, so I think you’ll find some more ideas there.

  4. 1. I talked to Jerron this morning about finding ways of getting our students to emotionally connect to class material. I admitted that I really need to do a better job of this, since students come in to a digital art class with preconceived notions about their abilities, and sometimes negative feelings about the class. After giving a deep personal history himself, Jerron invites students in his health class to publicly address the class, and many take this as invitation to open up about the difficult challenges they face, fears and struggles. This sets a tone for openness and trust.

    2. I wrote some short emails – one to my mother in Chicago, who I had just visited for a few days, and thanked her for hosting my recent visit. As far as classroom application goes: I think short appreciations or routine “shout outs”, and taking time to celebrate the positive things happening in a classroom can be a useful strategy to incorporate in order to build a positive classroom culture.

    3. Feeding the peaceful wolf: Finding a way to continually do this throughout the school year when I am inevitably scattered, overwhelmed, and stressed is such a priority for me. I’m still not sure how to go about it. I want to attempt to build a container within my classroom that fosters non-judgmental creativity and critical thinking skills. One way I intend to do this is I want to start units with stories about artists/designers who students can relate to in order to help get students emotionally invested in class content.

    • Hello, Alexandra. I appreciate your ability to honestly reflect on where you feel you can enhance the learning experience for your students. You are recognizing the importance of students connecting emotionally to the class material and already thinking about starting units with stories of artists and designers to whom the students can relate. Are you familiar with the Latin American Youth Center’s Art + Media program? I think LAYC actually has an office in Wilson HS. There may be some valuable ideas you can glean from their work.

      http://www.layc-dc.org/index.php/programs/art-media.html

  5. This week’s study buddy, Cady, is an incredible person. She has been very fortunate to experience the power of a team coming together as a community. She has also demonstrated commitment to an ideal that survived lost funding, downsizing, and absorption into another’s culture that has yet to fully appreciate her knowledge and leadership capabilities. Talking with Cady this week, reminded me that working in the nonprofit realm, which in many ways is the best mechanism for forging change, is truly an act of faith and bravery. She also reminded me that so many nonprofits struggle because they ignore one of the first principles of business – you have to self-sustain. So unless you have funding guaranteed into perpetuity, you must have products and a solid market base (think The College Board).
    This week’s peace action was difficult only in finding the time to write. This was a very event filled week so while I didn’t write daily, I did hand write 5 gratitude notes which I will mail this afternoon. I can definitely see incorporating this into my personal life. This week I received a gratitude letter from Mary, It made me feel great…motivated to continue my work with the poets. It made me think, while I already express gratitude for people in my conversations with others, I need to tell them directly. And, I have so many to thank. In my work at school, this is a writing prompt I already use with the poets “Thank you letter to…”.
    I feed the peaceful wolf through the guest presenters and resource displays I share in our library media center. I also do it by sponsoring opportunities for students to participate in monthly open mics, our annual 100 thousand youth poets for change event and sponsoring opportunities for high school students to read to preschool and primary school children at public libraries and schools. All of which foster development of good social/emotional health and development of empathy and other positive psychology traits.

    • Hello, Pam. Thank you for the history, passion, and commitment you bring the Wilson HS and the larger DC community. It is so clear how much of a positive impact you have on the students. I could see it in the eyes of the poets who attended the peace education gathering. And, you have raised such a WONDERUL and AMAZING daughter!

  6. 1.) It was great chatting with Alexandra. Our conversation was so easy it felt like we’ve known one another prior to this class. We asked about each others summer and spoke on quite a few topics dealing with this class. Our main focus was incorporating emotional and social learning into our classroom and using the best practice to do so. We both teach electives at our respected school. She stated that art class could be a bit challenging because of the individual work that’s require but she vows to incorporate it more because it is important. We both agree that this course not only could help in the classroom but also help in life.

    2.) My experience with the daily peace action was cool. Sometimes we are unaware that we could make a different in someone’s life simply by letting them know that they are special and appreciate. Doing a gratitude letter is classes. My mom called me after she read mine a simply said “AAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!! that was so sweet of you Ron.” I will incorporated into my class, this ties in perfectly with my social and family health unit. All of the peace action thus far has been a breathe of fresh air.

