Curriculum Approaches

Why We Need SEL Right Now (Ep. 193)

In today’s episode, Nic welcomes on Jonathan Juravich. Jonathan is an elementary art teacher from Columbus, Ohio, and the host of AOEU’s newest podcast, The Art of SEL. Listen as they discuss the role of social and emotional learning in the art room, the importance of SEL concepts, and how they play into Jonathan’s discussions on the new podcast.  Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Nic: The Art of Education University has a third podcast. That’s right. We have Everyday Art Room, which you’re listening to right now. We have Art Ed Radio, our very first podcast, hosted by Tim Bogatz. And now we have the Art of SEL. SEL stands for Social-Emotional Learning. That is hosted by Jonathan Juravich. And Jonathan’s going to speak with us today to give us a little insight into what his podcast is all about. This is Everyday Art Room and I’m your host, Nic Hahn.

Hello, Jonathan. Thank you so much for joining us today. Can you go ahead and just give us a quick introduction of where you teach, who you teach, and how long you’ve been teaching?

Jonathan: Yeah, my name is Jonathan Juravich. I am an elementary art teacher and I’ve been doing that for 16 years with Olentangy Schools, which is just north of Columbus, Ohio, and in the suburbs.

Nic: Yeah. Have you always been in elementary? Is that where you are?

Jonathan: I’ve always been in elementary, but I was a cross country and track coach for middle schoolers for many, many years. Which I love that connection from elementary to middle, but I’ve always taught elementary kids.

Nic: Yeah. So great. And in that wide range of kindergarten through fifth grade, I can’t wait to have this discussion with you because we have such a variety in that range. So, okay. Let’s just get into this. I am so excited to have you on here today because you have a new podcast with the Art of Education University. I can’t wait. It is based on social-emotional learning. I want to know everything about it. Tell me why you … How are you getting started with this? Why is it SEL that’s important to talk about in your podcast?

Jonathan: Yeah, I mean, I guess I always focused on social-emotional learning in my art room, but I never had a title for it. I never had a name for it. I love engaging kids in conversations and art making experiences that are about their emotions, their identity, the relationships, but we never had this overarching word or descriptor for it. Right? So then just several years ago as that term social and emotional learning started bubbling to the surface, I was like, “That’s it. That’s what I’m doing. That’s what I care so deeply about for my students,” and realizing that it’s something that so many art educators are doing without even really doing so intentionally. Or, they are doing so intentionally and they just don’t realize it yet. So that’s what I’m hoping to do through this podcast is, really focus on these amazing experiences and opportunities we have for engaging students with SEL.

Nic: Oh, my gosh. That sounds amazing. Now tell me, this is going to be a small series, right? It’s just a few episodes.

Jonathan: Yeah. So there are eight episodes. An introduction episode that kind of explains, what is social and emotional learning, right? And then an episode based off of each of the five competencies as laid out, that’s pretty widely accepted. Which is, self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision-making, and relationship skills. And then I’m specifically doing an episode based on empathy after that, and because empathy kind of winds all of those pieces together. And then the final episode is, what do you do next? What do you do with anything from this podcast? So there’ll be eight episodes in total, so it’s a limited series one.

Nic: I like how focused you are with … You’re so intentional with each podcast that you’re releasing. So far, I’ve been able to listen to two. By the time that this airs, we’ll probably have a couple more out, but it is very intentional. And it helps me focus on just a new little snippet of SEL, because for me it does seem like a big thing, but the way you broke it down will help me really understand each aspect of it. So thank you for doing that. How did you come up with that? I mean, how do you know so much about SEL, and now all the different aspects of SEL?

Jonathan: Well, again, it was one of those things where I was a part of conferences where people started using the terminology and I was so fascinated. I was like, “Huh, there’s something about this that feels very familiar.” And so I started doing more research on my own. Exploring CASEL’s website, which is the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning. They’re the leaders in SEL. So definitely want to check out. And, then just talking with other people that cared about the topic similarly. I also had the experience here in Ohio to help revise and work on standards for social-emotional learning, which immediately everyone was like, “Whoa, wait, are you going to be assessing kids? Like, their self-awareness?” And we’re like, “Well, no.” Really what we’re doing is providing resources for teachers to say, “When you’re ready and able to jump into this work, here’s a starting point.” A lot like we do with our standards for visual arts as well. So all those experiences combined really kind of, I don’t know, I guess forced me into this experience.

