The First Experience of SEL with Schools New to PATHS

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…!”


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