Let’s talk about SEL for adults. According to the Panorama website, adult SEL is defined as “the process of helping educators build their expertise and skills to lead social and emotional learning initiatives. It also involves cultivating adults’ own social and emotional competencies.” I interpret this to mean, in order to teach it, we have to live it.
I have been working with children, adults, and families for fifteen years, both in the field of education and in the world of mental health. The longer I do this work, the more I understand that, in order to be an effective professional, I need to focus just as much time on my own wellness and competencies as I do on the populations I serve. I believe that this is just as true for educators.
Let’s look at the statistics. According to the ACEs study, more that 60% of adults will have experienced one of the 10 adverse childhood experiences listed in the study by the time they are 18. According to NAMI (the National Alliance for Mental Illness), one in five adults will experience a mental illness in any given year. This means that the majority of us have experienced some level of childhood adversity, and a fair amount of us are experiencing mental illness.
Even if you are someone who hasn’t experienced either, you bring with you a specific series of circumstances that has shaped who you are and what you believe. And we all work with students who have not had those same set of circumstances. Adult SEL means that, along with working with students’ social and emotional competencies, we acknowledge that we also have our own social and emotional competencies that are continuously developed and refined during our practice as educators.
Again, according to Panorama, “a study from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence found that teachers who were mandated to teach SEL, but did not cultivate their own practice worsened their students’ SEL skills. However teachers who developed their own SEL skills, not only improved their own well-being, but improved the social, emotional and academic development of their students.”
Some ways to develop and refine your own SEL skills:
Begin to develop your capacity for reflective thinking. The basis of reflective thinking is curiosity. This is different than being self-critical or judgmental. This is reflecting, without judgment on what your experience has been like, and what it could be in the future. Some examples of reflective questions are:
“What was my best moment today, and how can I have more moments like it?”
“What was my most challenging moment today, and what can I learn from that moment?”
“How are my students reacting to my lessons, to me, to my classroom? What can I learn from their reactions?”
“How did my mood today influence my interactions?”
“Are people responding to me in the way that I would like them to? What am I doing that influences those responses?”
“What feels uncomfortable to me to think about? What does that discomfort tell me about myself and my interactions?”
“Am I living the skills and values I am trying to teach? If not, why?”
“How am I caring for myself, so I can arrive as my best self?”
“If I’m not caring for myself appropriately, why not? What assumptions can I challenge, so I can start caring for myself?
In this unpredictable world of political divides and pandemic illnesses, our social and emotional competencies are what will help us understand ourselves and each other. Adult SEL is one important way that we can build ourselves up, so we can continue to build up our students.
This post brought to you by Sarah Clarke, RPS Social Emotional Learning Lead
Before we dive into this idea of translanguaging, it is good to have an understanding of what bilingualism is. According to the Linguistic Society of America, “A bilingual person is someone who speaks two languages.” A more in-depth explanation of bilingualism and the benefits of it are explained in this TED Talk by Mia Nacamulli.
So what is this translanguaging thing all about?
Translanguaging is the process bilinguals use of drawing upon different resources (linguistic, cognitive, etc.) to make meaning and sense. For example, a parent could watch TV in Spanish, but talk to children in English about school and family in Spanish. The children might speak Spanish at home and English at school. The children might develop literacy and speaking skills in English at school. The language practices each individual uses varies based on the context.
Translanguaging does not separate English from the home language or vice versa. Rather, it views them as a whole. The children are bringing language skills in both languages at varying levels and abilities. They might have a higher proficiency in reading in the school language, but a higher proficiency speaking in the home language.
How is this an asset?
First, this is a great opportunity to build a home-school connection. Imagine a classroom where students are reading, creating projects, and talking in multiple languages. The students can bring work home in multiple languages and the family would be able to connect with the children more easily than if homework is only in the school language. The family has access to their student’s education. The educator is validating the home language, which is very important when engaging families whose first language is not English. The inclusion of a translanguaging space legitimizes a role for the home language in school, leading to students’ increased self-esteem and investment in learning.