    3.) Its already incorporated in my classroom. I constantly remind my students and football players about effective and responsible decision making. Health naturally put a devil and angel on your shoulder. Let use the topic Alcohol, Tobacco, and drug. If these things are being used it could destroy a person mentally, socially, physically, and emotionally. Each individual has the opinion to go left or right. It is my job as an educator to feed that positive wolf. What are the consequence of use those things? It could mess up you entire life. Educated the youth on responsible decision making and tie it into their everyday life and then the positive wolf will be feed.

  7. Tina and I had a great conversation. We got the opportunity to talk about some personal issues along with our perspective on this week’s topics. We both agreed that the course is extremely relevant to our role as educators and are excited to see what else is in store for us from Daryn as the weeks unfold.
    Tina and I endorse Goleman’s ideal of the education of the “whole child” but is really disappointed that over the years we have seen the blatant transition to the current “fixation of academic testing.” We are still pondering about the real purpose of this objective for this test drill pandemonium in our school system.
    The daily peace action we decided could be incorporated into the lives of our students. They could show gratitude to one of their teachers, a parent or even one of their peers on a weekly basis in their journals. I wrote one letter and got a Thank you response and I am contemplating writing one fo a sister who is currently going through a difficult situation in her life. However I would like to hand deliver hers.
    I believe that the wolf that would succeed is the one you feed the most. If you tend to be a violent person then that quality will be dominant wherever you go and vice versa.
    I envision that I would have to do a variety of community building strategies in my classroom to feed the “peaceful wolf”. In addition, I will be more aggressive in learning more about my students’ social life in order to address their psychological and emotional needs.

    • Hello, Nona. I appreciate your desire to hand deliver the letter to your sister whose going through a tough time. Its reminds us that it’s not just the content of the letter than can have an impact, but also the method in which that letter or message is shared. I think teaching is very much the same way.

  8. 1) My partner this week was Miao, and both of us found the Ted talk this week extremely interesting. Most of our conversation focused around the idea of the individual self and how this course is a little unusual because it really makes you do more self reflection than in other courses. Both of us agreed that self reflection is an important aspect in teaching. Miao’s point was that we need to first be at peace with ourselves in order to pass it along to others. We also spent some time talking about cultural education differences… because Miao is from China and I’m from the U.S., we talked about the differences between education in the two countries. I have always been interested in Chinese culture, and to get her perspective on how education is different is the two countries was extremely interesting.

    2) I thought this week’s daily peace action was really great. I am nearing my wedding day, so I wrote letters to all 5 of my groomsmen. I just sent them each a letter about how much their friendship means to me. I liked this idea so much that, I’m tinkering with a letter idea in my classroom. My idea is, if I teach freshmen, I would have them write a letter to themselves. I would then send out these letters during the second semester in their senior year. I want to teach history, so this would sort of be like a personal time capsule. I’m still working on and fleshing out this idea, but I just thought it would be a cool idea to try to implement.

    3) Feeding the positive wolf comes from what you read, see and surround yourself with. When it comes to teaching, constantly being a source of positivity for our students will help feed their own positive wolves. Maybe I will start my class with a positive motivational quote, or doing some sort of peace activity.

    • Hello Alex. I really appreciate the creativity and excitement that you bring to your future career as a teacher. I cannot wait for you to get in a classroom. You are going to be one of those teachers that students remember for the whole lives. And, congrats on your upcoming wedding. I have received letters from grooms before along that lines of what you have done for your groomsman and I can tell you that it means a lot to hear kind words from a friend, especially during such a momentous time in their lives.

  9. 1. I had a great conversation with Alex. We started with reviewing the content of this week with talking about each videos or readings. We talked about this week’s daily action. Alex wrote down something he appreciate his friends and I emailed my friend to appreciate all his help during my U.S. journey. We felt great because it gives us time to sit down and reflect our gratitude to others. We feel good about ourselves as well as making others feel great. Then we talked about the TED talk’s positive energy. We have to give kids positive attitude to encourage them. However, before that, we have to be positive ourselves. We talked about this week’s content is very motivating not only for teaching, but also for ourselves. As educators, we have to absorb the positive energy ourselves first, then we will be able to pass this positivity to others–our students. Alex talked about he believes the positivity is containous. When we hangout with positive friends, we become more positive. It reminds me of a course I took in graduate school. There is a term called, social capital. It basically means that students’ behavior or academic learnings are closely related to their our surroundings. If their social capital is full with positive peers, talented kids and active learners, they will be positively influenced. Alex also mentioned how interesting this class is. It broads his mind that teaching doesn’t have to be the style of students sitting in one row and teacher holds a textbook to teach. The forms vary. I totally feel the same way. I realized all the details count. Education is everywhere. For example, social skills can be taught during field trips, from which we teach kids how to behave in big groups, or the rules in public, etc. Overall, we both enjoyed this week’s content.

