Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools

Positive Relationships

30

Jul

SEL, Sports, and Character

by Maurice Elias, Co-Director, SEL Academy

We are in a contest with the larger forces in society, to determine whether our students will grow up to be confident, competent, capable, and of good character.  SEL is a key part of this contest.  Will your schools win, or not?

Maya Moore, forward for the WNBA team, the Minnesota Lynx, was named Sports Performer of the Year for 2017 by Sports Illustrated.  Here is what she says about winning:

 “I think it takes different types of winners to maintain a winning culture.

You have to have some winners who know how to win people, to [keep] people together with vision and perspective. Then you have to have toughness and resiliency because sustained excellence is way harder than it looks. You have to be able to bounce back and deal with disappointment, failure and weaknesses, and a lot of that happens behind the scenes for teams that are very successful.

I think a winner has to be a master of preparation, they have to be a master of connection, extremely competitive and have really high standards for themselves and the people around them. They have to be willing to put in that emotional energy to hold each other accountable. They have to have a lot of passion—sustained excellence takes conviction and passion and focus. When you are dealing with a team sport, you also have to be willing to adapt and be flexible.

“Hopefully, that is a pretty reasonable definition.”

 

https://www.si.com/sportsperson/2017/12/05/maya-moore-sports-illustrated-performer-of-the-year

SEL—and the successful education of our children—is a team sport.  Are you going to play to win, to ensure our children will be successful?

Maurice J. Elias, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
Rutgers University

 

 

30

Nov

Preventing Microaggressions: Creating a Safe Space to Discuss Race in the Classroom

By Chloe G. Bland, Ph.D., Chair, Psychology Department, Assistant Professor, College of Saint Elizabeth, Morristown, NJ

As white educator, my first and central responsibility is to become aware of the myriad power dynamics that exist in my classroom because any lack of awareness of my power, my privilege, and our shared cultural norms makes it very likely that I will perpetrate a microaggression as I interact with my students.

Therefore, I heighten my own awareness of where I personally fit in the system of power and privilege. As a faculty member, I always have power and privilege. Add to that white privilege and my own history of ignorance about race. It is incumbent upon me to use my power and privilege to support, validate, and legitimize discussion of race in the classroom. Otherwise I am in grave danger of creating a hostile environment for my students.

I find it important to keep up to date on strategies that work to reduce my own perpetration of microaggressions in the classroom. Sue, Lin, Torino, Capodilupo, & Rivera, (2009) suggest letting your students know that discussing race is okay by actively creating a safe space at the very beginning of the year. For example, this can be accomplished with activities where students get to bring a part of themselves to class and share it with the group.

The Artifact Game

I have used multiple variations on this theme. However, my favorite activity is the artifact game. I first learned this activity from Elizabeth Williams-Riley and Bari Katz at the Common Ground Institute sponsored by the American Conference on Diversity in January, 2016. Each student brings in an artifact—defined as some specific, tangible object but nothing more detailed than that so as not to influence students’ choices- that is representative of who they are, broadly construed. Everyone gets a chance to share their artifact and why it is important to them. The magic of this exercise is that it instantly exposes our complex identities. We often think we know our students, and our students often think they know their peers. Yet, there is always so much more beneath the surface.

Once we become familiar with each other’s nuanced identities, there is a palpable shift toward a kinder and more respectful classroom climate. I developed and teach a class called, The Psychology of Racism, where I do this exercise in the beginning of the semester, before we delve into the sensitive topic of racism. The atmosphere instantly changes. For example, I have had students from vastly different backgrounds and cultures begin to identify with each other. The personal stories that emerge from this exercise bring students closer and open a space for more difficult and deeper conversations.

