Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools

GRATITUDE: At Work, Home, and School

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by Edward DeRoche, Ph.D., Character Education Resource Center, Director, University of San Diego

“GRATITUDE CAN TRANSFORM COMMON DAYS INTO THANKSGIVINGS, TURN ROUTINE JOBS INTO JOY AND CHANGE ORDINARY OPPORTUNITIES INTO BLESSINGS.” William Arthur Ward

In December 2014, I wrote a blog about “gratitude and empathy.”

I noted that Robert Emmons (see below) called gratitude the “queen of the virtues,” and I suggested that empathy might be the “king.”

Let’s focus on the “queen” during this Thanksgiving month.

Thanks to research, here is what we know. Gratitude properly understood and rendered “leads to active appreciation of others.” Gratitude has “positive effects on health,” “fosters positive relationships” and “joy;” that is, the stronger our relationships, the happier we are.

Emmons and other researchers have found “three surprising ways that gratitude influences what one does at work.”

One, gratitude facilitates better sleep because “grateful people enjoy more restful, restorative, and refreshing sleep, and reap the benefits at work the next day.”

Two, gratitude is the “antidote to entitlement” and “to other aspects of a toxic workplace culture….When people are experiencing gratitude, they are “less likely to be annoyed, irritated, and aggressive.”

Three, grateful people make better “organizational citizens” — “more likely to volunteer for extra work assignments, take time to mentor co-workers, be compassionate when someone has a problem, encourage and praise others, and are more likely to be creative at work….Gratitude promotes innovative thinking, flexibility, openness, curiosity, and love of learning.”

A National Association of School Psychologist’s article titled “Fostering an Attitude of Gratitude: Tips for Parents” suggests that parents at home help their children develop an attitude of gratitude through a variety of simple acts and activities.

These every day activities include modeling practicing gratitude, encouraging children to think about it, sharing and reinforcing grateful behaviors, using visual reminders, making grateful posters, and keeping a “good stuff” journal.

They suggest that every night parents take a few minutes with each child to write down the positive experiences that happened during the day. They recommend that next to each positive event, their child write a reflection using questions such as:

Why did this good thing happened and what did you learn from it?

What does this good thing mean to you and how can you help have more of it tomorrow?

What ways will you or others contribute to this good thing?

Studies also show that positive parent relationships are associated with gratitude. (Gratitude Works Program, wwwnaspoliner.org)

Now that we know how gratitude influences the workplace, and have some ideas on how to nurture and foster gratitude at home, let’s examine three gratitude lessons.

The lessons come from an article by Vicki Zakrzewski in the November 2016 issue of Greater Good. I selected it because I liked the format of the lessons. That is, I found it to be an excellent idea for formatting all instructional lessons that teachers create.

The format is this:

(a) a lesson objective

(b) a lesson concept –in this case the concept is gratitude

(c) a social-emotional competency

(d) the materials needed

(e) a list of instructional activities

(f) “extension” suggestions for the lesson

The three lessons described in the article all related to the topic of gratitude:

1. “Acts of Kindness” for K-2 students

2. “Food Gratitude” for students in grades 3-5

3. “People Who Make a Difference” for students in grades 6-8

One final point, researchers at Berkeley surveyed 400 students ages 12-14 and found that students “who were more likely to be grateful to others showed higher academic interest, grades, and extracurricular involvement, and had lower interest in risky behaviors.”

Who is Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D.?

He is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology. He is the author of the books Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Gratitude Works!: A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity, and The Little Book of Gratitude.

It’s About Skill Development!

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by Ed DeRoche, Character Education Resource Center, Director, University of San Diego

A “skills” quote:

“Expressing care for another is not an innate ability present more naturally in some people than others, but rather a skill that can be taught and nurtured through a supportive educational environment.”

-Scotty McLennan, Dean for Religious Life, Stanford University

A “skills” memory:

”I loved playing baseball. Our city had open try-outs for minor league teams. On day four, one of the coaches said to me, ‘Son, we can’t have players on this team without skills in every area.’ I had ‘grit’ but couldn’t hit. I also had ‘perseverance’ so I became a teacher, a principal, a dean.”

(The question of how skillfully is open to debate.)

At our Character Matters Conference (June 2017), sitting with a few teachers over our delicious box lunches, we started talking about “21st Century Skills” and the “new” character education movement – the focus on the social-emotional needs of students. I expressed the opinion that I thought the programmatic/instructional emphasis was on the emotional side of the SEL (follow the money) with some, but not too much, attention helping students develop their “social skills.”

As I noted in my 2013 blog , “The Skills Game” recent employee surveys showed that employers are looking for certain qualities in employees such as listening and communication skills, adaptability, creative thinking skills, problem-solving skills, goal setting skills, and competence in reading, writing, and computation skills. It has been reported that 85% of those who lose jobs do so because of inadequate social skills.