    2. I loved this week’s daily gratitude action. I wrote an email to a friend to appreciate three things. 1, I appreciate his helps on my academic learning during the two years when I was in a foreign country. 2. I appreciate he made me feel home by taking me to his families on Christmas. It reduced my suffering from missing home. 3. I appreciate that during the two years in graduate school, I felt I lived! Not just coming to a foreign country to experience. We went on road trips, went baseball games, taught refugees, watched all kinds of educational documentaries. All those activities made me feel I fully lived a new life, without much panic of being alone on the other side of the planet.
    And I received an email back. My friend said my email made his day and he told me how great I am and I am always in his prayers. He felt great that he is a big helper on my transition to the U.S. life.
    This action made me realized we have to express our feelings to the people who helped us. We can’t assume they know how much we appreciate them, but we have to literally say it. This action made me really sat down and did a short reflection of my life and be able to express my feelings to my friends.

    3. The wolf story told us how we view and deal with problems. If we fuel with positive energy, it is all positive. It all depends on how we see problems. First, we have to believe in it. We have to believe there is peace and I can be peaceful. Second, we connect what we see or what we do with the positive beliefs, making it more relevant. Then I guess the peace is there! We believe it, we do it and then we have it.

    • Hello, Miao. Thanks for this great contribution. I really appreciate the details you went into when writing the gratitude letter to your friend. I can sense from your post how good it made you feel to recall and remember those stories of spending time with his family on Christmas, teaching refugees, going to baseball games, etc. Hold on to those memories and let them fuel you. I also appreciated it when you said, “We can’t assume they know how much we appreciate them, but we have to literally say it.” I think this is something I need to work on in my life and so I thank you for writing this.

  10. 1. I did not have a learning partner this week to share my ideas with, however I did talk with my best friend who is a psychologist and we discussed social and learning behaviors and they affect children in the school setting. We discussed promoting social emotional learning at all levels enriches content and skills instruction, meets state mandates in their districts, and helps students become caring, compassionate adults in the real world. Teaching social skills will assist students with daily applications for success and hope they will use them in their activities.

    2.My daily experience with the peace letter this week was very challenging because I had several people that I wanted to express my gratitude towards. After writing the letters I was a little apprehensive giving the letters after expressing my feelings. In the back of my mind I know the recipients know that I truly love and appreciate them. I just wanted to release the thoughts, but not the letters. I don’t know if this was normally, but this is what I experienced. I really liked completing this task. I have done something like this in my fifth grade class. It forces students to brainstorm about what they are thankful for, appreciate, value, love, and then they are able to share it with their loved ones. Research studies show that if we express gratitude we will feel less stress and have a better physical wellbeing.

    3.I envision incorporating social and emotional learning in the class by being mindful to each student and how they learn by the different learning styles. I also plan to implement life skills that students should be taught on a daily basis by the parent and the teacher. In my school we practice high five rules and these rules enforce social skills as well. I will challenge my students to speak positive and also to critically think. Also, I’ll let them express their gratitude towards others in the classroom and outside of the setting. I figure if we practice more peaceful activities then this will feed the peaceful wolf.

    • Hello Shawanda. First off, I appreciate you jumping right into our community and catching up with us. I look forward to having everyone hear your voice and learn more about you on our upcoming all-class conference call. Second, I appreciate your acknowledgment of different learning styles and how you see that as a way to value social and emotional learning in your classroom. This is such an important connection. Lastly, I appreciate the honesty you brought to your reflection on writing the letters and expressing your emotions. I understand where you are coming from regarding, “releasing the thoughts, but not the letters.”

