Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools

Character Education

15

Jun

Developing a Sense of Duty: True Commitment Runs Deep

by Tara E. Laughlin, Ed.D., Director of Readiness Curriculum, tlaughlin@pairin.comwww.pairin.com

Duty.  It’s a word which can be applied in many contexts:

  • Moral duty
  • Legal duty
  • Civic duty
  • Active duty

…or even

  • Job duties

No matter how you shake it, duty is all about a sense of commitment.  This commitment is the force that drives a person to push forward, even when things get tough, pursuing desirable outcomes like a safe community, success on the job, or a healthy relationship.

Not everyone is born with a strong sense of duty, and that’s okay.  Fortunately, it can be developed over time through intentional practice of an important underlying skill: self-discipline.

SELF-DISCIPLINE

Self-discipline is the ability to get yourself to take action regardless of the circumstances.  Author Steve Pavlina offers five pillars of self-discipline:

To improve your self-discipline, and thereby, your sense of duty, follow these five pillars:

Pillar 01 – Acceptance: Identify and accept where your self-discipline could be strengthened, and determine what you can do to improve it.

  • For example, someone may identify that their self-discipline is weak when it comes to making healthy food choices. To improve this, they might decide that they need to start weekly meal planning, choosing recipes with fresh, natural ingredients, and cooking all meals at home.

 

Pillar 02 – Willpower: Willpower is a short, powerful burst of energy directed toward a particular goal. It does, however, eventually run out.  Therefore, you need to create an environment for yourself in which, once your willpower does run out, you are more likely to keep pushing forward.

  • If a person’s self-discipline challenge is making poor food choices, they might change their environment by throwing away all of their junk food. This way, when their willpower runs out, they are surrounded by healthy foods, and staying healthy, while not guaranteed, will be easier.

 

Pillar 03 – Hard Work: Pillar 01, Acceptance, has you accept that there is some area of your life where your self-discipline is lacking.  Overcoming this will inevitably be hard.  That’s where Pillar 03, Hard Work, comes in.  You need to stop avoiding the hard work, and dig in. 

  • A person whose self-discipline challenge is making poor food choices is avoiding the hard work of consistently choosing healthy foods.

 

Pillar 04 – Persistence: Persistence is maintaining action toward a goal regardless of the circumstances.  Remaining persistent means you need to keep plugging along because ultimately, it’s your action toward the goal, not your intentions or motivation, which will help you accomplish it.

  • After the first round of healthy food has all been eaten, our friend who makes poor food choices needs to create the next week’s meal plan, return to the grocery store, and make healthy choices all over again.

 

Pillar 05 – Industry: While the first four pillars focus on addressing an area where your self-discipline is lacking, industry is putting in the necessary time on life’s little tasks. While you’re laser-focused on improving your self-discipline, the rest of life will keep happening around you.  You’re still responsible for keeping up with the little things, such as cleaning your house, answering emails, texting people back, and getting work done.

 

The example shown throughout reflects a person seeking to improve their self-discipline when it comes to diet, committing to a healthier lifestyle.  Commitment can take many forms, however.  Do you want to commit to becoming more productive at work?  To getting organized?  To raising your kids right?  How about to improving your community?  Your country?  Regardless of the goal, the more closely you can align yourself with these five pillars of self-discipline, the stronger your sense of duty will become.  It’s time to take the plunge.  Are you committed?

(For more information on strategies to improve social and emotional skills, visit pairin.com to learn about our SEL curriculum.)

 

 

 

2

Jun

Happy students

THE HARD PART ABOUT SOFT SKILLS

THE “HARD” PART ABOUT “SOFT SKILLS”

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

“Hard skills” are often thought of as the occupational skills necessary to complete the tangible elements of a job….”Soft skills” can be seen as the behavioral ways in which people go about their occupational tasks. Leadership requires a sophisticated approach to both.    Brian Evje, Inc., Nov. 8, 2012

Those of you who read my monthly blogs know that I am enthusiastic about teaching students social skills, emotional skills, thinking skills, and positive character traits.

Over the past few years, business people have been talking and writing about the skill development of employees focusing on the need for developing their “soft skills.” I read that CEOs are starting to talk about wanting employees who are trustworthy, empathetic, adaptable, who can manage their emotions (self control), and have the skills to be better decision-makers. It has been reported that 85 percent of those who lose jobs do so because of inadequate social skills, and that children who scored high on social skills were four times as likely to graduate from college than those who scored low.

