Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) – My Own Essential Learnings…

May 21, 2014

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) has been at the forefront of my thinking over the past two weeks. I immensely believe that in order for educators to be able to enable students in academic learning, Physical, Social and Emotional needs must be met or at least have a plan in place for developing the needed competencies.

Basically, a student cannot learn if they are hungry, are anxious about what is happening in their home, or worried about their safety. As well, if they do not have the skills or competencies to deal with issues, concerns, and disputes as they arise, they will have a difficult day in a school where they must live and learn with hundreds of other students and adult staff.

The Circle of Courage is a major part of the culture and tradition of Keeler School, and has been the biggest factor in the development of a philosophy that builds and recognizes the development of citizenship, belonging, generosity, independence and mastery. I think the next step for us is looking at how we actively teach and coach students, all students, in developing their SEL competencies and skills.

In that regard, what do we need to do to improve to enable student learning in both Social and Emotional Learning, as well as setting them up for improvement and success in academic learning?

Develop a school culture of citizenship and SEL… We must live SEL through the culture of the school through common language, understandings, focus, and intentionality. The Circle of Courage will remain our cultural foundation, but now we need to reflect on how we better enable the development of the skills and competencies that build on that foundation.

We must be direct teaching in the development of SEL competencies… We sometimes forget that students do not automatically gain these skills through osmosis.

We must be purposeful in working to enable students to develop SEL competencies… This is not something to be left to chance. We use class meetings, teachable moments, guided inquiry, and specific, focused lessons so students can develop these competences from Kindergarten on through their school career.

This is long-term learning, not a short-term solution… This will not solve all of our issues, but we will see a change in the school culture through this work. This will help us to move beyond reactive.

We must find ways to be proactive in working with students around behavioral, social, and emotional needs… I believe students can learn, all students, how better to work with and get along with others, as well as about their own social and emotional needs and lagging skills.

Teachers, Staff and Administrators must all act as positive role models and coaches… If we are not modeling this, with each other, with kids, with parents, who will?

When an issue does arise (as they always will), we must look at the core of the issue and examine what the lagging skills are, then work to develop and coach students… What is the core of this issue? What does the student need to improve? How do we coach them to build them up?

When a student is referred to the office, we must support students with strategies where we are role modeling as well… How can we assist them in learning to self-regulate after the escalation, as well as build up strategies and supports to prevent the escalation in the first place?

  • Do they need food, as they are hungry?
  • Give them some time. Whenever I rush this process, I find it just is not effective…
  • Use of consistent resources such as Strategy posters that can guide the student’s reflection and guide discussion between kids and adults.
  • An exercise bike or an individual trampoline – I have experimented with having an exercise bike available for students (if they choose to use it) as an active way to self-regulate, rather than “Sit down and be quiet.” I have a visual timer that we set for a specific time for them to use the bike. The early results have been great, when the kids choose to use it… Often a student who was highly escalated comes off smiling!
  • The implementation of a Sensory Room – A place with mats, swings or special rocking chairs, exercise balls, individual trampoline, calming lights, etc.
  • One principal shared that she has a Velcro target board with Velcro Ping-Pong balls that the students love to use, which is also a great distractor.
  • Pulse Meters as part of Math, but to have students check their pulse rate and then have them do self-calming. It is also a distraction or diversion…
  • Another principal shared that she keeps a bin of mixed up markers that needs to be sorted by a students, and it magically keeps getting mixed up!
  • Time for Writing for students to be able to think and reflect
  • Time for Reading as a calming strategy
  • A problem-solving process that students are used to, whether it is individual and quiet or it is guided and collaborative with an adult.
  • I think probably the biggest factor and strategy is how much of a focus on SEL takes place in the classrooms in the students’ daily lives at school. This work enables administrators in the office to build on the learning that is already taking place!

