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Teachable SEL Moments: The Slap Heard ‘Round the World

Posted by Anna-Lisa Mackey, PATHS Program CEO on Mar 31, 2022 12:11:11 PM

If you managed to catch the 2022 Oscars, you might have noticed something that started chins wagging and overshadowed the celebration of those who took home the coveted little gold statue. #whatjusthappened?

#WhatJustHappened as a Teachable Moment

3D suprised man - OMG expression isolated over a white background

I’m sure that even if you didn’t see the program, by now, you would know what took place between Will Smith and Chris Rock. You might feel that Mr. Smith was entirely within his rights to stand up for his wife and defend her. Or maybe you feel that Mr. Rock was the wronged party and that his comments were “just a joke.” Either way, I think that we can all agree that if there were two students on the playground, whether we thought one side was more right than the other, we would not condone any sort of physical violence. 

Often, things occur in the media that we as teachers need to address in the classroom. Lately, we’ve had some pretty big events that we’ve had to help young minds wrap their heads around—the pandemic, school shootings, and violence, war, to name a few.  And, now we have two celebrities, which may be “heroes” to our students, acting in ways that we would not encourage in our schools. This situation is a prime SEL moment! 

Using the SCOPE Strategy for better decision-making

For those of us who work with older students, we can start the conversation with the SCOPE poster. There’s been a lot of chatter and discussion. Still, to truly consider the situation, we need to stop and consider how we all felt when we saw the incident—what emotions did we experience initially? As we learned more information about the situation, did it change how we felt? Next, thinking about the options and the consequences of the situation for both gentlemen. What might happen to Mr. Smith? What might happen to Mr. Rock? Next, what might have been other ways to handle the situation? How might other choices have been planned out? If a different option was selected, what might be different for either of the two men—evaluate the outcome.

Besides the obvious self-regulation and decision-making conversations, this incident is rich for other SEL topics. Here are just a few:

  • Given that when we are feeling strong emotions and some of us have difficulty staying in control, what strategies can we use to calm down?
  • How should we stand up for someone whose feelings were hurt? Especially when we are in a large group of people?
  • What is the responsibility of someone who is a celebrity? Do they have an obligation to act in more responsible ways? Do older students have a similar responsibility to younger students (or siblings)?
  • Is it ok to make fun of someone, and then when you see that the comment hurts them, to say, “it’s just a joke”? 
  • Do women need men to speak for them?
  • Mr. Rock has declined to press charges. What do you think he should do?
  • The Academy has made a statement denouncing physical violence and plans to review the situation. What recommendations would your class make to them and why?
  • After the incident, there were many comments on social media. What is the responsibility of those who use social media concerning this situation? Can how we handle this improve or make the situation worse?
  • Mr. Smith extended an apology to those in the audience and The Academy and later apologized to Mr. Rock. Should Mr. Rock apologize to Mrs. Pinket-Smith? How might either man repair the situation? Is saying “I’m sorry” enough? 
  • What should the audience have done? 

Tell Us What You Think

At the end of the day, this situation is not as weighty as some of the others that educators have had to deal with lately. But given both men's popularity, it does provide an opportunity to have meaningful discussions with our students in a relatable way. We’d love to hear how some of the conversations went, so please share the student perspectives in our Facebook Groups.

Topics: Social and emotional learning, Emozi® Middle School, self-management, self-regulation, social awareness, Emozi® High School