Aukeem Ballard: Today we’ll be having some conversations that are going to take some courage for us to participate in.
Student: Some kids get out of school, go home, just to strictly do work. I don’t have the same privileges, because I need to go help my parents. Having this responsibility is kind of harder on me just because I have to worry about grades and getting into college and going to work just to actually help my parents out.
Aukeem Ballard: We have put a stake in the ground around building the whole student. Once a week students go through a curriculum meant to build out their capacity for emotional intelligence, habits of success, community, and building culture. Once we have those tools we are better equipped to navigate the next part of our journey as well as right now.
Penelope Pak McMillen: Our school’s mission is to prepare a diverse student population for success in a four-year university, but it isn’t just about making sure that our kids have content knowledge, that they can critically think. To truly be a thoughtful, contributing member of society you need to be able to have emotional intelligence, to understand people who are different from you, to have a wide perspective.
Aukeem Ballard: What is your story? What are stories that others have told about you?
I teach “Habits, Community, Culture”.
All right. What did we discuss?
This is essentially a course that seeks to grow students’ capacity to own, understand, articulate, and practice emotional intelligence skills, critical habits of success, as well as build a thriving community.
Aukeem Ballard: We’re going to do mindfulness practice. You’re going to want your feet shoulder-width apart. It’s going to start with breathing exercise, but then it’s going to go into a little bit of, like, mindful movement practice. Eyes closed.
Kiran: We usually open up the class with a five- to ten-minute exercise in mindfulness.
Aukeem Ballard: The mindfulness practice is more of the concrete practicing of some of the emotional intelligence skills.
Take a deep breath in.
Especially self-awareness and self-management.
And out. You’re just going to focus on your breath and trying to hold the focus.
It’s more about giving the students space and opportunity to kind of quiet down for themselves and reflect on where they’re at with things.
Whatever you’re feeling simply acknowledge it without judgment.
Kiran: The ability to step back from our day-to-day rush and, like, really reflect into ourselves about how were we feeling, are we okay with how we’re doing?
Aukeem Ballard: Because we’ve given time to this, students come in and say, “Mr. B, tell me we’re doing mindfulness, because I got some stuff I need to think through.”
That’s the goal: You can recognize and manage your emotions!
We’re going to do some group in small works and really hear people’s stories and give space for their stories. Make sure your chairs are actually in a circle as long as everyone is facing everyone.
Aukeem Ballard: Those small group conversations that we have, part of the background intent is strengthening the empathy ability because one of the emotional intelligence skills is being able to recognize the emotions of others in the room.
Geoffrey: When I go into a store a person told me to empty out my backpack, because he thought I stole something. But I didn’t have anything at all. And then I had a police stop just asking me what am I doing. I would just be like, “I’m just coming back from school.” And it’s kind of hard to see how, like, even when someone’s dressed differently how, like, you can get judged on that, even though you try to do your best. You know?
Geoffrey: It’s important to talk about, you know, the struggles in life, because it clears the mind and then you feel like you’re ready to start again.
Kiran: You really do need a lot of emotional intelligence for that class, because these are all, like, a lot of personal stories coming out about people’s identities. Because of the social and emotional awareness that we are taught in HCC, I’m able to develop stronger relationships with my peers at Summit.
Aukeem Ballard: Now stand in a circle while we do our brief shout-out. It’s appreciation, apology, or aha. My aha is that a lot of folks in here have pieces to their story that they may think aren’t important parts, but actually are important parts.
We usually have some sort of closing activity and it really plays a special role when you’ve gone through something that is emotionally difficult for some people in the room.
So, can we get a few people to shout-out an appreciation, apology, or aha?
Student: I’d like to appreciate Brenda for facilitating the conversation in our small group.
Student: I’d like to thank everyone for taking this class seriously for all the stories.
Carlos: I apologize for having my headphones in half of the time to everyone.
Aukeem Ballard: Thanks a lot of that, Carlos. That means a lot.
Those types of appreciations or community recognitions can go a long way to build the bonds.
Janet: We all are striving to, like, become good students and, like, just do well in our community. If you’re able to understand people at a younger age, you could probably work better with them as adults. That kind of just changes how the future generations will be. Like, people can be more accepting, more helpful towards each other.
Aukeem Ballard: They are going to the outside world, which I have no control over, and I want to give them every chance possible to soar and swim and play around in the pool if they want to.