In addition to my job as Director of District Partnerships at TransformEd, I have been, for a number of years, a project scholar for the Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture, an interdisciplinary research center at the University of Virginia. There, I work with a variety of scholars to explore how U.S. high schools, including private, religious, independent, charter and public schools, approach character development among their students. My specific work has focused on the rural public-school sector (as defined by the National Center for Educational Statistics), about which I wrote a chapter that was recently published in Content of Their Character: Inquiries into the Varieties of Moral Formation. It consists of descriptive analysis of student character formation at six rural public high schools in the United States during the 2014–2015 and 2015–2016 school years. The analysis is based on classroom observation, school documents, and administrator, parent, teacher, and student interviews.
The learning and life benefits of social and emotional learning (SEL) are well-established (see CASEL research for a few of the most recent SEL research studies). In schools, classroom teachers have opportunities to build SEL competencies and skills — especially in the areas of collaboration, cooperation, and teamwork. Here are some ideas from the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) SEL Fellows for classroom teachers interested in creating classroom environments that support relationship skills with peers.
In education, we sometimes fall into an acronym trap: ESSA. IEP. ELA. SEL. Or we default to rattling off statistics as shorthand for what we’re really talking about. And sometimes, this kind of secret education code serves us well. It allows us to transmit information efficiently. But it also comes at a price if we forget to balance it out with stories about the humans at the center of our work.
On October 25, 2017, TransformEd co-hosted Social-Emotional Learning (SEL): A Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Opportunity with the Center for the Collaborative Classroom (CCC). The summit, held in Westborough, Mass., brought together nearly 200 educators throughout the state to highlight the importance of teaching, leading, and learning about SEL.
What does social emotional learning look like in the elementary school classroom? How do students develop the mindsets, essential skills and habits necessary for success in school, and in life? Social emotional learning is everywhere. It is all the time. It is invisible, yet you can see it everywhere you turn. And it is essential. Social emotional learning unfolded during the first 20 days of the school year for me and my 3rd graders in Wilmington, Delaware in many ways.
As a talent development consultant, when contracted to develop "onboarding" or "new hire" programs for fresh-to-the-workforce hires, I'm most often asked to create learning experiences that will teach business communication, relationship management, conflict resolution, professionalism & etiquette, time management, research & analysis, listening skills, and solving problems as a team.
"They are intelligent, capable, and technically savvy," one client said of his new sales hires, "but they show up not knowing how to behave and engage professionally in the workplace. They have to be told not to curse when speaking to clients, that ripped jeans are inappropriate work attire, and that e-mails need to be written in complete sentences. "
Professional organizations and businesses alike are all lauding this new crop of employees as highly qualified, innovative, ambitious, and skilled; however, their shortcomings in soft skills are impeding their success in the workplace.
We are excited to be featured in yesterday's article on social-emotional skills (or “MESH”) on the front page of the New York Times. It's great to see the recognition for this important cause, and we love hearing about teachers like Ms. Cooney who are proactively supporting students in building the skills they need to succeed within school and beyond. Teachers like Ms. Cooney make us even more proud of the work we’ve done so far to support the CORE Districts, which have incorporated social-emotional skills and school culture/climate into their school accountability and continuous improvement system. As with any systems change effort, this has given rise to many questions. We understand the concerns about how MESH measures should be used, and we take those concerns seriously. We also know that part of having a Growth Mindset is committing to putting in the effort, reflecting on what we’re learning, and continuously improving the approach over time. We believe MESH measures aren’t perfect…yet...
As a Black woman who grew up in Hartford, I know all too well the potentially fracturing effects of not teaching the Whole Child. I was mistakenly labeled as a special education student instead of having my social and emotional needs addressed. After discussions about my home life (being separated from my parents and siblings and placed in foster care), being taught social skills, ethics and coping mechanisms, I began to flourish...
Many of the conversations we have with researchers, policymakers, and district partners begin with a discussion of which Mindsets, Essential Skills, and Habits we will focus on in our work together. The following table provides a glimpse of myriad skills that fall under the many related frameworks of “social emotional learning,” “21st century skills,” “character education,” and so on. This “Tower of Babel,” as we often call it, can quickly become overwhelming.