This is my thinking at the moment. I can’t wait to engage in further learning and collaboration with my colleagues!
D

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The First Experience of SEL with Schools New to PATHS

May 15, 2014

These recommendations came from discussions with the teams from Denver, Tampa, Tacoma and Penn State on their experiences implementing Social and Emotional Learning (SEL):

  • Start with young ages so that it can be built on year to year. (I would say all ages…)
  • Do not implement it as a pilot in only a few classrooms. It is meant to be a whole school way of life and tool for building a school-wide culture.
  • Saying “Here is the PATHS box, go get started!” is not the best strategy for setting up teachers to be successful…!
  • Teachers need to develop the understanding that “This is not something added to your plate. This is your plate!”
  • PATHS and SEL are meant to be beyond reactive, but are meant to be a proactive and long-term strategy for student growth.
  • SEL and PATHS need to be classroom-based and relationship-based, they do not recommend you have a “PATHS teacher.”
  • Make the time for SEL! It can and should be integrated into the big, essential work, and if done well will make enhance the learning that takes place once kids feel safe, belong, and are better able to self-regulate.
  • Make it work for you and your students!
  • The School Administrators are KEY! Stories were shared about how often SEL was not wanted, or it was felt it was not needed, or it was too “airy-fairy” or “too huggy,” or just “not our work.”
  • Community Education with parents and stakeholders build the program to go beyond the school. After school programs? Lunch program? Breakfast Program?
  • Coaching of students by teachers and teachers by coaches takes place in the classroom, side by side, and supports the sustainability and growth of SEL.
  • Evaluation, assessment and measurement will help to see if the work on SEL is beneficial, and should be used in formative ways to guide the needs of the students, classrooms, and schools.
  • Parent Engagement and training is hugely beneficial. Have kids taking this learning home and sharing it with parents. Data would be great to show the differences. How is it helping at the school or even at home?
  • Get all stakeholders on board, even our secretaries, lunchroom supervisors, breakfast supervisors, facility operators and bus drivers!
  • Reciprocal teaching is a great strategy, where kids are teaching kids and providing support.
  • Early Intervention is so positive and sets the students up for better success during their time at our school.
  • PATHS is very useful for adults to be able to role-model using the strategies if they are upset as well!
  • SEL has excellent ties to goal-setting and formative assessment.
  • “How ever much time you think you can give to it, make it double! It takes time, but the time is so worth it!”
  • “Make it part of your whole day! Integrate it into all of your work!”
  • “Make it part of your culture. It needs to permeate the school.”
  • “The whole staff needs to be working with kids on SEL, helping kids attach issues from the same perspective.”
  • “Work on it in the moment it comes up, when and as needed…”
  • “Modeling for our staff what we are looking for and actually using this as adults as well. We even use the Feeling Faces as adults to show others where we are in the moment. Model what you want the adult to do with the kids with the adults themselves.”

I think this all goes back to the idea of formative assessment, but instead of it being focused on academics, it is on our social and emotional well-being. “Who do you learn more from, the judge or the coach?” Or, in this case, “Get out of my classroom!” or “Let’s work on this…!”
D


Evidence Supporting the Impact of Enhancing Students’ SEL

May 15, 2014

 

We can not always build the future for our youth, but we can build the youth for our future.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
Nelson Mandela

 

We were able to work with Roger Weissberg from the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (www.casel.org) this afternoon.

Research shows that SEL can have a positive impact on school climate and promote a host of academic, social, and emotional benefits for students. Durlak, Weissberg et al.’s recent meta-analysis of 213 rigorous studies of SEL in schools indicates that students receiving quality SEL instruction demonstrated:

  • better academic performance: achievement scores an average of 11 percentile points higher than students who did not receive SEL instruction;
  • improved attitudes and behaviors: greater motivation to learn, deeper commitment to school, increased time devoted to schoolwork, and better classroom behavior;
  • fewer negative behaviors: decreased disruptive class behavior, noncompliance, aggression, delinquent acts, and disciplinary referrals; and
  • reduced emotional distress: fewer reports of student depression, anxiety, stress, and social withdrawal.

(research results from The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Universal Intervention http://static.squarespace.com/static/513f79f9e4b05ce7b70e9673/t/52e9d8e6e4b001f5c1f6c27d/1391057126694/meta-analysis-child-development.pdf)

 

The Meta-Analysis explored the effects of SEL programming across multiple outcomes: social and emotional skills, attitudes towards self and others, positive social behavior, conduct problems, emotional distress, and academic performance.