In early April, Phil Blair, co-founder of Manpower San Diego, wrote an advice column in the Business Section of the San Diego Union Tribune (4-9-18) titled “Turning Your Soft Skills Into Your Strongest Talents.” Blair noted that business executives reported that among the “technical” talents employees bring to their work and the workplace, there is a need for employees to learn and demonstrate “soft skills” – behavioral attributes such as “adaptability, cultural competence, empathy, intellectual curiosity and 360-degree thinking.”

The Graduate School at the University of Cincinnati compiled a list of the 10 top soft skills that employers seek (with definitions not included here).

  1. Leadership
  2. Teamwork
  3. Problem Solving
  4. Flexibility
  5. Creativity
  6. Commitment
  7. Communication
  8. Motivation/Initiative
  9. Dependability/Reliability
  10. Time Management

https://grad.uc.edu/student-life/news/soft-skills.html

In addition, there have been numerous discussions about students and employees learning and using “21st century skills.” There are an abundance of skill lists. A couple of examples will give you the “skill picture” of the future.

One group’s list includes:

  • Ways of Thinking (creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, and learning)
  • Ways of Working (communication and collaboration)
  • Tools for Working (information and communications technology, and information literacy)
  • Skills for Living (citizenship, life and career, and personal and social responsibility)

According to this group’s team managers, the two skills that cut across all four categories are “collaborative problem solving” and “learning in digital networks.”

The Thoughtful Learning Group notes that 21st century learning skills are captured in the 4 C’s: critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating, and collaborating.

Critical thinking is focused, careful analysis of something to better understand it.

Creative thinking is expansive, open-ended invention and discovery of possibilities.

Communicating involves a range of skills such as analyzing, evaluating, reading, speaking, writing, etc.

Collaborative skills require one to be engaged in team building, resolving conflict, managing time, etc.

This May blog offers the what and why but says little about how. I will leave that to you and your colleagues. I think it is fair to say that “hard skills” (STEM) gives one the occupational/technical skills to make a living (smart) and the “soft skills” (character education) helps one make that living worthwhile (good).

The 80/20 Rule: It was established back in 1918 by Mann’s study on engineering education that approximately 80 percent of success is due to soft skills while 20 percent is due to hard skills.  –  National Soft Skills Association, August 3, 2017

24

Apr

The Principal: Character, Collaboration, Commitment

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

This blog was written as a direct result of reading David Brooks’s column, “Good Leaders Make Good Schools which I will summarize below. The column topic reminded me of previous notes and publications that I wrote about school leadership.

For example, several years ago, I published an article in the Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education, and Development (September 2000, Vol. 39, Issue 1) titled, “Leadership for Character Education Programs.” I suggested school principals and program leaders should be visionaries, missionaries, consensus builders, knowledge sources, standard bearers, architects, role models, communicators, collaborators, resource providers, and evaluators. For each responsibility, I offered commentary about the “what and why.”

Elsewhere, I wrote described two views about character and leadership.

One was that of Zenger and Folkman (The Extraordinary Leader) who made a clear case that “Character is the center pole, the core of leadership effectiveness.”

The other was a summary of the Turknett Leadership Group’s “Leadership Character Model.” Their view is that “Leadership is about character – who you are not, what you do.” Their model includes three core qualities as the keys of leadership character:

  1. Integrity [honesty, credibility, trustworthy];
  2. Respect (empathy, lack of blame, motivational mastery, humility); and
  3. Responsibility (self-confidence, accountability, focus on the whole, courage).

(www.turknett.com)

Current research about school principals is exciting and informative. The Knowledge Center at www.wallacefoundation.org contains more than 70 publications about school leadership. In my readings of a few of the reports, I found evidence that effective principals establish leadership teams, led by the principal, assistant principals, and teacher leaders. Team members shared responsibility for student progress.

Another discovery (at least for me) was that effective principals encourage collaboration “paying special attention to how school time is allocated.” Another study reported that, coupled with collaboration, “principals who rated highly for the strength of their actions (commitment) to improve instruction were also more apt to encourage the staff to work collaboratively.” Note this important finding, “When principals and teachers share leadership, teachers’ working relationships with one another are stronger and student achievement is higher.”

