Reflect and Connect with Students in Challenging Times

Dear Educators, 

We are in unique times, overwhelming times and times of great possibility. I believe in a better world and I know that together we can make that happen. Thank you to all our providers on the frontlines – medical services, food & delivery services, childcare providers, social services, and so many more. My heart is also with all of you, our educators.

As I talk with teacher friends and relatives in states across the nation, I learn how school districts are grappling with questions of basic needs, equity, accessibility, screen time, engagement and so many other questions that come from the closures of our schools. I am in awe of the ideas and solutions that are being implemented. I hear and witness inspirational acts of kindness, creativity and innovation from educators as you quickly adapt to meet the needs of your students.

As so many of you are moving to online learning spaces, we would like to support you by sharing some of the practices from 
The Power of Belonging project (our local community will remember it as El Otro Lado.) The Power of Belonging is a curriculum developed to deepen connection, explore belonging and enliven creativity in classrooms through arts, story and sharing. We are currently redesigning the program to make it available to more schools and classrooms across the nation. The following are small selections from the in-depth curriculum.
One of our favorite exercises from the curriculum is writing “I Am From” poetry, inspired by George Ella Lyon’s poem. It is a wonderful way to uncover stories from a sensory perspective and learn about your students in new ways. Over the years teachers and teaching artists have made various adaptations of this exercise, including songs, art and videos. We hope our video poem inspires a creative idea for you to use with your students.

Another of our exercises is the
“Touchstone” experience. In our curriculum, we expand on this idea of “show & tell” by using art, story and reflection to deepen connection and understanding.  One way to simplify the exercise for online learning might be to ask each student to bring a precious object to a group session and share why it is important. The upside of online learning is that even if someone forgets, they can go and grab it quickly! 

A central component of
The Power of Belonging curriculum is reflection. Reflection allows our minds and hearts to catch up with our experiences, and gives us pause in which to contemplate and integrate our learnings. If we skip reflecting on our experiences, we risk missing the opportunity for learning and our potential for transforming. We hope you are able to make time for reflection with your students and on your own. Here are some prompts we like to use. 

  • What encourages you? 
  • What are you discovering about yourself? 
  • What surprises you? 
  • What challenges you? 
  • What questions are arising?
  • What are you noticing, sensing, feeling?

Thank you for caring so deeply for the physical wellbeing as well as the minds and hearts of all of our children and youth. Please let us know if these suggestions were helpful and there are other ways we can support you as continue to find new pathways for learning, sharing and connecting with your students and your community.


In peace, wellness and gratitude,

Barbara Deswood
Manager, The Power of Belonging project