Second, translanguaging is what emergent bilingual children do naturally. They might use skills from one language in one context and skills from another in a different context. It is unnatural for bilinguals to try to compartmentalize language skills. The purpose is to use certain features to communicate effectively. Translanguaging practices are the norm for bi/multilingual children who come from homes that use multiple languages.
Another reason developing other languages alongside one another is good is that it does not create hierarchies. It does not place native English speakers as being superior to those that are learning another or multiple languages.
Fourth, by honoring translaguaging, you develop children who become global citizens. They will be able to build community with and learn from people that they see in society who are different from them. It would show them not only cultural, but linguistic diversity in the classroom.
Metalinguistic translanguaging space in teaching also allows bilingual students to compare and contrast the different ways in which the home language and the school language are used, building their metalinguistic awareness.
How we can create a space in our classrooms to allow for translanguaging to take place?
This post brought to you by Brian Durgin, K-12 EL Implementation Associate
This past week I had the opportunity to go on a “fieldtrip” to visit three elementary schools around the metro area as we begin planning for our new elementary schools. I was excited to gather new ideas that could be brought back to Rochester. It was a wonderful trip and I learned a lot but as I was walking through different classrooms I was reminded of something that I wasn’t expecting to reflect on while at these sites.
A few years back, when I was a classroom teacher one of my favorite parts of starting the year was thinking about the décor of the classroom. I would color coordinate the rug with the blinds and the baskets with the bulletin board borders and put up posters with catchy phrases that reflected the experiences that I wanted for my students. I was proud of how my classroom was decorated and excited to welcome my students to the first day of school. What I didn’t know then, that I know now, was that because I made the decisions of what went on the wall, the classroom was “mine” not “ours”. I chose the posters. I chose the décor. I chose what student work went on the wall. I chose the photos that we put up. The list goes on.
As I was walking around visiting classrooms, I reflected on the differences in teacher styles and classroom environments and what the walls were saying about the climate of the classroom and the learning that was occurring in the school. Rather than noticing how “pretty” the classrooms were, I started to notice how some teachers had allowed the students to take ownership of what was on the walls. I thought about how removing pre-made posters with catchy sayings would allow for more space to celebrate student work and would create a space where the walls were interactive and reflective of the learning that was occurring in the classroom. And it made me think, what is the story that our classrooms are currently saying? What would change if the walls were a reflection of the students rather than the teacher? What about your classroom environment would change if the students had a say in what was hung on the walls? Would the classroom still be “your classroom” or would it be “our classroom”. Please don’t get me wrong, a well-organized and aesthetically pleasing classroom is important to creating a calm and inviting classroom, but here are some thoughts to consider:
Classroom walls communicate the core values of a classroom.
When classroom walls are covered with teacher-created content, we only see what the teacher can do.
Classroom wall displays can connect home and school for our students and families.
The message I hope to leave you with is this. When making decisions about what to put on the classrooms walls, consider your students and consider the learning. Your classroom walls say a lot about you as the teacher and the experiences you value within your classroom. Have fun with it, be purposeful and don’t forget to include your students.
Check out these resources for more ideas!
The Dos and Don'ts of Classroom Decorations
Ways to Use Classroom Walls
Our Classroom Walls
Rochester Public Schools is no stranger to the term, Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching, or CLRT. We’ve spent the last few years engaging with the work of Dr. Sharroky Hollie and the Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning. Many of us have been to trainings, have engaged in one-on-one coaching, and have poured over the pages of Dr. Hollie’s binder and book in order to become culturally responsive educators. This has been a very impactful learning experience, but we must also remember that Culturally Responsive teaching is but one facet of achieving educational equity. In this post, I want to share four overarching characteristics of culturally responsive teaching in an effort to paint a broader picture of culturally responsive teaching and how it fits the overall goal of educational equity at RPS.
Characteristic #1: Learning Within the Context of Culture
Many of our marginalized students’ home cultures and languages do not closely reflect the mainstream school culture. Students can feel pressure to assimilate and give up aspects of who they are, creating tensions that impact classroom relationships and student engagement. Luckily, much of our work with Dr. Hollie has focused on understanding the juxtaposition between common cultural archetypes and mainstream school expectations. He and his coaches have trained us to stop and recognize how behavior is cultural and how we can better validate and affirm cultural behaviors while building and bridging students to success in the mainstream school culture. We have learned how to recognize common cultural archetypes and plan instruction that honors the cultural behaviors that each student brings to our classroom so they can create deeper connections to the content and build up their intellective capacity (Hammond & Jackson, 2015).