Now, all of this information is what I call “in-house stuff.” My point—the public knows little about these significant findings.

Thus, it is left to journalists and the media to bring this important information to the public, especially parents, board members, and community leaders. David Brooks did this in his column, “Good Leaders Make Good Schools” (NYT, 3-12, 2018).

In brief, here is what he wrote.

     If you want to learn how to improve city schools, look how Washington D.C.,

     New Orleans, and Chicago are already doing it.

     Restructuring schools and increasing teacher quality don’t get you very far without a strong principal.

How do they do this he asks? His answer, “They build a culture…set by their behavior (character).”  

He also notes that “it takes five to seven years for a principal to have full impact on a school….When you learn about successful principals, you keep coming back to character traits they embody and spread: energy, trustworthiness, honesty, optimism, determination, and promotes a collaborative power structure.”

In bold type he writes a key finding from researchers who studied principals in 180 schools across nine states and concluded, “We have not found a single case of a school improving its student achievement record in absence of talented leadership.”

Brooks concludes, “We went through a period when we believed you could change institutions without first changing the character of the people in them. But we were wrong. Social transformation follows personal transformation.”

The question for current school principals posed by Baruti K. Kafele, an award-winning former urban principal in New Jersey: “Is my school a better school because I lead it?”

His answer:

“It’s my strong belief that to lead your school forward, you must consider this question daily. To answer this question affirmatively, you must be absolutely clear about who you are as the school leader, what your mission is, what purpose drives your work, and how you envision the future of your leadership and school. These characteristics determine who you are, what you’re about, why you’re about it, and where you are going. They serve as a mirror for why you do this work in the first place. You must lead your school with the confidence to say, ‘Yes, my school is, in fact, a better school because I lead it.’ And when you do, students win.”

https://www.sandiego.edu/soles/character-education-resource-center/

Edward DeRoche, Ph.D.

Character Education Resource Center, Director

deroche@sandiego.edu

University of San Diego

5998 Alcala Park

San Diego, CA 92110

22

Nov

GRATITUDE: At Work, Home, and School

 

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.

1

Oct

Opt for Dignity: Teach Children to Value Themselves and Others

Summary:  This article contains a podcast where Tim Shriver, chair of CASEL and of the Special Olympics,  shares information about his life and about the importance of Social-Emotional Learning.

Source:  Tom VanderArk, Education Week, September 27, 2017

Categories:  SEL Basics, SEL Research, Character Education, Emotional Intelligence

18

Sep

Preschoolers

The Evidence Base for Supporting Students’ Social, Emotional, and Academic Development

Summary:  This link to the Aspen Institute provides insights and materials which provide evidence for the importance of Social-Emotional Learning in how students learn.  There are links to a streamed recording of the research symposium as well as a link to the research brief produced by the Aspen Institute.

Source: Jacqueline Jodl, Director, National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development, The Aspen Institute, September 15, 2017

Categories:  SEL Basics, SEL Research, Student Achievement, Character Education

31

Aug

How Ending Behavior Rewards Helped One School Focus on Student Motivation and Character

Summary:  This article focuses on the topic of extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation.  Several schools are used as examples where the rewards system was changed to an intrinsic system and the resulting benefits that this provided to the schools in terms of character education.

Source:  Linda Flanagan, KQED News, August 29, 2017

Categories:  Character Education, Motivation, Core Values, School Culture/Climate

23

Aug

Teaching Love Over Hate: A Response to the Charlottesville Incident

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

16

Aug

Charlottesville VA

The First Thing Teachers Should Do When School Starts is Talk About Hatred in America. Here’s help.

Summary:  This article from the Washington Post presents some ideas about how to handle the inevitable questions from students about Charlottesville as school begins this year.  There are many resources that are listed in the article that may be helpful in guiding discussions as schools start the 2017-18 year.

Source: Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, August 13, 2017

Categories:  Core Values, Educational Equity, Classroom Practice, Empathy, Positive Relationships, Character Education

16

Aug

3 Important School Leadership Lessons From Charlottesville

Summary:  This article presents a reaction to the events in Charlottesville, VA on August 12 and how school leaders might use these events as a springboard to teaching, communicating, and focusing on understanding all students.

Source:  JIll Berkowitz and Ann Myers, Education Week, August 15, 2017

Categories:  Classroom Practice, Educational Equity, Core Values, Positive Relationships, Character Education