Social Awareness Competency Focus Leads to Lessons on Empathy and Respectful Discourse

During mod 2, Indian Creek students and teachers have incorporated the competency of Social Awareness into curriculum school-wide. Social Awareness is the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures, to understand social and ethical norms for behavior. Conversations centering around social awareness themes, including empathy and respectful discourse have been occurring in developmentally-appropriate ways at each grade level.
 
Upper School advisory groups have delved into this theme by holding discussions about empathy and civil discourse. Students in grades 7-12 participated in an activity where they broke down real life "mean tweets," and then reflected on both the intentions of the people creating the tweets and how the tweets may have impacted the people they were about. Advisory groups also watched a TED talk called “10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation” together and then practiced holding conversations using these techniques. Groups also watched a video together that explores the importance of communicating with civility online.
 
Fifth and sixth grade students have also been experiencing advisory lessons on "respectful discourse.” While these lessons have not focused on the election specifically, the students have been working on skills to foster respectful discourse with others. Students first held a conversation about social filters, and came to the conclusion that it's not always appropriate for individuals to say whatever they want. The students discussed that the filters we use at ICS are "Is it true? Is it kind? and Is it necessary?" They then reflected upon what those questions mean and practiced scenarios where these filters could come into play in real life. After this lesson, the classes moved on to learning about empathy: what it means, the difference between empathy and sympathy, empathetic listening (what it looks and sounds like), and “empathy busters” (things we all do that stand in the way of empathetic listening).  Finally, the students gained knowledge and skills about how people can respectfully disagree with others. The classes learned what happens in the human brain when one is angry. Students discovered how the amygdala triggers a fight/flight reaction, which leads to the individual thinking with the “lower” brain versus the higher brain” (prefrontal cortex). The classes practiced a 4-6-8 breathing strategy to calm the brain and put the prefrontal cortex back in control, as well as techniques like using “I” statements versus “You” statements. They explored samples of what respectful disagreements look and sound like.
 
These important and intentional opportunities to study and practice components of Social Awareness will lead to important life skills that will benefit Indian Creek students for a lifetime.
 
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