  11. 1. I really enjoyed speaking with Nona. She is very passionate about her kids and it shows through her speaking. We both spoke on Goleman and how we totally agreed with his aspect of social/emotional learning. Especially the standardized testing part. Nona believes their should be more programs offered in the schools for our children who have that extra social/emotional issues. We as the teachers have a lot on our plates as is. If we could just get the students to understand that, “Just because you live in it don’t mean you have to embrace it”, (Nona’s quote) they will be more at ease with themselves and know that it is a way out.
    2. The gratitude letters is a great idea to open your class with and i really think I am going to use it this year to see how it goes. You know we really don’t take the time to think that deep sometimes and it helps you put things into perspective sometimes. Were you thought that someone know you were thankful, but giving them this letter really highlights that you are. This could also be used as an icebreaker or team building exercise. I am calling relatives that i have not spoke to or seen in a while, giving them/us time to catch up and to let them know that I love them.
    3. For this I think it is more about demonstrating this type of feeling I guess you would say. We don’t know what is always going on outside in our students life. I could use this as an exercise in my class. Role play, have students write down some scenarios that are going on in their life and we would pick from a hat and that student would have time to think of how they would handle the situation and role play it. Once we go through our exercise then I would ask them questions, lead up questions to what is social/emotional learning and positive psychology. This is were they would be making their own definition up of each one and go from their. One they have a few coping skills in their tool kit to use and try practicing them, I feel they will be able to deal with a lot more as life throws them these high hurtles.

    • Hello Tina. I appreciate how your conversations with your learning partners keep revealing your desire and interest in learning more about your students and what they are going through outside of the classroom. It shows a deep sense of care, concern, and understanding that we do not learn in a vacuum. Just acknowledging that students may be dealing with very serious issues outside of the classroom and are grappling with it internally and externalizing those emotions in various ways (some healthy and some not so healthy) goes a long way.

  12. 1) I really enjoyed chatting with Cassandra. I think she is a very loving and open-minded person. She is perceptive about her students and other people. What we share is a desire to try to find ways to teach our students to get along with each other and be peaceful. We each shared a story about a student we’ve had who didn’t show respect to others and how we wanted to find ways to help them feel at peace with themselves and show self control. We talked about how this course is unusual and refreshing in how it addresses the whole person. We talked about the need to take care of ourselves well so we can be most effective with our students.
    2) I’m inspired about how Cassandra took to heart the peace action and saw it as an opportunity to write letters of gratitude out of the blue to some people. I felt like the peace action was forced or artificial and I didn’t do it every day. It felt awkward to me to write letters out of the blue. So I wrote one to my sister, who had a birthday this week. That was easy because my sister and I are good friends and I often express gratitude for our relationship. But I am doing a peace action of my own making this week. I planned it weeks ago. I’m house sitting in an area of Virginia where I have a lot of relatives. I’ve been inviting people in pairs or families over for lunch or dinner. Some of them are aunts and uncles in their late 70s or early 80s. I want to spend time with them while they are still in good health.
    3) It was really inspiring to attend Daryn’s peace gathering this week at American University. We had mini workshops from groups in D.C. that support the whole child. I got some ideas for how to address the whole child in my classroom, which I believe is feeding the peaceful wolf. For example, I learned about how to teach about Great Persons from the past and today in a way that students can connect with them. I appreciated a theme in the workshop also about taking care of myself. I didn’t do a good job with that this last school year. I will burn out as a teacher if I don’t make that a goal once the school year starts. I get feedback from students that lets me know they know I care about them. But I want to be more successful in taking their social and emotional needs into consideration in what I choose to teach about and how I teach it. People at the peace education gathering were positive and inspiring. The question I was left with was: How am I going to be part of the solution (for any problems in education)?

    • Hi Mary Ann. It was so great to spend 1.5 days with you exploring the peace education work that is happening right here in DC. You brought so much to the community of learners and I really value the time we got to spend together. I also really like how you developed your own peace action this week. Eating a meal with someone and “breaking bread” I find to be one of the best ways to get to know someone. I wonder if there is a way to incorporate that idea into our schools and classrooms. Do some of you have meals with your students or incorporate food into teaching (although I know with all the allergies out there that can be challenging). Also, this reminded me of Paige’s introduction from week one. If you all remember, if Paige could choose to have dinner with anyone past or present, she would choose her students :).

  13. Pingback: Week 3 – Social and Emotional Learning + Positive Psychology (Summer 2013) | Peace Learner

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