It seems to me that social skill development should be an essential part of schools’ character education initiatives (with character strengths and emotional skills as the other two).

A survey conducted through Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel, asked the question: What are the best skills for kids to have these days?

The responses:

90% – Communication

86% – Reading

79% – Math

77% – Teamwork

75% -Writing

74% – Logic

58% -Science

25% – Athletics

24% – Music

23% -Art

Social skills include habits and attributes that some call “Habits of the Heart.” This includes providing instruction and practice in helping students to be respectful, be responsible, be honest, be trustworthy, be caring, be courageous, be courtesy, be compassionate, and be fair.

These learned skills are coupled with “Habits of the Mind” – being a critical thinker, appreciating the importance of knowledge and learning, learning how to learn, practicing self-discipline, making ethical decisions, learning to problem solve, controlling anger and emotions, resisting peer pressure, and thinking before acting.

The third skill set is often labeled, “Habits of the Hands,” which includes knowing and practicing the Golden Rule, being of service to others, and becoming an active, participating citizen.

In my research for this blog, I found a program developed by Stephen Elliott (Vanderbilt Peabody education and psychology researcher) and co-authored with Frank Gresham, of the newly published The Social Skills Improvement System Classwide Intervention Program (SSIS-CIP).

They identified the top 10 skills that students need to succeed based on surveys of over 8,000 teachers and over 20 years of research in classrooms across the country. The skills are:

  • Listen to others.
  • Follow the steps.
  • Follow the rules.
  • Ignore distractions.
  • Ask for help.
  • Take turns when you talk.
  • Get along with others.
  • Stay calm with others.
  • Be responsible for your behavior.
  • Do nice things for others.

They report: “In our research, we found that elementary kids and teachers value cooperation and self-control. When we teach and increase those behaviors, we reduce problem behaviors and maximize learning time…. “

“If we increase social skills, we see commensurate increases in academic learning. That doesn’t mean that social skills make you smarter; it means that these skills make you more amenable to learning.”

More information about the SSIS Program can be found at: http://www.PearsonAssessments.com.

Another discovery – a web site, called SKILLSYOUNEED (https://skillsyouneed.com), which provides information and resources for each of the following category of skills: Personal, Interpersonal, Leadership, Learning, Presentation, Writing, Numeracy, and Parenting skills.

As a reminder, I published two blogs on this topic that may be worth your review:

  1. “The Skills Game: Who’s on First? What’s on Second? How’s on Third!” [Published by SmartBrief-Education, 11/12/2013]
  1. “The Skills of Question-Asking,” [February 2015 Blog]

http://sites.sandiego.edu/character/blog/2015/02/23

And finally, think about this each month during the new school year:

Children who scored high on social skills were four times as likely to graduate from college than those who scored low.”

Teaching Social Skills to Improve Grade and Lives, David Bornstein, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/24

Question/Comments: deroche@sandiego.edu

How To Counter False News By Learning How to Create News Stories

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By Maurice J. Elias

Students today will be challenged as they grow up, and as adults, to separate fact from rumor, and news from propaganda.  One of the best ways to help them differentiate is to have them learn to create a news story of their own.  A social-emotional learning (SEL) framework provides useful guidance for this task.

Because newspaper articles contain only the most critical points about an issue, attempting to write one provides practice in learning how to summarize information concisely. The following lesson series will help students learn how a social decision-making/critical thinking/SEL framework can be used to meet the challenges involved in gathering and presenting the main points of an issue.

Also, by working together to create an article, students may better understand how current events represent problems that require solutions. The task of creating a newspaper article is often highly engaging for students as many of them will enjoy creatively designing front pages, and so on. (Note that you can reformat the lesson to be compatible with any set of problem solving/decision making steps that students are being taught as part of SEL or character development lessons.)

Objectives of this Lesson Series

Student will…

  1. Understand the process used in creating a news article or story..
  2. Build decision-making and problem solving skills.
  3. Develop critical thinking skills to use when analyzing current or historical accounts of events.

Instructional Sequence

Begin the class by discussing the difference between news and “false news.”  Have them look at stories on the topic within respected news media (NY or LA Times, Washington Post, Tampa Bay Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CNN, PBS).

Discuss the “who, what, where, when, and why” of false news and the definition of the word, “propaganda”: information of a biased or misleading nature used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view

Encourage your students to understand that false news is a way to manipulate them—something they definitely will not like!.  Here is a good example of a newspaper article on the dangerous consequences of a fake news story

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/05/business/media/comet-ping-pong-pizza-shooting-fake-news-consequences.html?_r=0

Next, introduce the idea that historical and current events represent the outcomes of decision-making activities. Stress that just as personal problems require solutions, societal problems also need them. Provide students with examples of how different solutions to the same problem result in very different consequences. The examples can come from local (even school) issues affecting students’ own lives in order to better make the point. Be sure students understand how to think about current and historical events as problems before proceeding.

