It Takes More than Thinking: Social Emotional Learning and Creativity

What a time we are living through. All around me, educators are wrapping up a crazy online school year mid-pandemic, with still very little knowledge of what is coming in the fall. And across the world, there is increasing awareness of long-term inequalities that gives rise to frustration, anger and calls for new ways of thinking. Many of those calls are coming from young people. It is a time that calls for wisdom, flexibility, creative problem solving, and resilience from educators, parents, and students alike. Being good thinkers is not going to be enough. We also must be aware of our own emotions, history, and reactions, as well as those of others. We must be able to understand many levels of human strength and need around us. We must be strong and wise social-emotional beings, all of us. One of the key leaders who kept protests in Detroit focused and peaceful is 16-year-old Stefan Perez. He was able to read the crowd, understand his own strength, and be a leader. We need his creative power.

Even before the pandemic, I’d been thinking about the key relationships between social emotional learning and creativity. As we help students become more aware and open, more persistent, better risk takers, better at dealing with failure and better communicators, we give them the skills to be more creative. And as we present opportunities, understanding, and support for creativity, we help them develop the capacities they need both to create, and to learn.

More on those thoughts another day, but for today I’d like to share one resource for those of us trying to support young people in social emotional learning. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has a basic model that can help those just beginning to think of social emotional learning, as well as a wealth of information for anyone navigating this time.  This list of Resources provides guidance for educators thinking about the role of social emotional learning in reopening schools, parents who need support in talking to their children about COVID, and educators thinking about any aspect of SEL related to the pandemic. It includes one key premise essential for any of us attempting this work: Just as we are told on every airplane flight that in an emergency, we must put on our own oxygen mask before attempting to help others, we must attend to our own social and emotional needs during this difficult time. Be sure to click on the link titled “Attend to well-being and mutual support among adults.”  Then scroll down to other links you may find useful. While the focus of the page is on COVID, the kinds of emotional strength and resilience necessary for the pandemic are necessary for all aspects of our changing world.

I’m going to continue to think about this, and I hope you do, too.

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