Coordinating Student’s Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioural Realms

Roger identified that positive student outcomes have been shown when instructional practice changes to include not only focused work on SEL, but that classroom practice also includes:

  • more student input
  • student problem solving
  • student self-assessment
  • natural consequences
  • caring community
  • higher level discussions
  • cooperative learning
  • student-centered democracy
  • school-family partnership

Actionable, Research-Based Family, School and Community Approaches

  1. Support and strengthen family functioning
  2. Sustained results with caring adults
  3. Provide high quality education
  4. Connect students and their schools
  5. Make communities safe and supportive for children
  6. High quality out-of-school-time programs
  7. Provided children and youth with opportunities to build social and emotional competencies

So, essentially…

  • Relationships are the foundations of learning,
  • Emotions affect how and what we learn,
  • Social and emotional skills can be taught, and
  • Social and emotional skills are required by employers.

SEL is the process of acquiring and apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes related to the Five Core Competencies of Social and Emotional Learning. CASEL has identified five interrelated sets of cognitive, affective and behavioral competencies. The definitions of the five competency clusters for students are:

  1. Self-awareness: The ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior. This includes accurately assessing one’s strengths and limitations and possessing a well-grounded sense of confidence and optimism.
  2. Self-management: The ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations. This includes managing stress, controlling impulses, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward achieving personal and academic goals.
  3. Social awareness: The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures, to understand social and ethical norms for behavior, and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.
  4. Relationship skills: The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. This includes communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict constructively, and seeking and offering help when needed.
  5. Responsible decision making: The ability to make constructive and respectful choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on consideration of ethical standards, safety concerns, social norms, the realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions, and the well-being of self and others.

(from http://www.casel.org/social-and-emotional-learning/core-competencies)

 


How Can School Administrators Support Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)?

May 15, 2014

I just had the opportunity to listen to Eric Gordon from the Cleveland Municipal School District discuss how the district implemented a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) focus in their schools district wide. The team reviewed the need for a focused and a continued focus on social and emotional learning after a school shooting in 2007 in a Cleveland high school. They discussed how the teacher us union was completely on board and how the schools have district wide, in about 125 schools, have implemented the paths program and the growth they have seen.

A major part of his discussion was on how this work on SEL could not be forgotten and that students need to be able to have the competencies around social and emotional learning to get to academic learning. He discussed how they have seen students who are higher in social and emotional learning demonstrate higher achievement in reading and other academic learning. Eric also shared how social and emotional learning competencies are the second highest predictive indicator, behind the student’s past performance, for their achievement levels on standardized tests. This continues to reinforce my thinking that a student’s physical needs, social and emotional and psychological needs are paramount for us to get to learning in other realms. We can’t get to learning if they are hungry. We can’t get to learning if they are upset or worried or in distress…

A Principal’s Roundtable on the Role of Principals and Administrators in Supporting SEL enabled a group of Principals and Administrators to come together for discussion on a number of issues relating to SEL.

In a school, there needs to be the development of a school culture that recognizes, supports, and is active in this work of developing SEL competencies in students and adults. The work is not about a specific “program,” or a “curriculum,” or a specific type of “pedagogy.” SEL and PATHS need to be all of those, as they are parts of a school culture that is developed through the use of common language, common strategies, skill development, the creation of SEL competencies, and a focus on SEL.

We discussed possible Calming Strategies to help students Self-Regulate if they do end up in the Office:

  • Do they need food, as they are hungry?
  • Give them some time. Whenever I rush this process, I find it just is not effective…
  • Use of consistent resources such as Strategy posters that can guide the student’s reflection and guide discussion between kids and adults.
  • An exercise bike or an individual trampoline – I have experimented with having an exercise bike available for students (if they choose to use it) as an active way to self-regulate, rather than “Sit down and be quiet.” I have a visual timer that we set for a specific time for them to use the bike. The early results have been great, when the kids choose to use it… Often a student who was highly escalated comes off smiling!
  • The implementation of a Sensory Room – A place with mats, swings or special rocking chairs, exercise balls, individual trampoline, calming lights, etc.
  • One principal shared that she has a Velcro target board with Velcro Ping-Pong balls that the students love to use, which is also a great distractor.
  • Pulse Meters as part of Math, but to have students check their pulse rate and then have them do self-calming. It is also a distraction or diversion…
  • Another principal shared that she keeps a bin of mixed up markers that needs to be sorted by a students, and it magically keeps getting mixed up!
  • Time for Writing for students to be able to think and reflect
  • Time for Reading as a calming strategy
  • A problem-solving process that students are used to, whether it is individual and quiet or it is guided and collaborative with an adult.
  • I think probably the biggest factor and strategy is how much of a focus on SEL takes place in the classrooms in the students’ daily lives at school. This work enables administrators in the office to build on the learning that is already taking place!