Then, introduce the assignment, which is titled, “Creating A Newspaper Article” (see below). Use the following questions first to help orient students:

  • How was information about current events communicated in colonial times?
  • How is information about current events communicated now? How do you get most of your current events information?(Talk about the potential strengths and weaknesses of the various sources, including the internet and various social media, and the need to use more than one source)

Either have them all work on a common topic or each define an individual topic, or some other variation as fits into your curriculum. Ask them to describe an aspect of the topic as a problem. Once the students have decided on the problem, have them identify those individuals or the different groups who are involved in the problem and to reflect on the character of key individuals in the story. Students can refer to their textbooks, newspaper articles, the Internet, and so on, to do this. After students have identified the different groups, ask them to imagine what the feelings of each group might be. Next, have them identify goals for each group.

Relevant current topics include how to address the problems of refugees and of those who enter a country illegally (and how these two problems are not the same) and how to ensure greater participation in democratic institutions at local, state, and national levels. 

Finally, as you prep them for the assignment, provide a reflective opportunity at the end with this question: What problems do you think most reporters face in trying to write an article? What problems did you experience in writing this article? How did you solve them?

The Assignment

(The following assignment can be presented as a worksheet, or digitally, as a Powerpoint or on a Smartboard.)

Creating a Newspaper Article

Directions: Imagine that you are a newspaper reporter for a well-known or a more local newspaper. You have been asked to write a newspaper article on a current events topic, or a social studies topic you have just finished studying in class.

Think about some part of the topic as an event or problem. Then, use the problem-solving outline to help write your article. At the end, be sure to give your article a headline and check to be sure that your article answers the following questions:

  1. What is the problem you are thinking about?
  2. What people or groups of people are involved? What do you know about the character/laws of life of key individuals involved?
  3. What feelings and goals does each person or group have?
  4. What are some possible solutions to achieve each goal?
  5. What are some of the consequences? (Consider both long- and short-term, for each possible solution)
  6. What solution was chosen? Do you think a different choice should have been made? If so, why?
  7. What could have been done to improve the chosen plan?
  8. Summarize the information in the article and draw some conclusions.

Tips for Instruction

Consider first introducing the lesson by bringing in an article and analyzing it with the whole class, using the eight questions above as a framework. Don’t allow students to begin working in small groups until they have demonstrated that they understand how to apply the framework.

And remember, although the students are being asked to write a newspaper article, the topic does not have to be a current event. Topics can be drawn from a variety of instructional sources (e.g., history textbooks, videos of historical dramatizations, or news broadcasts).

Give students time to do the necessary research and background checks.  Students can work individually or in small groups.  Bring back the topic of false news and how difficult it is to determine what is true or factual.  Discuss how newspapers and other newsrooms need to collaborate to try to arrive at a consensus, and to question one-another about what one has included and why, and have students/groups review and constructively critique one-another and revise their work, just as happens in responsible news media. Consider giving them a deadline for quick revision, as might happen in a television newscast, so they can understand how time pressure can affect deliberation and presentation.  And be sure to ask them to document their sources!

Letters to the editor and editorials often reflect attempts by citizens to generate solutions to problems. Ask students to read an editorial or a letter to the editor and have them critique it by applying the decision-making framework to examine how systematically the writer thought through his or her presentation of and/or response to a problem.

 (For more examples of related lessons, see Social Decision Making/Social Problem Solving by L. Bruene and M. Elias, which offers curricula for grades K-8.)

This blog is a response to a posting by Larry Ferlazzo in Education Week on June 6. 2017. You can view the original blog post here:

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/classroom_qa_with_larry_ferlazzo/2017/06/response_genius_hours_can_be_transformative.html

Maurice J. Elias, Ph.D., is Director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab. He is also author of the e-book, Emotionally Intelligent Parenting and The Other Side of the Report Card: Assessing Students’ Social, Emotional, and Character Development (2016, Corwin)

 

Implementing a “Genius Hour” With Your Students

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A response to Larry Ferlazzo’s “question-of-the-week,” How can I implement a “Genius Hour” with my students?

Response From Maurice Elias

There has been a lot of talk lately about implementing a “Genius Hour” with students.  Here is my take on it. Every student has genius. And time should be set aside to celebrate the genius of every student. It does not require a single hour; it’s something that can and should be scheduled throughout the school year. You can celebrate two students a week, half hour each; you can celebrate a student each day for 15 minutes—use your imaginations!