Characteristic #2: Positive Perspectives on Parents and Families
Culture is the way we interpret the world. The culturally responsive teacher understands that each student comes to school with abundant knowledge that is rooted in their family’s culture. They also know that when instruction is rooted in these Funds of Knowledge (Moll, Amanti, Neff, and González, 1992) we create more meaningful relationships with our students and they can make deeper, relevant connections to academic content.
Characteristic #3: Communication of High Expectations
The culturally responsive teacher creates a rigorous and relevant learning environment that is rooted in relationships. They are warm demanders (Kleinfeld, 1975), communicating outrageous love to their students, while pushing them to be excellent. As Zaretta Hammond (2015) puts it, “Personal warmth and authentic concern exhibited by the teacher earns [them] the right to demand engagement and effort” (p. 98). This is different from the authoritarian teacher who simply demands compliance or, at the other end of the spectrum, the permissive teacher who is often overly sympathetic, accommodating, and inconsistent.
Characteristic #4: Relevant Curriculum
The culturally responsive teacher creates integrated, cross curricular, rigorous, student centered learning experiences. Such curricula allows students to apply their skills to situations and problems that occur in the world beyond the classroom. It demands all students develop higher order thinking skills (HOTS) and provides students opportunities to be self-reflective and hone their communication skills. This is precisely what the RPS Graduate Profile is about! Culturally Responsive educators recognize that such a curriculum requires a learning environment that supports risk taking and assessment policies that allow for authentic growth. They also recognize the importance of diverse perspectives and provide materials that authentically reflect the cultures of their students.
So now what?
Take some time to reflect on these characteristics and how they may look in your classroom. You may be surprised to see how many ways you are already engaging in culturally responsive practices. Then, choose a couple more to try. If you aren’t sure where to start, reach out to your building’s instructional coaches and CLRT Teacher Leaders. Reach out to C & I and lean on your IAs. We are here for you! The journey toward educational equity is challenging and complex but also affirming and hopeful and we don’t need to walk the path alone.
Hammond, Z., & Jackson, Y. (2015). Culturally responsive teaching and the brain: Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students.
Kleinfeld, J. (1975). Effective teachers of Eskimo and Indian students. School Review, 83, 301–344.
Moll, L. C., Amanti, C., Neff, D., & Gonzalez, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory into Practice, 31, 132-141.
This post brought to you by Kimberly Eversman, E-12 Equity Implementation Associate
"Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it, you can never get it back."
The beginning of a new year reminds us how quickly time passes. It echoes how rapidly each minute really moves…. there are 60 minutes in an hour… 1,440 minutes every day …. Over 10,000 in each week…. About 525,000 per year. It’s easy to become complacent as minutes pass by so consistently and quietly. The launch of a new decade is a good time to stop and evaluate if you are just allowing time to pass by or growing deeper in skill and character with the passing of time.
Let’s get started investing in time.
List 10 ways that you have grown deeper in the past decade.
Identify 3 areas of your professional life that you would like to expand and grow in the coming decade.
From this list, what is the most important to you?
Map out smaller, incremental steps that can be taken to make this goal attainable.
Blessings to you throughout 2020! I look forward to hearing about your professional plans and attainments by 2030!
This post brought to you by Heather Holtan, Elementary Implementation Associate.
Why did you go into education?
Was it because you cared about children?
Were you passionate about learning?
Are you dedicated to teaching the next generation of leaders in our society?
