On May 1, more than 300 educators, researchers, and policymakers gathered for the inaugural exSEL Network conference, titled Social-Emotional Learning: Lessons Learned and Opportunities for Massachusetts, led by Transforming Education, the Rennie Center, and SEL4MA. Participants took part in breakout sessions focused on learning from the experiences of districts putting social-emotional learning policies and practices into place and hearing from experts about SEL supports and strategies.
Keynote speaker Dr. Stephanie Jones, of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, energized the crowd with a speech asking educators, policymakers, and researchers to focus on the direct and explicit teaching of social-emotional skills and creation of safe and supportive learning environments while also supporting adults’ capacity and building partnerships and alliances. Drawing from her work as a member of the Council of Distinguished Scientists for the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development (SEAD) and the resultant From A Nation At Risk to a Nation At Hope report, Dr. Jones invited the researchers and policymakers in attendance to build a research paradigm that begins with practice and emphasizes the intersection of research and practice.
Following the keynote speech, participants took part in a series of breakout sessions led by the conference conveners alongside educators. To celebrate the great work that educators are doing to bring social-emotional learning, positive learning environments, and whole child development to life in their classrooms, schools, and districts/CMOs, TransformEd intentionally featured the work of current and former partners in our breakout sessions on May 1st. Snapshots of those sessions are below.
Choosing & Using Frameworks to Organize Your SEL Efforts
Rocio Camargo-Ruiz, Lowell Public Schools
Josh Takis and Greg Harrison, Shawsheen Valley Technical High School
Richard Fournier, Transforming Education
This session explored several frameworks used by schools and districts across the country. Camargo-Ruiz, Takis, and Harrison also presented their approach and rationale for choosing SEL frameworks for their respective districts and schools. If you’re weighing different options for SEL frameworks, a helpful resource is: An Examination of Frameworks for SEL Reflected in State K-12 Learning Standards written by the team at CASEL.
All Learning Is Social and Emotional: A Framework and Strategies for Integrating SEL and Academics
Kim Gilbert, Center for the Collaborative Classroom
Stephanie Hurley, Transforming Education
This session offered strategies for SEL integration. In order for students to be successful, they must learn to regulate emotions, employ and communicate critical thinking, and respectfully navigate social interactions. As such, Gilbert & Hurley presented practices that teachers can use in their classrooms to help students develop social awareness, self-awareness and effective communication skills among other competencies. Be sure to keep an eye out for the release of TransformEd’s new SEL Classroom Integration Framework!
Moving Beyond Measurement: Leveraging What Matters in SEL Data
Nikki Murphy, North Andover Public Schools
John Mills, Marshfield Public Schools
DJ Cervantes and Richard Fournier, Transforming Education
After choosing a framework, collecting data gives insight into how implementation is going. In this panel session, practitioners shared about using data to inform practice.. The educators from North Andover and Marshfield shared their experiences on lesson learned, successes, and critical considerations for the next school year.
Compassion in the Classroom: A Conversation about Mindfulness as a Way of Supporting Teachers
Jersey Cosantino, Lesley University
Julie Morgan, Brockton Public Schools
Elizabeth Rice, Fitchburg Public Schools
Akira Gutierrez, Transforming Education
SEL is not just for students; teachers can benefit as well! The school-based educators took part in a discussion about mindfulness practices in schools as a means of supporting teachers. Mindfulness can support educator wellbeing and promote an equitable environment of compassion towards teachers and students in the classroom. Panelists discussed lessons learned from ongoing mindfulness programs at their large, diverse school districts and shared resources to support others wanting to do more of this work.
Equity & SEL: Elevate, Interrogate and Activate
Kamilah Drummond-Forrester, Open Circle and SEL4MA
Akira Gutierrez, Transforming Education
In this interactive workshop focused on exploring the intersections of equity and SEL, participants worked together to build a better understanding about how their own cultural and racial identities play a role in facilitating SEL and their impact on equitable (and non-equitable) SEL expectations and practices for students. The session incorporated self-reflection on racial identity and discussions about implications for the classroom. Participants also walked away with a large swath of resources to explore with members of their home schools and districts.
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