My suggestion is that you frame a Genius Hour in terms of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences model. Gardner was interested to see if all cultures defined intelligence in terms of language arts and mathematical skills the way our Western educational culture seems to. Of course, he knew the answer would be, “No.” What Gardner also found is that there are physiological and specifically neurological bases for the different kinds of intelligence he identified—intelligences that collectively are essential for humanity and civilization, with some being emphasized by some cultures more than others.

The eight multiple intelligences (MI) Gardner has identified are:  Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Musical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, and Spiritual. There are formal ways to assess your students’ multiple intelligences strengths, and Thomas Armstrong has created some of the best, practical materials. But you are likely to know your students’ relative MI preferences pretty well.

Students learn well through their strengths and an opportunity to use their strengths can leverage a greater willingness to work on areas of weakness or learning difficulty. That is the importance of celebrating their strengths. Some students can go through a school day—in fact, many school days—without feeling a sense of celebration or accomplishment. A “Genius Hour” is and should be about recognizing things our students are good at and sharing them with classmates, making it clear that there is no hierarchy of intelligences, only multiple intelligences.

You can introduce the Genius Hour—or whatever you choose to all it—by introducing MI and asking students to identify what they think their strengths are—indeed, expanding their view of what a strength is. You can also have students share geniuses they admire, who display particular MI strengths.

An ongoing celebration of student strengths—or genius—represents finding windows into the soul of children and ways to reach them in powerful and meaningful ways. When students are working within their areas of MI strength, they are able to mobilize confidence and enjoyment in ways that can be cut off if they are “off-modality.”  Thus, it becomes vital for students to have opportunities to be recognized for — and to perform and learn in — their preferred modalities. 

 

Maurice J. Elias, Ph.D., is Director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab. He is also author of the e-book, Emotionally Intelligent Parenting  and The Other Side of the Report Card:  Assessing Students’ Social, Emotional, and Character Development (2016, Corwin):

See Larry Ferlazzo’s full blog here:

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/classroom_qa_with_larry_ferlazzo/2017/06/response_genius_hours_can_be_transformative.html

 

Teaching Love Over Hate: A Response to the Charlottesville Incident

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by Karen Niemi, President and CEO, CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning)

Dear CASEL friends:

Like so many of you, I’ve been shaken and horrified by the events of this past weekend in Charlottesville, Va. The prospect of overt and violent hatred and bigotry once again entering the American public square of ideas is abhorrent, and again, a very real threat.

I couldn’t help being struck that so many of the participants in the violence were so young, like 20-year-old white supremacist James Alex Fields Jr., who drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, injuring dozens and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. So much tragedy. . . a life cut short, and the living are left with pain, heartache, loss, and, for some, the inspiration for violence yet to come.

How could a society capable of nurturing so much beauty and compassion have also produced Mr. Fields? What forces stoked his fears of diversity and emboldened him with hate? How could his life have been different — not to mention the lives of hundreds of KKK members, alt-right supporters, white nationalists, and violent extremists — if he possessed the skills to understand and manage his emotions, feel empathy, and build positive relationships? We will never know.

I’m more convinced than ever that the work we do here at CASEL is part of the solution to this type of bigotry and fear. We believe in the power of education to teach nonviolence, promote understanding, endow children with purpose and meaning, and provide the skills and behaviors that can create a more inclusive, healthy, and positive future.

Our board chairman, Timothy Shriver, perfectly summed up what we must do to succeed when he said, “I want to change the cycle of stigma and prejudice that destroys lives all over the world every day. Until we can get in front of people and awaken them to the idea that this is not acceptable, it’s very difficult for people to appreciate what we do and change the way we act as a society.”

We are the educators who teach love over hate, the helpers who run toward disaster to comfort the afflicted, and the change agents who will help destroy prejudice and stigmatization.

I ask each of you not to disengage after the tragedy of this past weekend but instead to see it as a call to redouble our efforts because this work is vital, perhaps now more than ever. And we must succeed. Our children are counting on us. Our communities are counting on us. Our country is counting on us.

Together we will build a better tomorrow!

Karen Niemi

President and CEO

CASEL: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning

Read the Full Post on CASEL’s Website

Promoting Student Independence & Successful Inclusion through Systematic Use and Fading of Supports

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By Amy Golden, Behavior Therapy Associates (www.BehaviorTherapyAssociates.com)

 

Being able to be as independent as possible often substantially impacts future success in all aspects of life (Causton-Theoharis, 2009; Hume, Loftin, & Lantz, 2009). Therefore, as a student moves through adolescence, it is essential for the educational team and family to place increasing emphasis on promoting student independence. This should be carefully considered when developing the individualized educational plan (IEP) for the student.

