I was thinking about this question as I was scrolling through social media the other day and reading/listening to the Back to School posts on the Facebook Groups to whom I belong, the Instagram educator’s stories I follow, and the Linked In friends I have. Even those on Twitter added a few choice tweets to the mix.
Here’s what I noticed: The trends revealed an overwhelming number of school leaders who were looking for icebreakers or team building videos/activities for their opening days while the teachers were posting statements and/or memes asking their leaders not to do those types of activities and instead, requesting something much more meaningful and purposeful.
At the same time this was happening, I also noticed educators expressing deep concern about how to work with parents and their students who display challenging behaviors, have experienced trauma, have multiple disabilities, or have mental health issues. They also expressed concern about how to approach students with respect and sensitivity regarding issues surrounding race, gender, and sexual identity.
Their questions are framed somewhat like this: “What’s a good activity for the first day of school team-builder on growth mindset?” Or “What video can you suggest for our team? We are meeting with a parent who has a middle-schooler who spits and the principal won’t help us.” In other words, those who are asking the question are not thinking about a systemic or preventative answer; instead, they are looking for a one-day solution or short-term quick fix.
Placing a focus on a school’s culture in order to improve the social and emotional learning for the entire school’s community (students, teachers, parents, and administration) can’t happen during an ice-breaker, a team-builder, a video session with a debrief or even a one-day activity. In fact, this is where the Standards for Professional Learning take center stage.
The Standards for Professional Learning provide a guide of the characteristics or traits of professional learning that lead to effective teaching and leadership practices that can ultimately improve student results. There are seven standards that increase educator effectiveness. The question listed next to each is merely a starting point. We suggest that you follow this link to learn more about each standard in depth:
Learning Communities: What is the level/role of collective responsibility of the Learning Community as related to the professional learning initiative?
Leadership: What is the level of involvement of the leadership as related to the professional learning initiative?
Resources: Are the resources available for the professional learning initiative?
Data: Are you using data to plan, assess, and evaluation the professional learning initiative?
Learning Designs: How will the learning be designed in order to achieve the intended outcome?
Implementation: How will the change in educator practice become sustainable as related to the initiative?
Outcomes: How will you measure the effectiveness of the professional learning initiative? What is the desired outcome?
So, where do the Standards for Professional Learning and taking the time to develop Social Emotional Skills in students intersect? If we don’t use the Standards for Professional Learning to implement the initiative of developing Social Emotional Skills into our schools’ culture, our efforts will fail. Yes, fail.
If you’ve ever tried to implement an initiative by hiring a keynote presenter for one day and then, hoping the information they presented would “catch on” you soon find out that your efforts just don’t work. You get completely frustrated. That’s because when you do that, you're not using the complete set of Standards for Professional Learning. When you use the Standards they are to be used in concert with one another, like parts of an engine, and if one of those Standards is not in place, the engine will sputter and falter in some way. Take a look at the chart below.
To provide you with a few examples in reading this chart, when one is implementing a change, such as Social Emotional Learning, if the leader of the organization is not on board, does not attend meetings, or follow up on the components related to the initiative, the teachers can follow all of the protocols or directive they have been given to implement the initiative, yet they will not feel supported. If the resources are not available to implement the initiative, then educators will be left to their own devices and find their own resources on Social Emotional Learning and resistance toward the initiative will occur. If data is not available to assess or measure the progress of your Social Emotional Learning initiative, then no one will have a common philosophy, language or focus as related to the initiative. Your attempts will fail. These are just a few examples of how the Standards for Professional Learning can support Social Emotional Learning.
When it comes to initiating a change as important as Social Emotional Learning, consider what’s at stake: a school’s safety and culture. This is too important of an investment in the future of the school’s community that reaches into generations to come. This is a game changer! How can one NOT invest in using the Standards for implementing this important initiative? Now is the time to do this right. Invest in this initiative the right way.
Learning Forward Pennsylvania wants to support you in your investment of Social Emotional Learning. Come to our Day of Learning on October 29, 2019 to gain more information as to how to influence your school’s culture as related to this important topic. Presenter Chris Norlin from Character Strong will be at Spooky Nook Sports in Manheim, PA. The Early Bird cost is $150.00 per person until September 1. Here is the link to register. Bring a team of 5 or more! We ‘d love to see you there!
Written by Dr. Frances A. Miller
Co President, Learning Forward Pennsylvania
Founder of Advancing Professional Learning for Educators, LLC
Core Team Member for Comprehensive Support and Improvement Team, PDE
To read more about SEL, here is an article published by Learning Forward:
Sowing Seeds of SEL: learningforward.org/journal/august-2018-vol-39-no-4/sowing-seeds-of-sel/