No matter your reasoning for going into the teaching profession, there is an underlying commitment each one of us possesses for guiding a student’s learning, promoting their development, and inspiring them to reach their fullest potential. If we hope to accomplish this, we need to teach the whole child. Teaching to the whole child recognizes that social and emotional learning (SEL) is not another initiative, rather it engages students at a deeper learning level that complements academic skills. When SEL is embedded into the teacher’s daily instructional practices, students feel confident, connected, and have “improved academic performance, behavior, and attendance.” (Jones, Greenberg, & Crowley, 2015)
Studies show that when Social-Emotional learning is practiced and done intentionally, students have an increased opportunity to be successful in school, their careers, and in life. There is a positive correlation between educational achievement and SEL.
To be effective, social-and emotional learning should take place in many ways across many settings. This link shares 21 different ways to incorporate SEL throughout the school day. Open this link to read further on how SEL is important for students and educators.
The following diagram reinforces the impact of utilizing various teaching strategies and the connection to the social and emotional skills that can be experienced and practiced, particularly when the strategy is intentionally embedded. SOURCE
In gaining a greater acknowledgement and understanding of how many areas you as an educator are incorporating SEL into your classroom experience, utilize this self-assessment tool.
A holistic approach to education integrates SEL throughout the academic day and school environment. Thank you for being dedicated daily to the academic growth of students, their development, and building their character. Please take the time to reflect on how many times and in how many ways you have incorporated SEL into your interactions with students. Be willing to stretch yourself in planning for this upcoming week and determine where students can be given responsibility and choice in their learning. In the next week can you make a commitment to intentionally notice and share with students at least 5 situations when you can encourage children as they display good social skills or work habits?
“We think of the effective teachers we have had over the years with a sense of recognition, but those who have touched our humanity we remember with a deep sense of gratitude.” Anonymous
“We will remember with respect the good teacher in our lives that enlarged our minds and understanding of the world but we will remember with a feeling closer to love those who enriched our souls and taught us how to live our lives.” – Michael Josephson
“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” - Carl Jung
This post brought to you by Heather Holtan, Elementary Implementation Associate
“As leaders in education, our job is not to control those whom we serve, but to unleash their talent. If innovation is going to be a priority in education, we need to create a culture where trust is the norm.” – George Couros, The Innovators Mindset
My morning starts each day being peppered with questions from my nearly three year old.
“Mom, what’s that?”
“Mom, what’s that noise?”
“Mom, why do the cars have their lights on? It’s sunny out!”
“Mom, can I have a sip of your coffee?” and not surprisingly, “Why?” when I say no to that last request.
‘Why’ has become a frequently used word in our household. Because of this, I find myself reflecting on my time teaching 2nd graders and my times teaching 5th and 6th graders. In my own experience, I have found that the number of questions I am asked about how or why things are the way they are decrease as a child gets older. I find myself asking, why is that? Where and why do our students seem to slowly lose their creativity, curiosity and imagination?
“You cannot empower students to be self-directed, responsible, critical-thinking people if they can’t ask their own questions. At that point, you’re teaching compliance rather than responsibility.” – A.J. Juliani and John Spencer, LAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student
I know, as a teacher, it can be so overwhelming to consider how to provide opportunities for student driven inquiry, creativity and passion projects within our standards, but what if we let our students do much of that work for us? I know that there is an element of control that many of us like to keep over our classrooms in an effort to quell potential challenges. I also know that we work with tiny humans with a love and passion in our hearts for their success as individuals that is immeasurable. Our community, teachers, and leaders got together not long ago to create a graduate profile that defines the skills and attributes we want every student leaving Rochester Public Schools to possess. Many have seen this before, but the six core areas of this include: Ethical contributor, critical thinker, skilled communicator, effective collaborator, resilient learner and ultimately, a success ready individual. This makes me think, how does a decrease in student creativity, curiosity, and imagination impact this?
I came across this video on Edutopia a few days ago and felt it tied into this so closely.
In this video we see examples of “provocations” or teacher created stations/thought provokers that challenge students to think creatively, to ask questions, and use their imagination to solve problems, engage in the inquiry process and ultimately communicate and collaborate to achieve a task. What I also enjoyed about this video was the intentional teacher conferencing that would take place-the opportunity that it provided teachers to build relationships, identify student interest, and both question and challenge student learning. For those, like me, this could be a great way to move from the presenter to the facilitator role. When I was in grad school, I explored and implemented Project Based Learning in place of traditional science fair projects. I challenged students to identify a problem from their own world, design a way to solve it and then test and refine their project or prototype. I was amazed at what my students were capable of and where their thoughts and creativity took them when I provided opportunities for them to do so.