IEPs often focus on short-term goals and objectives projected for the year ahead, with supports and services to help the student achieve those skills. However, it is suggested that the IEP should be developed as a plan emphasizing independence, with long-term goals always on the forefront of the discussion. With this framework in mind, the team should focus on supports the student needs now to ultimately require less intrusive supports in the future. Goals for independent functional skills should be included in addition to those that are academically oriented. A variety of accommodations and modifications should center on promoting both student progress and independence (Asher, Gordon, Selbst & Cooperberg, 2010; Twachtman-Cullen, 2000). Areas of independence may include behaviors such as initiating tasks, transitioning between activities or locations, organizing materials, caring for one’s own daily needs, and more.

Paraprofessionals are routinely assigned to support students with autism spectrum disorders in the school environment (Giangreco, Halvorsen, Doyle, & Broer, 2004).  There are many clear advantages and disadvantages to this approach.  Paraprofessionals often provide the assistance students require to access less restrictive settings.  Some of their responsibilities may include taking the lead for implementing behavior plans, gathering important information about the student’s skills and deficits, promoting social interactions with peers, and collecting data (Twachtman-Cullen, 2000).  

A key advantage of the use of paraprofessional supports includes the ability to promote generalization for the student across environments. Having detailed knowledge of the student’s abilities and challenges allows them to plan ahead as well as prepare to assist the student in new situations and settings. While these are all reasonable tasks and often necessary benefits, providing 1:1 adult assistance can also be considered most restrictive and significantly impact the student’s autonomy. Peers may be less likely to approach and interact with the student due to an adult’s presence (Giangreco, Edelman, Luiselli, & MacFarland, 1997). The student may engage in spontaneous conversation more readily with the adult, creating an unnatural division from the student’s classmates. The potential for prompt dependency is also heightened when an adult is always present (Causton-Theoharis, 2009). Best intentions to provide support for the individual may result in too much being done for the student or the use of intrusive prompts without a careful fading plan.

Therefore, prior to establishing the need for 1:1 staffing, a thorough assessment of the specific areas for support should be completed. Teams should convene to determine what they anticipate achieving by using 1:1 supports and review if these needs can be met more effectively in other ways to promote student independence (Causton-Theoharis, 2009). For example, students may benefit from using communication devices, technology, additional visual cues, peer modeling, and environmental adaptations. Additionally, providing teachers and paraprofessionals with more advanced training can encourage the use of alternative and creative ways to assist the student (Stockall, 2014; Giangreco, Edelman, Luiselli, & MacFarland, 1997). Instructing staff on the principles of applied behavior analysis, such as content included in the training for Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT), can improve upon educators’ utilization of effective prompting and fading strategies (Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 2013).

Once 1:1 support is in place for a student, collecting data on the paraprofessional’s role can provide great insight into the student’s ongoing needs.  While it is customary to collect data focusing on student behavior, it is suggested that staff also self-monitor their own involvement with the student throughout the day.  Sample content may include the types of prompts being used, the number of prompts required, and the proximity of the paraprofessional to the student.  This information can be used to describe how the services are being used to support the student and point to areas in which the student requires further assistance.  For example, if a student has consistent difficulty with unpacking and organizing his belongings each day, a visual list or schedule can be implemented to orient the student to the required tasks with the goal of gradually removing the adult from the prompt. The visual prompt can remain in place long-term and allow the student to work independent of adult assistance. Continuous documentation indicating the need for verbal prompting can signal a potential concern, thus leading to the development of new intervention strategies specific to promoting self-sufficiency for the student.

Ongoing assessment should also help to determine if the 1:1 support is needed throughout the entire day or just for specific subjects or activities.  By reviewing the student’s schedule and targeted needs across environments, the paraprofessional can be scheduled for support only when necessary.  Thus, student independence can be promoted by fading the adult support from specific activities or subjects.  Fading may be done gradually, with the paraprofessional taking increasingly greater steps away from supporting the individual in each setting.  For example, a student may be accustomed to being escorted to the bathroom, between classes, or to the bus at the end of the day.  A plan for promoting the student’s independence would consider whether the student could learn to navigate these transitions on their own or perhaps with a peer.  Rather than relying on the adult to prompt the student, alternate strategies should be investigated.

As educational teams plan how to support students, focusing on long-term goals for greater independence will serve a student well by preparing him/her for the future.  Collecting data throughout the fading process can help to pinpoint any new concerns, allowing the team to consider novel strategies for helping the student and maximizing opportunities for self-sufficiency.

References

Asher, M. J., Gordon, S. B., Selbst, M.C., Cooperberg, M. (2010). The Behavior Problems Resource Kit: Forms and Procedures for Identification, Measurement, and Intervention. Champaign, IL: Research Press.

