Teacher Feature: Gail Colk, Duncan Christian School, February 2019

The January 2019 CEBC Update included an invitation to join Dr. Jennifer Katz as she presented highlights from her most recent book, Ensouling Our Schools: A Universally Designed Framework for Mental Health, Well-being and Reconciliation. Dr Katz wrote this book,“…because I wanted to do my part in reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and with the many, many students and teachers our educational system doesn’t work for.” 

 According to Dr. Katz, approximately 20 percent of children and adolescents experience mental health problems severe enough to require mental health services and yet many do not receive the care they require. Understanding this leads us to ask ourselves what can we do as teachers to avoid academic and/or social alienation in our schools? Dr. Katz promotes Spiritual, Emotional and Social Learning (SEL). 

The five main competencies of SEL are: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. Educators must acknowledge the impact that social and emotional barriers have on learning. SEL programming has impacted academic success, enabling students to experience the joy that accompanies learning and reflecting. In addition, SEL programming has also been attributed to reducing anxiety and stress among youth. This not only benefits students, but has impacted teachers by reducing stress. Teachers report that they feel greater self-efficacy while experiencing greater joy in teaching or serving because learning takes place in a more nurturing, caring, and supportive environment. 

 Dr. Katz provides lessons for classroom teachers K-12 which align with the BC Core Competencies.She weaves together four important threads within the Three Block Model, applicable in 21st Century Schools: 1. Spirit and Soul Education; Neurology, Trauma, Well-Being, and Mental Health in our Schools 2. The TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) and Indigenous Worldview of Education for Well-Being 3. Leadership for Inclusion and UDL in a practical and thought-provoking manner.