Collective Empathy and Action Now

Dear IFSEL Community,

We are watching the #BlackLivesMatter protests, justice crisis, and turbulent events unfold by the minute in America. We are outraged by the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many other Black people who have been continuously disproportionately impacted by racism and oppression in this country.

To our Black students, colleagues, and communities - you matter. Your lives matter. We stand with you now and always.

IFSEL’s mission statement is to envision a world where empathy abounds and all people thrive. This is not our world’s current reality. In solidarity with all people of color and marginalized groups, we must stand up, speak out, and work fervently to change it.

"My equation for Black allyship is: knowledge + empathy + action" - Rachel Cargle

As a group of educators, we continue to work to understand our privileges and whiteness, and we remain committed to using IFSEL's platform to promote tools to dismantle ongoing systemic oppression, racism, and white supremacy.

IFSEL shares the commitment to understand the complexity and layers behind tragic events, to learn lessons from both history and the present, and to apply these lessons as we help to educate the future of America.  


Here are some questions we used to write this email that can be applied to your communications during this time:

  1. What is my intention? What’s my desired outcome in speaking up?
  2. Who is the most vulnerable in this situation? In this conversation?
  3. Who am I speaking up for? Is it for my own benefit? Is it for someone else? Am I posturing or am I authentic?
  4. If I'm not speaking up, who is my silence protecting?

- excerpted from Rachel Cargle

SEL Exercise: Layers of Feelings

This can be done alone or with students, family, or colleagues to open up and get closer to understanding the nuances of our emotional responses.

  1. 1. Grab a piece of paper, fold it in half, and have crayons or colored pencils available.
  2. 2. Give yourself a moment to be still and rest. Take in a big inhale and let your body release on the exhale.
  3. 3. Check in with how you are feeling and have been feeling. Notice the range and diversity of emotions that are present during this very challenging time. Notice if different feelings are happening at the same time and/or seem to be layered, where one covers another. Under anger - is there sadness and hurt? Under disappointment - loneliness and confusion? Under fear - helplessness and despair?
  4. 4. Use the inside and outside of the folded paper to represent your inner and outer layers of feelings. Express your feelings  with lines, color, shapes, etc.
  5. 5. Look at your layered drawing and see what you notice. If with others, hold it up and talk about any aspect that you wish to share.
  6. 6. Reflective Questions: How and why can ‘layered feelings’ help us understand ourselves? Why might it be helpful to think about other people’s layers of feelings? How did you feel doing this exercise today - at the beginning of it, the middle, the end?

NOTE: As with any SEL activity, please keep in mind the six principles of a trauma-informed approach. (More information on IFSEL’s Resource List)

IFSEL’s Anti-Racism Resources for Educators

Here is a collection of Anti-Racism Resources for Educators, Students, and others.

Anti-Racism Resources for Educators

School Leadership During Crisis

Here are highlights of school responses that we found thoughtful and appropriate. If you know of other responses from schools that you have found useful, please let us know so we can share them with others.

Seattle Country Day School
Georgetown Day School
Brooklyn Friends School

Oakland Unified School District
Lick-Wilmerding High School

Exploris Middle School
Charlottesville City School
Bank Street College
Peninsula School
Holton Arms School

Calls to Action

  1. Listen. Listen more. Reflect what you hear. Listen more.
  2. Process your own reactions, assumptions, feelings, biases, prejudice.
  3. Speak Out in the name of human dignity whenever you see harassment, cruelty, and injustice of any kind.
  4. Add your voice, your body, your presence, your financial support to organizations supported by

The vital tenets of Social and Emotional Learning and DEI are to amplify the power within our hearts and minds and bring our collective compassion and humanity forward. As things continue to change, we encourage you to take care of your body, mind, spirit, and each other so that we may move forward, together.

Please reach out if we can be of any help to you or your communities.
We are learning and responding with you.
As President Obama said, "Let's Get To Work".

The IFSEL Team
Nick, Rush, Elizabeth, Janice, Dan, Alisa, Dena, Joe, Christina, Katherine, and Norma

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