Nic: Yeah. And it’s not just you thus far. I’ve heard other voices and other experts in this area. Can you tell me about some of the guests that you’re bringing on?

Jonathan: Yeah, so when I started planning out, what could this podcast look like? Because I was like, “I don’t know, I’ve never planned a podcast before.” Right? So, breaking it down specifically into those episodes was the first step. And then I thought about art educators I know, from across the country, either personally, professionally, that I knew were doing really cool stuff that people would connect to. And, from all levels. We talked to a kindergarten art teacher, actually a preschool art teacher, all the way up to a college professor. And then in between are all of these leaders in work, in this work, in social-emotional learning. So, what I did is I started placing them, kind of like, “This person has really great thoughts that would connect to self-awareness,” or, “Huh. I love what they do for relationship skills,” and kind of built the podcast through that. So yeah, in each episode, everyone will get the opportunity to hear from at least two other people from education, within each episode.

Nic: Oh, each one. Wow.

Jonathan: Yeah. Yeah.

Nic: Wow, that’s awesome. You’re really bringing in a lot of experts and a lot of different voices, which I always liked because I think you can connect with someone’s idea. That’s why I bring in a lot of people as well, because I just, I want to hear … I want to learn most of the time, but I think others do too. They want to hear the different voices.

Jonathan: And that’s what you’ll hear in each episode is there’s moments of realization that I have, where you’ll also hear me laughing a lot. But, I’ll hit a moment where I will go, “Whoa, I never thought of it that way before,” or, “That is so exciting. I can’t wait to do this.” And so it’s kind of like the listener hopefully will be exploring some of these topics right along with me, getting excited, hopefully with me as well.

Nic: That can happen.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Nic: And what’s so nice is, I think, we have two podcasts and one is based for mostly the secondary teachers. And then this one, Everyday Art Room is based mainly for elementary. But, because you have so many different voices and with different experiences, you really are hitting many different age levels, which is great for a K-12 qualified teacher.

Jonathan: Yeah, exactly. And I think some of those moments of talking about things that are adaptable to all levels. In the self-awareness episode, we talk about the why you matter program, and it was started by high school teachers. But then I share that in the podcast, that I did it with my elementary school kids. So there’s stuff to take away from all of these different voices.

Nic: Agreed, agreed. And that’s what I was thinking. I listened to one yesterday morning on my walk and it was the same thing where I was like, “Wow, that’s so,” and I’ve seen this. It actually was something I saw many years ago, and it brought it to my forefront of my memory again. So I was so grateful because as you were speaking, I was seeing the images, the black and white images that you were talking about, in my brain. They’re so powerful.

Jonathan: Yes. Oh my gosh. And the two incredible art educators that shared about, what was the impetus to starting this program and how has it impacted the very fabric of their school community? And you can just hear in their voices how much it matters. And it’s not about an art supply. It’s not about a particular technique. It’s about the kids. And it’s about their connection to these kids. And I mean, I would also say it like, I get choked up talking to these teachers because so much of it is about raw feelings. Not just the why you matter program, but throughout each of these episodes, there’s something that someone will share that just hits and you realize it’s, there’s something so much bigger than just this one small lesson that we’re teaching.

Nic: Well, and that kind of brings me into this idea of, why do you think art, the art room, the visual arts’ studio is the right place for SEL? Why is that marriage so easy or not easy? What’s your feeling on that?

Jonathan: Yeah. So in the episode that will be coming out on relationship skills, I actually have the opportunity to talk to my friend Lauren, where we met the very first day of undergrad and we’ve been friends since, right? And she’s an art educator in Oregon. And she shares about how the joy that’s in the art room, because of the fact that our work is from the heart. We put so much of our personal lives, experiences, reflections into our work, and she shares that throughout the pandemic, she had to help with math a lot. And she’s like, “Yes, there’s joy in math. There is when you get it correct. It is exciting.” She said that. She goes, “Bless those math teachers, in the work they do,” because now she understands, right? She has empathy for them.