I am sure there are many other strategies as well, and it would be great to hear more!

Some great discussion all! I wish I could have captured more of it here!
D


Adding to the PATHS We Can Take…

May 15, 2014

As part of the PATHS (Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies) Conference I am attending, today I have the opportunity to be touring schools in the Cleveland Municipal School District. I am learning how they are utilizing the PATHS program as a whole district to create a consistent focus on implementing learning around social and emotional learning.

Memorial School and Clark School have implemented the program, and are two of 125 schools in the district that all implemented PATHS after there was a traumatic shooting incident that pushed the need for social and emotional learning to come to the forefront. One class I observed was a group of kindergarten to grade 2s who are learning about the feeling of being “proud,” which is “feeling good about yourself.” The intention is building the competences and skills kids need to be able to positively deal with the issues they face each and every day.

A grade 4/5 classroom was demonstrating how they have learned how they are able to give great complements to each other. There were 32 kids in the class and they were beaming about sharing, giving and receiving complements. They were also debriefing an incident yesterday where the police were involved. The students had a chance to think and process, discuss, and reflect on what happened and use it as a learning moment. The PATHS program is intended to help kids to be able to learn strategies to deal with issues that they face in their life.

Each and every school in Cleveland has a “Planning Centre,” which is a room staffed with a paraprofessional or education assistant who works with students to assist them in calming themselves, working through a problem-solving process, and learning or working on self-regulation strategies. Students are referred through the office and the admin team, and they schedule how the planning centre is utilized. Students can self-referred if they know they need assistance, or be teacher-referred or even parent-referred. A teacher shared that, “It is meant to be a safe place to land if you are upset.”

In Cleveland, the collective agreement has become an avenue for implementation. Planning Centres staffed with an education assistant, PATHS, Classroom Meetings, Student Support Teams (must happen once a week for one hour by contract), and a focus on social and emotional learning are strategies that were actually put into the Collective Agreement for all teachers in the Cleveland Municipal School District, and the union was supportive of the work in developing social and emotional learning.

Teacher buy-in was a big part of the early work, and here in the US they needed the approval of the union. Once they bought in and gave it their okay, many teachers bought in as they saw it was not an add-on. The school has set up specific time during the first  period on Monday mornings where all classrooms work using PATHS, and then teachers are expected that they work on PATHS at least one other time through the week. I think my own push would be tying it in on a daily basis where it is tied in to reading, writing, art, math, science, social studies, and especially the Circle of Courage.

So, what are the some of the big learnings that I have pulled out of today?

“Curriculum” vs “Program of Studies” – At Keeler, I would view our culture around the Circle of Courage is the “curriculum” or the big umbrella, and PATHS is the “Program of Studies” or specifics on how to build the culture. We, as educators, need to make professional decisions based on what are the essential understandings and competences that students need, and decide upon the best ways are to help students achieve their development those competencies.

Short-Term and Long-Term Focus – PATHS is meant to be a long-term tool to set kids up for success both in the moment and over the long-term. It is a way of thinking and language for students, staff, and parents to be able to undertake the work involved in building social and emotional competencies. The strategies would be developed in the short-term, but they would build and grow as the children move from Kindergarten on to grade 6 through Keeler School.

Our School Community Must Work Together – All stakeholders need to be involved and on the same page for this work to be effective. Students in kindergarten on up need to be involved so that it is something that builds up over time, so students gain in skills and competency over time. It will need to live both within the school as well as outside on the playground, and even as they students go home. All of our support staff, teaching staff, administration and parents will need support in being full-fledged members of the implementation and development for students.

PATHS will not get rid of all of our students’ issues, but it will help provide them with tools – There will always be issues, needs, problems, fights, and arguments… The idea of PATHS is to provide a tool for students to be able to deal with those issues and needs and problems when they happen and be able to solve the issues with the minimal amount of adult intervention, depending on the specific situation.

