A 4th grade student new to the US recently shared what she was learning in science about habitat and adaptation with visiting professors from the Tsing-Hua University in Taiwan. The learner was tentative as she spoke because she is learning English, but when she heard Assistant Superintendent Wendy Zhang speak to our visitors in Mandarin, her eyes widened and a grand smile lit up her face. She spoke excitedly to Ms. Zhang about hearing someone else speaking her language. Connection through culture, language, interests, customs, heritage, ethnicity, and learning create a sense of belonging. It is this sense of belonging that allows learners to feel valued and capable of becoming their true selves.
October is the month of awareness initiatives in CA that promote inclusivity; for example, Hispanic Heritage, LGBTQ, Italian Heritage, Filipino Heritage, Red Ribbon Week, and Anti-bullying Month. Why? In recognizing these awareness campaigns, we demonstrate that the experiences, beliefs, and backgrounds of our learners are valued; who they are matters. Bullying and substance abuse prevention campaigns remind our youth that there are healthier ways to handle differences, stress, and burdens that may hinder their development. Social Emotional Learning empowers youth to see the strength and possibility in a climate that embraces diversity.
Our students are learning the power of listening to understand through mindfulness practices and strategies that build empathy. At our October Community Based Advisory Council meeting MUSD leaders shared social emotional learning strategies that can be used at home (click for SEL presentation). Social media, texting, and email as mechanisms for communicating do not afford our learners the opportunity to express oneself fully as body language, eye contact, and tone of voice are missing. This is why building inclusive spaces for learning about one another allows for understanding and greater opportunities to develop interpersonal skills that are essential for productive work and life relationships.
Every day is an opportunity to listen for understanding to another’s experience, to make connections, and to work towards a compassionate and inclusive culture, one that is WE together in community for our students.