Ultimately, my challenge to us is how can we get out of our students’ way? How can we provide them time to explore their passions and interests and turn them into authentic, rigorous and relevant learning experiences? How can we build in ‘provocation stations’ ‘genius hours’ or ‘passion projects’ to increase student learning, excitement and engagement in the classroom? It’s messy. It’s hard. But, consider the impact these students could have on our world; consider the innovative individuals that both our community and we want to have that would leave our school system ready to change the world if only they are given the space and time to hone their creativity, collaboration, and curiosity.
“The new survival skills—effective communication, curiosity, and critical-thinking skills—“are no longer skills that only the elites in a society must muster; they are essential survival skills for all of us.” – Yong Zhao, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students
Don't worry: we're not gone for long. Nope, we're just hitting the pause button for the summer. We promise we'll return refreshed in August, resulting in some well crafted future blog posts.
We hope that you, like us, will be enjoying some extra time with family, friends, and nature. Because, let's face it, we all need a bit of time to regroup and refresh.
We may also find ourselves reflecting on why it is that we do what we do. Real teaching is all-consuming (both heart and soul) as we give a part of ourselves to each student. It can be the most challenging, emotionally exhausting, and highly rewarding career a person can choose. What I mean by highly rewarding is that sense of personal satisfaction and pride one gets when they know they are doing something that makes a real difference because we all came into this knowing it was not for the financial rewards. And while we know we are in it for the personal gratification, it would still be awesome if the reality was that society paid teachers what they are genuinely worth.
Since it is the end of the year, I thought I would leave you with some uplifting humor before you depart for the much deserved restorative qualities of summer break. In the clip below, comedians Key and Peele imagine what would happen if society treated teachers with as much respect and admiration as it gives professional athletes. Wouldn't it be nice? Enjoy!
For me, it was most interesting to quietly observe the many Amish people who were attending the sale. Amish culture has always fascinated me. In southeastern Minnesota, these communities of traditionalist Christians live quietly among us, but also intentionally set themselves worlds apart. The Amish are known for simple living that reflects more of a lifestyle from over a century ago. They also tend to limit their contact with the modern world as much as possible, shrouding themselves in a bit of mystery, leaving outsiders to wonder about their daily lives, convictions, and beliefs.
As the day of the sale progressed I came to a couple of shocking conclusions about my beliefs about identity. First and foremost, when many people are asked to describe an indigenous person of the United States, one picture usually comes to mind, the one old Hollywood westerns put into our brains, an Indian in buckskin pants with feather head-dress and war paint. As one becomes more culturally aware, it becomes known that there are really 573 federally recognized tribes, each with their own distinct cultures, history, and traditions. Each with their own identity.
In my original archetype of an Amish person, I had held one standard image.
My second revelation came as I observed a small group of teenaged Amish boys as they were hanging out together leaning against a buggy during some downtime in the sale. As I watched them, I realized they could be teenaged boys from anywhere at any time as they laughed, joked and teased each other. Even though they were each dressed almost exactly the same with homespun denim clothes, black hats, and boots, you could tell they each had their own distinct personality. At that moment, it became clear to me that as humans we are each unique, but at the core still very much the same. It is when we choose to embrace the similarities and not allow the differences to become divisive that we are able to “become proximate to the human story and find our identity in the humanity of others.” Sara K. Ahmed.
In her book, Being the Change Sara K. Ahmed outlines how teachers can develop lessons that cultivate empathy and social literacy to purposefully teach social comprehension. When students are given a safe space to voice their own story and feel comfortable with their own identity, only then will they truly have the capacity to understand another’s perspective. A much-needed skill in today’s world of political and social unrest. It begins with educators providing space to have student voices be heard and to practice kindness, compassion, tolerance, and understanding. For a review of this text, click here!
“Doing the work of social comprehension erodes the boundaries between us and them.” Sara K. Ahmed.
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