When Dallas ISD switched to virtual learning last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers and campus staff throughout the district had to shift overnight to the new reality. Since then, these educators have been working tirelessly to familiarize themselves with new learning environments, keep students engaged, and ensure their families’ well-being, all while teaching.
Recognizing that these challenges can be taxing to anybody, Dallas ISD’s Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Department has worked through its SEL campus networks to ensure that each school has access to self-care support, resources and activities.
“We need to understand that self-care means taking care of oneself before we can take care of others”, said Franceslia Rodriguez, Northwest SEL Campus Coordinator. “And in order to be helpful, you have to be in a good place. We provide them with resources and tools, but also we empower them to communicate their needs.”
This empowerment to connect in an unscripted way was the origin of the SEL In Action: Teacher Discussion Series. This is a monthly virtual meeting that provides teachers with a safe space to engage with each other to discuss topics that matter to them.
“During challenging times, it is important to feel seen and heard. That is why we organized this series,” said Aileen Mokuria, SEL manager. “The series is co-led and co-designed with teachers, and as a result, teachers have found appreciation for having time to connect and deepen bonds with fellow educators across Dallas ISD.”
Having had to resort to virtual environments to conduct the series has been a blessing in disguise for the series, because it has allowed teachers from all over Dallas ISD to take an active part.
“Now, we have a meeting place for the whole district where we can all come and meet in a simple manner,” said Franceslia Rodriguez.
“I think this kind of support has been crucial for teachers, especially during a year of so much uncertainty and change,” said Erin Anthony, pre-AP English teacher at W.T. White High School. “It feels good to talk to other teachers who understand the things we’re facing and our shared struggles, and to have a safe place to discuss the good and bad moments we’re experiencing.”
The last two discussions of the series will be focused on “Creating Spaces of Belonging” (April 28) and “Reigniting Our Sense of Purpose” (May 26). This year has served as pilot season and the SEL department has already begun planning ahead to relaunch the series in August for the whole year.
“We really want to talk to teachers about what does it mean, not only to be a part of your campus, but what does it mean to really feel like you belong there. We want teachers to reignite their sense of purpose after a very challenging year. Why? So that they can continue to want to support Dallas ISD,” Mokuria said.
Teachers can sign up at https://forms.gle/gHpnCeiUbrw5QhBX7 or contact Aileen Mokuria, SEL manager, for additional support.
For additional SEL resources, visit www.dallasisd.org/sel.