Behavior Analyst Certification Board (2013). Registered Behavior Technician Task List

Causton-Theoharis, J.N. (2009). The golden rule of providing support in inclusive classrooms: Support others as you would wish to be supported.  Teaching Exceptional Children, 42(2), 36-43.

Doyle, M. B. (2008). The paraprofessional’s guide to the inclusive classroom: Working as a team (3rd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes

Giangreco, M.F. & Broer, S.M. (2007). School-based screening to determine overreliance on paraprofessionals.  Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 22(3).

Giangreco, M.F., Edelman, S., Luiselli, T.E., & MacFarland, S.Z. (1997). Helping or hovering? Effects of instructional assistant proximity on students with disabilities. Exceptional Children, 64, 7–18.

Giangreco, M.F., Halvorsen, A.T., Doyle, M.B. & Broer, S.M. (2004). Alternatives to overreliance on paraprofessionals in inclusive schools.  Journal of Special Education Leadership, 17(2), 82-90.

Hume, K., Loftin, R. & Lantz, J. (2009).  Increasing independence in autism spectrum disorders: A review of three focused interventions. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39(9), 1329-1338.

Stockall, N. S. (2014). When an aide really becomes an aid: Providing professional development for special education paraprofessionals. Teaching exceptional children46(6), 197-205.

Twachtman-Cullen, D. (2000). How to be a para pro: A comprehensive training manual for paraprofessionals. Higganum, CT: Starfish Specialty.

About the Author

Amy Golden, M.S., BCBA is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She received her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and graduate degree in Applied Behavior Analysis at St. Cloud State University.  agolden@behaviortherapyassociates.com

 

Teacher Talking To Students In College Class

Implementing Systematic SEL Practices (CASEL’s Cross District Initiative)

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By Karen Niemi, President and CEO, CASEL: Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning

As we have all experienced, the “how-to” of implementation is in high demand.  One of our efforts to respond to this demand, is the sharing of the experience and knowledge gained from districts in the Cross District Initiative (CDI) to bring SEL to many more students.

CASEL just launched a social and emotional learning (SEL) District Resource Center, a vast set of online guidance and practical tools to help districts and schools systemically implement practices that promote SEL. The District Resource Center’s collection of district curated resources may be extremely helpful for any educator, community leader, or policymaker interested in implementing SEL systemically in their schools.

The District Resource Center allows you to:

  1. Take the Priority Setting Questionnaire to help determine areas of focus for systemic SEL implementation.
  2. Explore the District Framework for the 10 essential areas for systemically implementing SEL throughout a district.
  3. Browse the Resource Library for 500+ tools and resources on a variety of implementation topics.

 

Click Here for a copy of the CDI Insights Report from CASEL.

Karen Niemi is President and CEO of CASEL: Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning.  She may be reached at kniemi@casel.org.

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6 Soft Skills You Need to Thrive At Work Right Now – And How To Build Them

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By Sara Potler LaHayne
 

For a long time we’ve bucketed the coping mechanisms that get us through life as “soft skills,” “non-cognitive skills,” or “non-IQ competencies.” They’re the skills that we cultivate or prioritize last, after Excel, PowerPoint, or project management systems. But despite crushing it at “hard skills” like writing, math or coding, it’s our ability to ride the waves of disappointment and rejection, pump others up, and stay constantly attuned to feedback in real, meaningful ways that help us rise above. We see it from colleagues who are so stressed and overwhelmed that they can’t compartmentalize projects or move them forward. We see it from friends who are going through a rough time and can’t find it in them to feel happiness for others’ successes. And we see it in ourselves, when we’re tired,losing perspective, and running on creative fumes. Research links the effects of stress on our performance and the value these traditionally classified “soft skills” hold in making or breaking our success. According to the Stress Response Curve, “when stress is perceived as uncontrollable or unmanageable, the person begins to experience a gradual to drastic decrease in performance levels, causing a decline in productivity and enthusiasm to respond to the stress.” Not to mention that without “soft skills” like communication and conflict transformation, teamwork can suffer from poor collaboration and a lack of critical thinking.

We’ve all heard the saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but studies show you actually can. Here’s how:

1. Active listening.

In order to respond to others and give them what they need to be empowered to succeed, they must feel heard and validated. We all are guilty of listening to a colleague ramble while drifting off to our pending to-do list. Active listening enables you to perceive both the words in an exchange and the feelings behind them, allowing for much greater understanding and empathy. We need to lean in with our ears and our bodies to show others we are truly present to what they are saying. Not only will the conversation be more productive, but our relationships will be built on respect. One way you can do this is by having each person on your team share their name and how they are feeling in that moment, along with a movement. Then have everyone repeat that back.This practice takes active listening to a new level, using imitation and synchronous movement to develop awareness and understanding through our bodies. By associating a thought or emotion with a movement, you are fostering kinesthetic empathy, or the idea that bodily experiences provide a type of knowledge that cannot be conveyed through words alone, allowing others to better connect with you and how you are feeling in that moment.

