All districts know one thing: schools are only as strong as their staff. This is and was increasingly important in 2021. Given the impact of the last year, reports on educator burnout and turnover have only increased over the last year. Further complicating these feelings is the trauma experienced by all stakeholders during the pandemic. We are likely to see the impact of this trauma on staff, students, and parents as we enter the upcoming school year. As a result, many districts are looking for ways to integrate social and emotional learning (SEL) into their buildings. While every district is in a different place when it comes to implementing this work, many have the same question: How do we not make this “one more thing” for our staff? Luckily, there are ways to implement SEL into current building structures so that it is more likely to become a sustainable part of the building culture. Below are some suggestions for integrating SEL into three common building structures.
1. Grade Level/MTSS/RTI Meetings
Educators collect data formally and informally every day. This data includes both quantitative and qualitative measures of student progress toward outcomes. Bringing this data to teams for analysis is a powerful way to explore, interpret, and address gaps between reality and desired outcomes. These teams exist in a variety of forms. Some teams include grade-level teachers who share common students. While other teams may include more focused intervention approaches with support staff. Similar to academics, collecting data on student SEL skills is important. This data can come from a variety of sources including counselors and classroom teachers. Other schools use more systematic structures, like Satchel Pulse, to screen students for SEL skills. Regardless of the approach, there are some resources to support these teams with data analysis. CASEL provides a free Data Reflection Protocol that can be adapted for teams for support discussion and action of SEL data. This protocol can serve as a systematic process for analyzing data from week to week to support varying student needs. The process includes five components that facilitate a discussion around facts, omissions, interpretations, implications, and next steps. Following this protocol should be a reassessment or re-evaluation of SEL skills to measure the impact of interventions.
Bringing student data to teams for analysis is a powerful way to explore, interpret, and address gaps between reality and desired outcomes. (Tweet this)
2. Whole Staff Meetings
If teaming structures do not yet work for your school contexts, whole staff meetings are another way to approach integrating SEL into your school. First, almost every school and district work with a mission and vision. These help rally staff around a common purpose and goal. However, does your mission and vision include an SEL component? It may be worth using some designated professional development time to start the year by thinking about including staff in a revision of that mission or vision to include SEL. One way to do this is by using CASEL’s Guide to Developing a Shared Vision. This guide includes ready-to-use strategies that can be adapted to meet unique contexts. The purpose of this guide is to gather stakeholders around to reflect on a shared vision of their school community. These can later be used as shared agreements to reference back to during smaller group meetings or coaching sessions. Another approach for the whole staff is to use the same CASEL Data Reflection Protocol for staff meetings. This will allow for SEL data reflection to become a routine part of the school culture. Bringing whole school SEL data to the staff for analysis and action planning can be a powerful way to empower and build staff capacity.
Bringing whole school SEL data to the staff for analysis and action planning can be a powerful way to empower and build staff capacity. (Tweet this)
3. Professional Learning Communities
Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) often include staff members who teach the same or similar content. Regardless of the make-up, the goal of these PLCs is often to support student growth through strong instructional practices. One way to integrate SEL into PLC structures is to have these communities think about what SEL practices look like in their lesson planning process or content. For example, a group of science teachers may gather to discuss the following questions:
- What SEL skills are important for a scientist?
- Where in our current curriculum or resources do we already teach these skills? Where can we blend them in?
- How can we help students reflect on these SEL skills as scientists?
As you can see, these can be a general framework for other contents as well such as math, literacy, social studies, etc. Another way to support PLCs with SEL is to consider the breadth of resources available in CASELs SEL 3 Signature Practices Playbook. There is a large collection of resources within this playbook, but there are some signature practices that can easily be incorporated into the lesson planning process. PLCs could use this guide weekly to determine ways to include these practices in their daily instruction. These practices include a welcoming inclusion activity, engaging pedagogical strategies, and an optimistic closure. Allowing PLCs to explore these resources and decide how it fits with their current contexts allows for the kind of flexibility that teachers often seek while working in an otherwise structured environment.
Overall, integrating SEL into current building practices does not have to be “one more thing.” Using SEL data can easily fit into the work the districts and buildings do every day. Furthermore, the approaches mentioned above help with creating and sustaining a culture of SEL that includes teacher voice and empowers stakeholders to take action.
Click here to download a free guide that presents a cycle of how you can examine student data in six simple steps and how to elevate a range of perspectives when interpreting data, to use in your school and district.