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Inside the Supt's Office
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Inside the Supt's Office

December 2017

Welcome to the first edition of “Inside the Supt’s Office,” a spin-off of the MPS Insider that will be published for all employees at the beginning of every month. With this publication, I hope to preview for you themes, issues and events for the month ahead. I hope you’ll see a recurring focus on our district’s four priorities: equity, literacy, multi-tiered systems of support, and – today – social emotional learning.
I’m told that every generation thinks the world is more complicated and harder to navigate than it was for earlier generations. We can’t know, of course, because we haven’t walked in the shoes of our ancestors. Yet I must confess to sometimes being overwhelmed by the disturbing news today’s generations face 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In this year alone, we’ve been confronted with natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, gun violence, family deportations, racial slurs by our leaders, and the realities of what women face in our society. I marvel at the strength it can take for adults to simply open the door and walk out into the world each morning.
Imagine then how it must feel to our children.
As you know, at Minneapolis Public Schools some 36,000 students bring with them into their classrooms everything that makes them what they are – their hopes and dreams, as well as their fears and insecurities. It is our job, and the job of all the adults in their lives, to ensure that the former is not overcome by the latter.
At MPS, we believe that one of the best ways we can do that is through modeling and giving our students the social and emotional skills that will provide them with a strong sense of self. In knowing themselves, students can know what to expect, who they can trust, and how to be a trusted and helpful friend and classmate to others. A student with strong social-emotional skills can navigate fear and chaos more effectively, because they feel more in control of themselves and their lives, even when the outside world is giving them different signals.
I learned of a profound example of strong social-emotional skills recently in the staff and students of Nawayee Center School in south Minneapolis. Vandals broke into their school over the Thanksgiving break, destroying artwork, trashing offices and stealing two vans.
How disheartening that must have been, especially that it happened over a holiday that some could argue ignores the historic trauma suffered by indigenous people.
Yet when I spoke with Executive Director Joe Rice, I heard strength, unity and hope for the future. I learned about how Mr. Rice and his students discussed that this event did not define them. And I learned about how they were all working together with pride to restore their school.
That is social-emotional strength – the ability to look at life head on and keep moving forward with dignity.
I am proud that Minneapolis Public Schools has made the commitment to infuse social-emotional learning and teaching into everything that we do, from our classrooms to our board room. While many of our schools have incorporated social-emotional learning into their practices in the past, we have identified 10 cohort schools charged with helping begin a systematic approach to making social-emotional learning part of the everyday experience at Minneapolis Public Schools. We look forward to adding work at the district level and at more schools each year. Better yet, we look forward to ushering strong, self-aware young people out into our community.
Great things are to come!