The Focus must be on Student Learning – We already know that many students are not automatically learning or picking up these skills or competencies. Even as adults, we don’t always know how to handle every situation every time… We must assume that these are competencies that require direct instruction and intervention, not assuming that they will just gain proficiency as they go through school. If we want to help students academically, we have to help them in the social and emotional realm.

PATHS must be everywhere in the school – Work on Social and Emotional Learning must live in the classrooms, the Learning Commons, the Lunch Room, the hallways, the field and playground, the gym, and everywhere else. As well, how do we help it to move home with parents as strategies students can use at home? All of our staff need to be able to have a good understanding in order to work with students in a positive, supportive manner that enables them to put the skills and strategies in place.

Integrating PATHS and social and emotional learning can and should be integrated into language learning, math, science, social studies, art, etc. The potential for guided inquiry learning is vast, as there is a ton of great potential questions and areas to examine and delve into. How do we do our best? How do we help others out? How do we live together as a community? How do we live peacefully with others? How do we fix our mistakes? Should we forgive others? I could go on and on, but the citizenship connections are huge, and creative teachers could connect this into the work that happens every day in the school.

In the end, we will need to look at and discuss how to make PATHS work for Keeler School, supporting the Circle of Courage, enabling our students, empowering our parents, and permitting ourselves to create the opportunities for the best long-term learning.

In the words of Adesh, who is now in grade 7, “PATHS is a lot of fun, and it has really helped me. All the students like it, and it has made our school into a more happy and safe place to be!”
D


What Do We Do WHEN We Make Mistakes? Assessment FOR/AS Learning

May 7, 2014

I know this is shocking, but I make mistakes… LOTS of them… and every once in a while, one of them is a doozy…

I always used to joke with my students that “Teachers never make mistakes!” Of course, this was always after I had made a mistake… I had to take ownership, and show students a mistake is not the end of the world.

Are we “allowed” to make mistakes? That question does not matter, as I make them anyway, whether you allow me to or not. If I am not making mistakes, then I am probably not pushing myself. And friend, I make lots…

I love that we are in a place now that I do not feel that I have to be perfect as a principal and educator, but that I am a human being and will make mistakes. I do not have to put on a show that I know everything and have it all figured out. I make mistakes, but I also try my best to learn from them… and develop… and change… and grow.

How do we, as leaders of education and students, make sure that students feel the same way?

  1. Create a Culture of Risk-Taking… It is okay to try something and fail! It is also okay to try again and again!
  2. Create a Culture of Coaching and Feedback… Do we learn more from a coach (educator) or from a judge (test)? Students need student specific feedback that helps them to improve and to see that improvement.
  3. Create a Culture of Learning (rather than memorizing)… Is the work about LEARNING or is the work about a TEST? Are we better than we were before undertaking the work?
  4. Create a Culture of Purposeful Engagement… I love my work because it is always purposeful, in that I am trying to improve my work, our students, our classrooms, our staff, and our school. I am engaged in my work. Students must feel the same…
  5. Create a Culture of Reflective Thinking… Students need to learn how to be able to set goals around, develop criteria for success, conference and discuss with others, reflect on, and think about their learning. When I was in school, I never needed to reflect, it was only about the score on my test at the end. It was not about learning, it was about memorizing for the test.
  6. Create a Culture of Ongoing Assessment FOR/AS Learning… Assessment FOR/AS learning must be a process that is in everything we do in school. It is in PE, Art, Reading, Writing, citizenship, etc. It is not something we do just before report cards or at the end of a unit…
  7. Create a Culture of Do-Overs… Why not? If I gave up on everything that did not work the first time, I would have learned very little. It was by trying something over and over again as an educator that allowed me to grow. Why not for students? I know the big answer is “time,” but we must ask if we are “Covering” the Program of Studies or “Learning” with the Program of Studies?
  8. Create a Culture of Progress… We will never make education perfect, as it is a human endeavor, although I know we will all keep trying… Education and our understanding has grown immensely since I was a student and even more so in the last couple of decades since I became an educator!

Now, I would look at report cards as being a reflection of their learning, not an average of their work over the year. Where are they right now? What have they learned? Where have they grown and what do they need to work on? There really should be no surprises for parents or students when report cards come home.

We are in an exciting time in education! Will we make mistakes? Yes. Will we learn from them? I hope so. Can we help students to learn this as well? We must…
D


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