But she’s like, “Then you come into the art room and the students are putting all of themselves into their work. Or, you can tell when a kid is really holding back from sharing in their work.” And so it’s because of things like that, that makes the art room just the perfect place to talk about our experiences, our relationships, our feelings, and it’s a visual way to do so when the words just aren’t possible, right? It’s the ability to put them out on the page or to sculpt them, so that sometimes you can process through things without knowing the right thing to say.

Nic: Yeah. Oh, here, here.

Jonathan: Right?

Nic: I totally agree. I mean, just like, well, so you don’t look at this as an extra thing on your plate, do you?

Jonathan: No.

Nic: And, why not? Why did this not feel like an extra thing? Another thing to add into our curriculum?

Jonathan: And I think that comes up in every conversation I had throughout the podcast. Is that yeah, because there are so many wonderful educators. There are people that I work with that I value and respect and admire. And yet, whenever I talk about SEL or social-emotional learning, they go, “Ugh, but I don’t have time.” And I immediately, I kind of like get prickly inside because I’m like, “We make the time,” and we make the time by being intentional. By looking at our standards and seeing where they connect. That’s why the SEL standards, I love them. And it’s like, “Ooh, do you love standards?” But because you can line them up with your visual arts standards and see, “Oh, look, these are the connections.”

This is where it already makes sense. This is where I’m already doing this work. But if I change this one introduction, if I change this one expectation, it’s not just one more thing. It’s kind of the through-line through everything that we’re doing. And I talked with a director of social-emotional learning for a school district in the podcast. And he says this beautiful thing about how it’s not just one more thing. It’s the thing.

Nic: The thing.

Jonathan: I know, and it’s like, it stuck with me, right? Because it’s like, “You’re right.” If we’re talking about developing these students into the humans they will become and go out into the world and leave our art rooms, yes, I want them to have all these experiences with art supplies, but I also want them to learn to value themselves, to respect other humans, to look at other ways of doing things. I mean, it’s not one more thing. It really is the thing.

Nic: Yeah. And I think he went into comparing it to food, drink, sleep. And I think that hit me too. I’m glad that you brought that up because I was like, “Oh, that’s so true.” Because if you don’t have a well-balanced child, it doesn’t matter what you’re throwing it at them. It needs to go deeper. And if you’re talking to their hearts, yeah. That’s beautiful.

Jonathan: Well, and the same thing’s true for the adults, because that’s another through line through the podcast is, it matters that the adults are developing their own social-emotional competence as well. And, focusing on their self-regulation and their self-awareness. And I mean, that’s a huge part of it as well. We’re not, this isn’t something you achieve, like put the flag on the summit and you’re like, “Yes.” Right? It’s TED. You’re like, “I am constantly developing as a human forever in these areas.”

Nic: Yes, yes. Yeah. You mentioned talking about empathy. I am very much looking forward to that because I think that, that’s such a big topic and one that has been challenging for me to really explain, and to my students at an age appropriate level. What are some tips and tricks that you can give us in a short amount? We’re going to listen to it. A little preview.

Jonathan: Well, this feels like a super shameless self-plug, but …

Nic: Should be.

Jonathan: Okay. Good. All right. So two, three years, I don’t know, a couple of years ago I gave a TED Talk that’s called, How Do We Teach Empathy? Right?

Nic: I didn’t know that. Are you serious? I’m so excited. I’m going to check this out right away.

Jonathan: Yeah. Right. So just Google Jonathan Juravich, TED Talk. But yeah, it was like a real TED Talk in New York City at their headquarters. And the focus of it, is on talking to especially elementary school kids about, what is empathy? And I often say, we start with awareness, like a noticing of what’s going on around us so that we can make choices. And those choices hopefully will become empathetic choices for ourselves and for other people. And I, throughout the podcast episode, as well as my talk, I talk about how people always say, “Walk in someone else’s shoes,” but for little kids, that’s such an abstract concept because they think so literal. So I’ve had kids actually say like, “Why? Why am I putting on someone’s shoes?” And you’re like, “You’re not putting on someone’s shoes.” But by trying to make it understandable, we’re actually making it harder. So at our building, we have a definition that’s, understanding the experiences and feelings of other people. It’s just that simple. Right?

