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Posts tagged ‘Teacher Development’

Context Influences Relationships

This week, I will be spending two days with colleagues and friends from around the world who deeply care about the social and emotional health of children, youth and adults. This is CASEL’s first conference, a great opportunity to celebrate the work that has been done to date, identify the current challenges, and make plans to grow this practicing community. In addition to presenting research that I conducted with colleagues from the Learning Policy Institute, I look forward to connecting with the many people with whom I have collaborated over the years, and also meeting new colleagues. These relationships fill my bucket and strengthen my commitment to continue doing the work that matters.

I have written in the past about the power of relationships—nurturing our human capacity to form and maintain relationships is essential to developing a positive sense of wellbeing. When we connect with others at an emotional level, we simply feel better. In my forthcoming book, Teaching with the HEART in Mind, building relationships is one of the core competencies. In this snippet, I discuss how context influences the way we practice our social and emotional skills. Let me know what you think. I appreciate your feedback.

There is a particular year in my teaching career that I remember with acute nostalgia; a time when I clearly felt the magic of meaningful relationships. I was new to the school, and coming to take the place of a well-loved teacher, who was on sick leave. The students did not want me there; they missed their former teacher and were counting the days for him to be back. As things go sometimes, this teacher was not able to return to work, and I stayed. My partner teacher, Toni, had been at the school for more than 15 years. He was warm and funny, and deeply cared about the children. We quickly connected and had a lot of fun working together. Although he had a lot more teaching experience than I did, he was generally open to my suggestions and ideas for new projects. He made me feel welcome and part of the team; he was there when I needed support with my class or just to vent about students’ behaviors. With his support, I was able to earn my students’ trust and we ended up having a great year.

If you have had a similar experience in your teaching career, you know how important it is to have supportive and caring colleagues. Not only are these relationships important for teachers’ wellbeing, but also they influence how teachers feel about their teaching and the relationships they establish with their students. Let me explain why.

The way we practice our social and emotional skills is influenced by context[i]. For example, if I had encountered a partner who complained and gossiped about other teachers, or who ignored me, my tendency would have probably been to display more negative behaviors. On the other hand, when people work in supportive and welcoming environments, they are more inclined to successfully manage job stressors (such as handling a challenging class), and ask for or offer help when needed.

Now, think about your current workplace. How does it affect your behavior and the ways in which you relate to students, colleagues and families? Are you able to be your “better self”? Being aware of how your work environment affects your behavior will help you make different choices if necessary. Whenever possible, surround yourself with supportive colleagues.

While you may have less control over certain aspects of your school’s climate, you do play a big role in creating an environment in your classroom that is conducive to positive relationships, enjoyable experiences, and meaningful learning. A big part of this endeavor is developing students’ relationship building skills, so they can learn how to work with different people, have productive disagreements, and have tools to “find their place” in a group.

As you have probably experienced in your professional and personal life, for relationships to be strong and long-lasting, you need to cultivate them. In a way, relationships are like a fire—sometimes you have to build them from scratch, using tinder and kindling, while other times you can sit back and enjoy the warmth before adding some more wood. This is why the verb in this competency is to reignite, which means to burn again, to give new life and energy.

Until next time, keep me posted on your SEL progress, and get in touch if you need any additional support.

Sign up for updates about the book. I’ll be sharing another excerpt soon. Stay tuned!

[i]   Jones, S. M., Bouffard, S. M., & Weissbourd, R. (2013). Educators’ Social and Emotional Skills Vital to Learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 94(8), 62–65.

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

3 Ways to Improve Your Trainings

Summer is a time for educators to rest, rejuvenate, maybe travel and spend time with friends and family. But many teachers use their break to do what they love most: teaching. They change their kindergarteners or teenagers for adults to provide professional development workshops for other educators. Technology in the classroom, differentiation, mindfulness… you name it! Professional development for teachers should be experiential, collaborative, grounded on the practice and closely connected to students’ needs. It should also consider that teachers might show resistance to change. Easy, right? Well, not really. Read more

Teaching is an emotional practice

One of my first teaching assignments was in a public school in Barcelona. I met the principal and the dean of students the afternoon before starting my new position and was told: “This is a very difficult group of students, some with challenging behaviors. Do you think you can do it?”. I really wanted to teach at that school, so (even if I had my doubts) I said “Of course!”. I didn’t sleep at all that night… I was scared and felt unprepared.

During my doctoral dissertation, I asked teachers why they had decided to go into teaching. Their faces lit up while they described their passion to provide students with the opportunities they had growing up, being inspired by their own teachers or having a social justice purpose in life. These same teachers also shared concerns about staying in the teaching profession where the work hours are long, there is a lack of work-life balance and they are “emotionally drained” by the end of each school year.

Emotions are at the heart of what teachers do and why they do it. Teaching is an emotional practice and we can’t ignore that teachers need support developing their own social and emotional competencies, so they can successfully regulate their emotions and manage the stress that comes with teaching. If you take a look aSix Secondst Six Seconds model of Emotional Intelligence (EQ), you might find that some of these skills come naturally to you and others might require some additional development. Like with our students, as adults, we also have strengths and challenges when it comes to our social and emotional competencies.


Jones, Bouffard and Weissbourd (2013) also point out that these skills are influenced by context. If you work at a school or organization where gossip and complaints are the norm, you will tend to display more negative behaviors; while if you work in a supportive environment, you will be more inclined to successfully manage stress or ask/offer help when needed.

In any case, developing your social and emotional competencies is a good investment because it will improve the relationships with your students, provide a different outlook to your classroom management and (hopefully) reduce some burnout. These are some resources that I have found valuable in the development of my own competencies. Try them out!

  •  Assess your EQ competencies. This is normally based on a self-report, and it provides with specific feedback on your skills and a framework to apply EQ in and outside of the classroom. If you don’t know where to start developing your skills, this is a helpful first step. Email me if you want to learn more.
  • Cultivate self-awareness. Are you able to name your emotions and explain why you are feeling that way? Emotional awareness starts with our ability to identify how we feel, not only the obvious feelings, but also the ones that are hidden. Reflect on what your emotions are telling you about a particular situation.
  • Incorporate reflection into your day. Remember we discussed the importance of reflecting to learn with our students? Building a reflection time for adults is key to develop social and emotional competencies. This can be done during team or staff meetings at your school, or you can do it independently at a time that seems feasible and sustainable for your schedule. Just try to be consistent!

Teaching is an emotional practice and teachers need support developing their own social and emotional competencies in order to successfully regulate the stress that comes with teaching. Assessing your EQ competencies, cultivating self-awareness and incorporating reflection time into your day are a few strategies to get started developing your skills. What strategies are you using to build your social and emotional competencies? Please share!

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