For the past few years, I have been purposefully including Social Emotional Learning (SEL) strategies into my Social Studies content instruction. With that focus in mind, I picked up Wildflowers by Jonathan P. Raymond and found it to be a quick and useful read. It is hard to tell whether the book was written for teachers, administrators, school boards, superintendents, or the author’s personal catharsis, but all educators would benefit from the positive lessons in the book. I found myself nodding my head and vigorously underlining passages that I have returned to again and again in order to clarify my vision for including SEL in my pedagogy.
First and foremost is Raymond’s view that SEL is Whole Child in action and that both of these movements are fundamentally tied to equity. Toward that end, Raymond is unsparing in his belief that America is creeping “toward decline because of the abject neglect of our children.” The consistent message from this edu-leader is that our nation has “one future to build, together, and nothing will shield us from the consequences if we fail those on the lower rungs of our economic ladder.”
Raymond calls for all school stakeholders to put children first in their decision-making and to focus education policy on continuous improvement and collaboration. He notes that Americans have a tough time thinking through problems involving inequality and that we reach for our pet ideologies before agreeing on facts. Throughout the book, Raymond cautions that ideological battles are the biggest threat to public education.
Another statement that I agreed with was Raymond’s personal rejection of the term “achievement gap” because it blames children who live in poverty for the failures of policy-makers. Who is failing to achieve? The students who are underperforming, or the adults who lack the focus, discipline, moral courage, and belief in these kids to ensure they are supported effectively.
Although Raymond does not recommend specific SEL strategies that teachers can use in their daily instructional practices, his action plan and five keys for reimagining schools will inspire teachers. I repeatedly thought — I would love to work for this guy – as I continued through the book. Wildflowers is bigger than an SEL instruction manual, it is a call to embark on a national effort in reshaping public education after failed national policies aimed at disenfranchising families, communities, and teachers.
I’m interested in learning how other Social Studies teachers are integrating SEL into their routines and procedures, please post your ideas in the comments or share them on Twitter.