2. Self awareness.

In order to excel, we must be aware of what we need, and either give ourselves that, or seek it out. We have to be honest with where we’re falling short. We can’t listen to ourselves if we don’t give ourselves the space and time to go inward, to sit in silence, and reflect. Before we can express our emotions, we first need to name them. Studies show that a healthy sense of self awareness fosters improved communication skills, reduced stress and anxiety, increased empathy and resilience along with the ability to positively diffuse conflict. One tool you can use to cultivate mindfulness is to pay attention to your breath, noticing where you’re carrying weight or tension in your body and allowing yourself a few seconds at the beginning and end of every meeting to collect yourself.

3. Expressing emotions.

Once we’ve named and been able to identify how we’re feeling, we can move on to expressing those feelings in a healthy way. Research shows that suppressing or avoiding your emotions can make them stronger, causing them to bubble up and explode in an unproductive way. At the beginning or end of a meeting, try allowing each person to practice a healthy expression of emotions by sharing how they’re currently feeling in that moment and how they want to feel by the end of the day.

4. But then managing those emotions.

Now that we can identify and express our emotions, we have to manage them so that they don’t rule our lives. Managing stress and emotions allows us to watch those emotions come and go and not feel overpowered by them. Research shows that when left unregulated, chronic stress can result in physical health issues such as: stroke, asthma, stomach ulcers and heart disease. To practice managing your emotions, and supporting your colleagues to do the same, try naming one challenge you’re currently facing on a scale of 1-5 and one thing you need help with in working through that challenge. By containing this expression to a structured time in a meeting or workday, we’re holding one another accountable to working through and managing those stressors.

5. Discovering differences.

When we acknowledge diverse perspectives and backgrounds, we create an environment for healthy self expression and creativity. We understand that one person’s struggle is another person’s strength, and that our differences make us stronger. Cultivating resilience gives us the confidence to take big risks and support one another toward a common goal. Resilient individuals are proven to be more engaged, have improved communication, and are better team players.To create the space for this discovery, build in a few minutes at the beginning of a meeting for each team member to share what they’re most proud of that day, or one offering they would like to contribute to the group. The structured space for this sharing may illuminate gifts you did not know existed among your team.

6. Empathetic leadership.

Strengthening our soft skills and doing the self work is a lifelong journey that we will never complete, and if we don’t commit to the work ourselves, we can never expect our colleagues to do the same. We must continue to evolve and grow in how we make meaningful, authentic connections with ourselves and others. We must prioritize it and champion it, throughout the day and for all levels of our organization, because we know that soft skills are the coping mechanisms that allow us to navigate what work and life throw our way, and ideally thrive while doing it.

Want to learn more about cultivating “soft skills” and other ways to crush it at your 9-5? Subscribe to the Move This World blog today for weekly tips & stories.

Sara Potler LaHayne, slahayne@movethisworld.com, Founder & CEO of Move This World at www.movethisworld.com.
 

 

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Creating the Conditions in Support of Collective Wisdom

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by Terry Pickeral

My colleague, Dr. Maurice Elias authored a recent blog titled The Power of Collective Wisdom (link: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/power-collective-wisdom-maurice-elias). He discusses successful strategies to effectively implement education programs in high-risk environments.

According to Elias, “We increase our chances of success by tapping collective wisdom. That refers to the wisdom of our own school community, of other implementers of the same program, and of the wider implementation world.”

“Collective wisdom—referred to by such names as professional learning communities (PLCs), communities of practice, and networked improvement communities—allows each of us to benefit from the experience of many of us. Success is in the ongoing process, in being able to adjust to the inevitable and numerous deviations from the plan that will befall any school-based intervention attempt, even with the best evidence-based program,” continues Elias.

I believe that engaging others in our implementation strategies is a critical element to deepen and broaden an education program and corresponding practices.  However from my experiences there are inherent challenges to creating and sustaining effective collective wisdom communities in schools.

First, schools are not consistently organized to support school wide collaboration often structured on grade level and/or academic subject partnerships.

Second, teachers, staff and administrators are not always aware of the range of attributes of their colleagues and thus less able to maximize their contributions to collaborative strategies.

Third, schools may not create and sustain a safe environment for teachers, staff and administrators to share their experiences, ideas, strategies and resources.

Fourth, as we focus on the wisdom of our school community we do not always consider students, parents and community partners as potential members of our communities of practice.

