We envision a world where educational systems are supported by leaders with mindful awareness practices, critical reflection, ethical and courageous action. By supporting the inner lives of educational leaders and equipping them with the skills they need, TEL is playing a critical role in transformation towards more compassionate, democratic and equitable school communities.
One of the most powerful lessons we’ve learned while engaged in systemic mindfulness-based and equity informed SEL implementation is that leadership is key. TEL focuses deeply on what it means to lead from the inside out in service of organizational and systemic transformation and how to truly “lead for belonging.”
Stephanie Pace Marshall offers us some important words about transformational leadership from her book The Power of Transformation (2008). She says:
“We need to transform our system of learning and teaching so that we water the roots of learning not the leaves of schooling. This transformation will not initially emerge through reinvention of social structures and institutions, although that will occur. Rather it will come from altering of mind – the transformation of human consciousness and the emergence of integral and wise minds that will creatively live into a new worldview of an interconnected and living planet within a sustainable and interdependent human family.”
What TEL ultimately equips educational leaders to do is to integrate the fields of SEL, Mindfulness, Equity and Transformative Leadership development as the field of education eventually embraces a whole person approach and lives out its commitment to each and every child.
Roughly 80 percent of the nation's K-12 principals are white, while more than half of students enrolled in public schools are black, Latino, Asian, American Indian, or mixed race. White principals were more likely than non-white principals to say that their preservice programs did not prepare them to meet the needs of diverse student bodies, with 39 percent of white principals saying that their programs left them "completely unprepared" or "mostly unprepared," to students of color (RAND, 2019).
We have noted already that educational equity is about making sure that all children have the resources and opportunities they need in order to develop their full academic, social, and emotional potential. TEL believes that for all leaders to be fully prepared to lead from a place of equity, they need an understanding of historical and current structural inequity as well as an awareness of their own personal biases including how their racial identity shapes their life and work. TEL Leaders become culturally competent in policies, practices and procedures that reflect equity in access and participation in school environments and other organizations. TEL Leaders learn how critical it is to increase diversity of their staff and make sure that all those they work with are engaged in anti-racist teaching and collective healing. The commitment TEL has of admitting 50 % People of Color in each of our cohorts provides a living example and opportunity to engage as a member of a truly multicultural and mult-racial community.
Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)
“Social and Emotional Learning is the process through which both adults and children acquire and apply knowledge, attitudes and skills to understand and manage emotions, setand achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy towards others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. Weaving together social, emotional and academic development creates high-quality learning experiences in schools and classrooms. When these elements are deliberately and thoughtfully interconnected, students benefit from learning experiences that enable them to ultimately be more effective contributors in their classrooms today and their workplaces and communities tomorrow. “ Adapted from The Practice Base for How We Learn, Aspen Institute, 2018 p.4)
TEL is aware that the adults who work together to implement such an approach need to be models of emotional intelligence themselves in their interactions with students and other adults. TEL Leaders learn how to make SEL an integral part of curriculum, instruction, pedagogy and policy that extends to families and community as well.
TEL Leaders learn how to engage in collective impact initiatives and use their SEL skills to lead and ground difficult discussions and courageous action around equity.
Mindfulness is still fairly new to the field of Pre-k-12 education. It is an important foundational capacity, skill and a way of being that cultivates presence, awareness and compassion. It forms the basis for what TEL leaders need to enable others to flourish and transform the organizations in which they serve. It involves the capacity of leaders to be present in everyday life and be aware of their own presence and gifts as leaders. Through the thread of Mindfulness, TEL Leaders develop an awareness of the connection between personal well-being and professional success. It gives them an opportunity to explore their deep-seated spiritual values that drive personal and professional goals. TEL Leaders also become more awareness of how body sensations can be helpful in emotional balance and in making ethical decisions as we experience our internal state and external states of being. Finally, Mindfulness helps us all understand the role of interdependence and compassion in our life and work.