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Posts from the ‘School Improvement’ Category

Creating an SEL Mindset

Two weeks ago, I visited a high school in Los Angeles (California) to gather data for a case study that I am conducting with the Learning Policy Institute. Serving around 500 mostly low-income students, the school has raised its graduation rates from 83 percent in its first year to 99 percent last year. A school that is built on teacher leadership, the educational program prioritizes a whole child approach with a relentless focus on providing students with the social, emotional and academic supports they need to ensure they are ready to lead successful and productive lives in college and beyond.

Although the school has had many successes, they have also faced difficulties. As I have discussed in the past, a whole-school approach to SEL is a process that takes time and a committed, planned effort. Through my consulting, I have been privileged to observe teachers overcoming challenges and finding ways to support students’ social and emotional growth, many times despite budget constraints and minimal support from administration.

In Teaching with the Heart in Mind, my forthcoming SEL book, I discuss some of these challenges and how teachers solve them. In many cases, educators “jump in” and improve their craft as they teach and infuse SEL in their classrooms. In this snippet from the book, I share some of the findings in my doctoral dissertation. If you are interested in reading more about this research, send me a message. And if you want to receive these excerpts directly in your email, sign up  for updates.

In a 2013 report, 90% of participating teachers expressed strong support for focusing on SEL in schools. However, the challenges of implementing SEL in the classroom cannot be ignored. During my doctoral research, I interviewed teachers who were implementing SEL as a schoolwide initiative[i]. One of the educators shared with me:

We have so many pressures, and we feel the need to push our kids and have them grow. There are a lot of extrinsic forces at play. (SEL) it is a great reminder that first and foremost we need to be nurturing our kids and making sure they are growing emotionally.”

Most educators believe that it is important to teach these essential skills, and realize how students cannot focus academically if they experience strong emotions or are constantly stressed.  Yet many educators struggle to find ways to incorporate this work in their teaching, given time constraints and academic pressure. Several teachers during my research expressed feeling guilty about stopping their academic instruction to deal with social and emotional issues. They were concerned about falling behind in their scope and sequence, and then not being able to catch up.

However, as these teachers included SEL time in their daily calendar, they realized they now had a common language to discuss social and emotional issues with students, which made these conversations more effective. At the same time, they started to see students self-monitoring more and solving problems on their own, which meant they didn’t need as much support and facilitation from the teacher. Teachers reported that the benefits of teaching these skills outgrew the challenges they had to overcome to make it work in their classrooms. So, plan to celebrate the small accomplishments and prepare to find challenges along the way. It can be done, but it requires perseverance and purpose. In chapter 7, I discuss how you can prepare yourself for this exciting work.

Do you want to be in the loop about the book? Sign up for updates or follow #teachingheartinmind on Twitter. I’ll be sharing another excerpt soon. Stay tuned!

[i] Martínez, L. (2016). Teachers’ Voices on Social Emotional Learning: Identifying the conditions that make implementation possible. International Journal of Emotional Education, 8(2), 6.

Removing Barriers to Learning

I just returned from attending the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), one of the largest educational research gatherings in the world. Among the thousands of scholars participating in the meeting, there is a special interest group for those passionate about SEL. This year, I organized the program for SEL researchers and was excited to see some new research areas, such as parenting and SEL, cultural competency and diversity, and teachers’ wellbeing. At the same time, I was disappointed to encounter several inquiries that measured social and emotional skills, while ignoring (conscious or unconsciously) the context in which this learning takes place. Read more

SEL Data for Dialogue

When I first started working as a teacher in the US, I learned about “data-driven instruction.” The school where I taught used several data points to assess students’ understanding and mastery of the academic standards taught in class: reading assessments, math benchmarks, exit tickets, student writing samples, classroom observations, and student-led projects, among several others. Read more

Whole School Approach to SEL

SEL cannot be solely focused on teaching social and emotional skills once a week. Why not?

While explicit instruction of SEL competencies is a key component, and in many cases the first step taken by schools starting to implement SEL, students (and adults too!) need plenty of opportunities to practice these skills beyond the “SEL instructional time”. SEL programs and practices are more effective when students can experience how these competencies support their personal and academic goals, and when adults (teachers, parents and administrators) are invested in modeling and practicing the skills alongside their students. Read more

Leading with EQ

I have been working with an amazing group of aspiring principals in New Orleans this past week. They are enrolled in a leadership program, the Summer Principals Academy at Columbia University, which incorporates emotional intelligence (EQ) training and a daily guided mindfulness practice. We have been learning how to use our emotions to know ourselves better, establish positive relationships and lead schools wholeheartedly. Witnessing their growth and “aha” moments is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. Read more

Taking SEL Home

When I pick up my daughter from school, I often ask her these questions: What made you laugh? Who did you help? Were you brave today? Her answers give me insights into how her day went, what she enjoyed doing and how she felt at school. She doesn’t always want to talk about how school went, but it is important for me as a parent to initiate that conversation and create the time for us to check-in. Sometimes she will ask back, how was your day Mom? Read more

Developing Principals’ Emotional Intelligence

When you think of the best principal you’ve had in your teaching career, what comes to mind? You might describe someone who is calm, even when faced with high levels of stress, and encouraging of your work. This person might have great relationships with staff and an open door policy, while keeping high expectations for their work. Or maybe this person is able to pause and consider all the facts and emotions involved, before making a decision. These are competencies of someone who has a good dose of emotional intelligence (EQ). Read more

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