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Posts from the ‘Teacher Development’ 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.

Gratitude for Self

Did you know that people who experience gratitude cope better with stress, recover more quickly from illness, and enjoy more robust physical health, including lower blood pressure and better immune function? Gratitude is the quality of being thankful, the readiness to show appreciation and return kindness to others. In the US, Thanksgiving is the holiday that celebrates gratitude and encourages us to be appreciative. Students and teachers may spend time together creating gratitude quilts, writing gratitude letters or sharing a gratitude meal (check out Stone Soup: a lesson in sharing). However, there is a lesser known form of gratitude that we often miss: gratitude for self. 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

Where did trust go? Strategies to earn your students’ trust

After several months into the school year, you might find that you have established positive relationships with most of your students… but maybe not all of them. Although, as educators, we care deeply about our students, there are certain relationships that may be more challenging and require a bit more work. In my experience, there is one ingredient that allows for honest communication, a sense of respect towards each other, maybe even a shared purpose. Do you know what it is? It’s trust. Trust is at the heart of any successful relationship. Read more

Preparing for Difficult Conversations

There is no education without ethics. This is the way my former Philosophy professor, Joan-Carles Mèlich, started each class. As I was getting trained to become a teacher, this was a powerful reminder of the responsibility I had as an educator with my students. I had to carefully consider how my relationship with children and youth could serve as a tool for positive change or, on the contrary, as a way to maintain the status quo. As educators, we have choices in the ways we discuss expressions of racial and religious hatred, like the recent events in Charlottesville (US), or analyze the response to NFL players kneeling during the US anthem. There is no education without ethics. Read more

Ready For Summer?

I’m heading to Spain this summer to visit my family (short trip to Portugal to attend the 6th International Congress on Emotional Intelligence and present my latest research with school principals). I look forward to seeing my kids playing on the beach where I grew up and nurturing their love for swimming, sand and ice cream! I also look forward to spending time away from my computer, reconnecting with family and friends, and getting (re)energized. Summer is such a special time of the year. It brings the necessary pause from the daily routines, the opportunity to rest and recharge, and the mental space to look into the future with optimism and hope. Read more

3 Key Lessons on Empathy

I did the last internship for my teaching credential in a rural town in Nicaragua, volunteering at a local NGO – Los Pipitos – that supported children with disabilities. During my time there, I worked alongside a promotora de salud (community health professional), Martha; the most patient human being I have ever met, I learned everything I know about empathy from her. Read more

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