One of the most exciting parts of any school year is when educators come together to celebrate a shared vision of how they, as a community, can support their students.
Last week, TransformEd joined faculty and staff from Andover (MA) Public Schools for a start-of-the-year kick-off gathering built around a unifying theme: students’ social-emotional learning (SEL). The day included keynote presentations by Andover Superintendent, Dr. Sheldon Berman, and Tim Shriver, co-chair of the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development, and small group sessions in which participants discussed Dr. Berman’s article on implementing SEL in the classroom. Through these conversations, the district seems poised to start the school year engaged in the question of how adults can best support the social and emotional development of their students.
Dr. Berman’s address to all faculty and staff emphasized the need for SEL to receive shared attention alongside rigorous teaching and assessments; he reminded the staff that Andover is committed to focusing on “the larger mission of education” to help students develop skills and convictions that will enable them to form a more compassionate and just world.
In Tim Shriver’s keynote, he spoke to the importance of seeing “teaching and learning [as] a relationship.” Simply passing along information from teacher to student alone won’t cultivate empathy and perspective taking among students — nor build their trust in adults. And we know from research that building trusting relationships between students and adults can have an enormous impact, particularly on working to reverse the effects of trauma.
An inspiring setting – full of teachers with bright blue SEL-themed t-shirts – the day offered TransformEd a chance to participate in meaningful dialogue about school culture and practice, and learn from educators about the challenges and opportunities of prioritizing SEL across a district.