Overcoming these challenges is not impossible as evidenced by the increasing number of schools committed to and trained for sustaining professional learning communities.  I believe schools can make creating and sustaining collective wisdom networks a priority if they:

  1. Focus on all school constituents;
  2. Ensure each is supported to contribute to the network;
  3. Understand the many attributes of colleagues and constituents and maximize their diverse knowledge, skills and dispositions;
  4. Measure and improve the school’s climate (quality and character) to provide a safe, equitable and engaging environment for each member of the network to effectively contribute; and
  5. Frequently monitor the progress and success of the network to continuously improve each participant’s attributes and the positive impact on students.

Maximizing the collective wisdom in schools can and should become a normal part of engagement, implementation and sustainability strategies ensuring each member of the school community contributes and benefits from these formal networks.

 

Terry Pickeral, has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations, evaluation and civic development. His commitment is to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens.

Link to Terry Pickeral’s Blog…

http://terrypickeral.com/index.php/2017/03/28/creating-the-conditions-in-support-of-common-wisdom/

 

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Social-Emotional Learning as a Pathway to Student Well-being, Confidence, and Success

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By Connie Sanchez, Executive Director, Unity Charter School, Morristown, NJ

Building a positive climate to reinforce a student’s Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) has been part of Unity Charter School’s culture and climate since its inception in 1998. Unity Charter School is located in Morristown, New Jersey and is a K-8 school. As a Positive Discipline school, we strive to ensure all of our students thrive academically, while developing the social-emotional skill set to be successful well beyond their Unity years.

At Unity Charter School, we understand the importance of social and emotional learning for the student’s wellbeing and as an important factor in contributing to a student’s confidence and success as a learner and as an active member of the school community. We strive to create relationships that allow our students to form positive attachments with each other and with adults, and to thrive. In addition, we are equally committed to maintaining a positive climate in which all stakeholders are supported. Teachers are supported with Positive Discipline professional development throughout the year and regularly scheduled sessions in which teachers help teachers to resolve problems with individual students in the classroom, self reflect, and expand their own skills. Parents are offered free workshops and ongoing opportunities to bring SEL concepts into the home environment.

We teach self-awareness, self-regulation, conflict resolution and reflective decision making skills throughout the school day by taking the time with students to model behaviors, use self and other affirming language, and make positive choices. Experiential integration is an important factor in supporting internalization of what we teach and practice during more structured class time, and during whole school meetings. We value our students’ competencies as learners and provide instructional opportunities that reinforce self-efficacy through collaboration, exploratory learning, questioning, and discovery. This instructional approach invites teachers to facilitate the learning process while students are trusted to construct meaning independently or collectively.

Unity Charter School does have more formal, structured times for students to learn, explore and practice social-emotional skills through daily 30 minute class meetings and whole school meetings.   Younger students in the lower school begin each day with a community meeting. During this time students compliment and acknowledge each other. They are introduced to visitors in the school, and celebrate special occasions in each other’s lives (e.g., birthdays, a sports victory, or a community service project). Class meetings provide daily opportunities for students and teachers to form relationships, to be seen as individuals, to understand cultural differences and to learn and practice new social skills in a supportive environment.

At Unity, we provide students many opportunities to develop their voices and to be heard. Students participate in Democratic Governance, make suggestions for improving campus life, and have their own Climate and Culture team. The administration and faculty has an open door policy where students are ecouraged to present ideas, voice concerns, or talk about challenges they face at home or at school.

We are aware that students come through our doors with histories and life challenges that may impede their abilities to learn these skills and we have developed a system of supports to help build trust and feelings of safety. One prevalent reason children struggle seems to be exposure to childhood trauma. Trauma -related experiences (particularly in childhood), undermine attachments, thereby creating a cycle of further trauma, intra psychic distress and alienation from sources of support.

To address this, we adopted a no suspension policy. Students who are struggling with secure attachment in school don’t benefit from being home suspended. Research indicates the contrary. At Unity students receive an alternative learning space assignment. They may spend the day with the Dean of Students, the Director of Curriculum or the Executive Director. This depends on who has an established relationship with the child. The day is spent doing classwork. This prevents a child from getting further behind and provides an opportunity to have heartfelt conversations with an adult they trust in school and to reflect on what has happened. The reflection continues that evening at home with the parent. In more extreme situations, Unity Charter School has established relationships with community resources. Support outside of school is coordinated with our Dean of Students, a member of our Special Education department and our School Counselor, whose primary job is counseling students.

Mutual respect, self-advocacy, and a sense of trust in the adults that surround them instills a willingness in our students to dare to be themselves in an atmosphere of acceptance while developing empathy and awareness for others. This frees them to delve into their passions and set a course for the future that reflects who they are as individuals who also have the ability to work collaboratively with others towards a common goal.

Connie Sanchez, Executive Director

EMAIL CONTACT: Connie.Sanchez@UnityCharterSchool.org