So, yeah. But through that episode, I talk with an author who wrote a book for kids called, What is Empathy? Yeah, and it’s really beautiful. She gives some amazing insights and connects really to the art room with her work. And then I actually had the opportunity to interview one of my former students who was a first grader my first year of teaching, and is now just graduated from college last weekend. And I brought him on to talk about, what was his experience like in the art room, connecting to empathy as well? Which was really cool to get that student perspective, but also being kind of a young adult, to be able to reflect on his past experience.

Nic: Yeah. Wow. That’s amazing. So, I mean, you’re a big deal. I love it. A TED Talk? That’s amazing.

Jonathan: I mean, out-of-body experience to say the least, so yeah.

Nic: In doing this podcast with the Art of Education, what are some of the big takeaways you have from the series and just from the whole experience?

Jonathan: Well, the first takeaway for me personally is how much work it goes into doing a podcast. Setting up appointments, the interviews, the editing, because there was a lot of editing, because people are passionate and excited about this work. And wanting to make sure that we get the best of them within each episode. And I mean, thank you for all you do, Nic, because it’s a lot. For me, again, it goes back to that empathy. Understanding the experiences of others, and now fully appreciating everything that went into it. So, that’s on a very personal level. But with each episode, I am talking about, so what now? What are your takeaways from this? And they’re not hard. Really, they’re supposed to be reflective questions or like a call to action. And for me in coming up with those takeaways, they were takeaways for myself, too.

It’s not just for the listener, but it was really for me to say, if I care about this work deeply, these are some things I need to focus on or to recommit myself to. One of them is to have an accomplice in this work, to not just go it alone. And that accomplice could be, for me, it’s an intervention specialist at our school who is phenomenal, but she would love to sit and talk about SEL until … until the end of the day. Right? Just continue talking about it, but to have someone to connect to. And again, I think it really hit for me that SEL is not something we achieve. We don’t check it off a list, but to say that as an adult, it’s something we’re continually working at and we can always be better. So I think for me, those have been the takeaways. I think also that I have really amazingly cool people in my life that I need to appreciate even more, for the things that they have shared with the broader art education community.

Nic: That’s amazing. Thank you so much for joining me today, and I just appreciate your time and you know. Now that we’ve talked about it, I appreciate your time, but just the excitement that you have with this podcast, it comes through so clearly. I can’t wait to listen to the rest of the series. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Jonathan: Thank you.

Nic: Jonathan was so kind to stick with us just for a few more minutes in our outro, because we’re going to talk real quickly about Art Ed NOW, which is coming up very soon in July. That’s where I was introduced to Jonathan and his work, was through a previous conference. Jonathan, are you going to be presenting with Art Ed NOW soon? This July?

Jonathan: Yes I am. Yeah. I will be there this July talking about some takeaways from this very podcast. Some ways that I’ve applied some of the learning that has happened for me, as well as highlighting some of the great things that were shared by guests on my podcast.

Nic: Great. Are you doing a prerecorded? Because, I know that there’s some live sessions as well. Is yours going to be live?

Jonathan: Yeah, I did live last summer and I really enjoyed it. Thinking on your feet, it felt much like a conference that you would attend. And so I’ll be doing live again this year. And you’re coming back?

Nic: Yeah. Sorry. That’s kind of my favorite part about Art Ed NOW is that there are some prerecorded, but there’s live. So it does … you’re right. It feels more authentic. It feels more real.

Jonathan: Yeah. And that mix of the prerecorded and the live gets to that point where you can have these well-produced presentations as well as the ones like mine where I’m like, “Hey, what’s going to happen with the next 10 minutes.” Right? So, yeah.

Nic: Oh, that’s wonderful. Great. Well, I can’t wait to learn from you there. I love that. NOW conference is absolutely one of my favorite ways to obtain professional development. And I’m also adding this podcast. My goal for next year is actually incorporating more SEL. So this is going to be part of my professional development as well.

Jonathan: Woo-hoo.

Nic: So thanks on both.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Nic: Thanks.

Jonathan: Yes, of course.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.