SEL Snack: Native Values and Self-Management

Learning about Indigenous cultures at the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

Check out these incredible whalebone markers! Photo Credit: J.Westrich

Last month’s Social Emotional Learning (SEL) “snack” focused on building Self-Awareness so students can identify big emotions. Now that our learners are more aware of, and can label, their feelings, the task is to figure out what to do about it. To avoid tantrums, freak outs, and meltdowns I provide a framework and tools to help students manage their huge feelings. The structure for this behavior management centers on 10 Universal Native Values, putting the emphasis on student impact and fostering a collaborative community. The Iditarod Trail runs through the land of the Athabascan, Yup’ik/Cup’ik, and Iñupiaq peoples. This lesson ties in Iditarod and coincides with Indigenous People’s Day, introducing students to Native cultural values in a lesson that is not a one-off, but a way to integrate and appreciate Indigenous culture in the classroom all school-year long.

Jim Deprez photgraphed these whalebone markers outside the Foster building in Nome. Photo credit: Jim Deprez

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge this SEL snack is a modification of  lessons other Teachers on the Trail have used in the past. Last fall 2020/2021 Teacher on the Trail Jim Deprez shared an amazing lesson plan on the 10 Universal Native Values. I highly recommend taking a look at this comprehensive lesson plan. It is an amazing, in-depth approach to integrating the values of the Indigenous communities into your classroom.   

This post is an SEL “snack”, a bite-sized alternative to integrate these values into your classroom and support SEL in a morning meeting or circle time. First I define the term “values” as a set of beliefs adopted by a culture that identify important characteristics and behaviors within that community; in our application, values are the rules for how to interact in the world or classroom. There are many different Indigenous cultures in Alaska, with their own nuances and individual perceptions on these values, but the ten listed below are a starting point to incorporate overall Native Values in your classroom. At this point in the year, your students have spent time working on Self-Awareness, knowing how they feel and why. Self-Management helps them determine what to do with these feelings. 

CASEL defines Self-Management as, “the abilities to manage one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations and to achieve goals and aspirations.”  I want my students to aspire to be positive contributors to the classroom and world community. The SEL goal for my library is for all learners to consider the list of 10 Universal Native Values when interacting with others. First, I take time to read aloud each value and discuss how that value connects to Self-Management in the classroom. This can be done in one lesson – or spread over 10 meetings with an accompanying read-aloud to support the concepts.

How do we want our students to deal with their emotions?

Photo by Jeff Schultz/ (C) 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Feelings turned up to the max…or cool, calm, and relaxed? Photo Credit: Iditarod

The Universal Native Value is in bold, how I filter the value for students is in italics, and the classroom implication and supported self-management follow, with a corresponding read-aloud suggestion also listed!

  1. Show Respect to Others. Respect others body, space, voice, turn, property, etc.  If a student isn’t in control of their body, isn’t listening to classmates, or is treating books carelessly, I ask them to consider this Native Value and how to better exemplify this in their interactions with peers and materials. Alternatively, a student can speak up and point out this value when they feel they aren’t being respected.  Book: Whoever You Are by Mem Fox

    Travis Beals and Joar Leifseth Ulsom Chat While Getting Water in Nikolai. Mushers share advice, insight, and sometimes supplies to help each other tackle the trail. Photo Credit: Iditarod

  2. Share what you have. Share materials, playground equipment, teacher attention, friends, and of course, library books! Be generous with your materials, your time, your knowledge, and your kindness. This makes our classroom a nice place to be! Book: The Squirrels Who Squabbled by Rachel Bright
  3. Know Who You Are. Be confident and proud of yourself and your achievements. Not everyone in class is the same but we can appreciate differences and embrace diversity. Book: Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon! by Patty Lovell
  4. Accept What Life Brings.  Big feelings happen when the unexpected pops up!  There are things we can not change – the weather, illness, or time constraints.  Managing emotions (especially over things we can’t control) is difficult, but this value reminds students that many times we have to accept things we don’t like.  Book: Sticks by Diane Alber
  5. Have Patience.  Waiting is hard. For all of us. Frustration and worry do not make time pass quicker and being able to wait without getting upset is an important skill. Book: The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach

    The Redington’s are three generations of Iditarod mushers. This race has always been about learning from elders and passing along knowledge. Photo Credit: Terrie Hanke

  6. Live Carefully.  Our choices impact others. If we do not manage our emotions there may be logical consequences: friends do not want to play with someone who hits, or read a book with someone who doesn’t share the pictures, or sit at lunch with someone who throws food.  When you live carefully you make sure others are safe and comfortable, too. Book: The Circles All Around Us by Brad Montague
  7. Take Care of Others.  We need our friends, family, and classroom community to survive. When we take care of others we are making sure they will care for us in return. When you stop playing to help a friend that fell down, next time they will be there to help you! Book: Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora
  8. Honor Your Elders. They are here to teach you. They have learned many things through experience.  When you listen to teachers and other adults you are respecting their knowledge, learning from their experiences, and making things easier for yourself. Book: When Lola Visits by Michelle Sterling
  9. Pray for Guidance. Sometimes we don’t know the answer. There will be times that we just need to think, and breathe, listen to our hearts, and look at the sky.  Eventually answers will come. Book: I Am Peace by Susan Verde
  10. See Connections. Our choices, actions, and behaviors impact the world around us – the people, the animals, and the environment. Managing our emotions makes sure we don’t hurt our community or planet with our frustration, anger or sadness. Book: We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

    Moments on the trail inspire wonder and awe- providing moments of reflection, appreciation for the environment, and gratitude for nature. Copyright (C) Jeff Schultz/ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

After reviewing the 10 Native Values, keep the list posted.  When a student is struggling, turn to the list and ask them to identify the value they need to consider to help manage their emotions.  

Library Learnings:  The lovely story Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk is a nice entry point for Native Values with young learners. This indigenous influenced tale explains all the gifts that Kulu received from nature when they were born.  Teachers can connect each of these gifts to a Native Value. The illustrations by Alexandria Neonakis are absolutely beautiful, too!