Validating Feelings

Another important piece in creating an atmosphere that is safe for everyone is to validate experiences and feelings of all students. Too often, when race is discussed in a classroom setting white students get uncomfortable and try to shutdown or defend themselves (I know this from being the person who is uncomfortable with the discussion). Some of the subconscious avoidance tactics I have personally employed when finding myself in an uncomfortable discussion of race include eye rolling, shifting or slouching, doodling, fidgeting, becoming quiet or trying to defend oneself, or crying. While crying is not always problematic, it can be used by people in the majority culture to shut down conversations about race when they feel uncomfortable. Such reactions create an unsafe space for everyone in the class, but particularly for People of Color. The underlying message that is communicated when white students take these actions is, “I am fragile and refuse to engage with issues that challenge my worldview.”

Part of our jobs as instructor may include speaking to white students who display these typical reactions to discussions of race. When I was a scared white student just waking up to the racial realities in the United States, I believed anything I did or said was okay because I knew I was a good person and always had good intentions, even when i did or said something that offended those around me. I have learned that in fact, I was wrong. Good intentions do not have a privileged place in discussions of race. We must hold ourselves accountable for the effects of our words and actions, regardless of our intentions.

Chloe G. Bland, Ph.D., serves as Chair of the Psychology Department and Assistant Professor at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, NJ. Her email is cbland@cse.edu

 

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.

25

Oct

Bully

Teachers Can Impact Bullying More Than They Realize

Summary:  This article reports on programs that can help stop bullying and the role that SEL can play in creating safe spaces for students. The role that teachers can play in stopping bullying is also outlined in this article.

Source:  Amelia Harper, Education DIVE, October 24, 2017

Categories:  Anti-bullying, Positive Relationships, Classroom Practices, SEL Basics

13

Oct

Developing Professional Relationships That Work

Summary:  This article shares reflections on the importance of developing positive professional relationships with colleagues and supervisors, offering some “guiding principles” on developing a positive climate.

Source:  Carl Draeger, Education Week, September 27, 2017

Categories:  Positive Relationships, School Culture/Climate, Teacher Collaboration, Emotional Intelligence

12

Oct

Reading

Parents! Live Your Life With Integrity Every Day

Summary:  This article from Linked-In explains why it is important for parents to model the values they want to instill in their children.  The article also suggests some behaviors that will help parents be strong role models for their children.

Source:  Maurice Elias, Linked-In, October 12, 2017

Categories:  Positive Relationships, Core Values, Parenting

12

Oct

“Our Students’ Relationships Start With Our Own”: A Special Educator’s Open Letter to Teachers

Summary:  This is an open letter from a special education teacher to her teacher colleagues which makes a number of points about differences and similarities between special education teachers and general education teachers.  One of the main points is that positive relationships between teachers leads the way to positive relationship between students.

Source:  Sasha Long, Education Week, October 11. 2017

Categories:  Positive Relationships, Special Education, Educational Equity, Empathy

11

Oct

Positive Words Go a Long Way

Summary:  This article talks about the long lasting effects of positive language and support for student effort.  The author suggests five ways that positive language can be used to empower students.

Source:  Alissa Nucaro, Edutopia, October 2, 2017

Categories:  Classroom Practice, Positive Relationships, School Culture/Climate

11

Oct

Social-Emotional Learning Can Begin on the Bus Ride

Summary: This article reports on a project at Butler University where bus drivers were trained on how to form positive relationships with students during their rides to and from school and how to teach them ways to cope with stressful situations at home or during the school day.

Source:  Amelia Harper, Education DIVE, October 10, 2017

Categories:  SEL Basics, Emotional Intelligence, School Culture/Climate, Positive Relationships

22

Sep

Compassion as a Classroom Management Tool

Summary:  This article shares the reflections of a second-year teacher on her change of heart in how she managed her classroom.  Instead of using an approach characterized by strict rules enforcement, she adopted an approach based on compassion and caring for her students.

Source:  Andrea Marshbank, Edutopia, September 19, 2017

Categories:  SEL Basics, Emotional Intelligence, Positive Relationships, Classroom Practice