How we got the edtech resource we wanted

As classroom teachers, we are always on the lookout for new resources and services that will benefit every student in our school. One day we encountered an edtech resource that would deliver curated, safe, and vetted digital media to teachers that would empower them to create dynamic digital learning environments for their students.

While we knew the addition of this resource–Discovery Education Experience–would drastically shift the work and culture of our staff, thanks to incredibly supportive peers and administrators at both the school and district level, we felt inspired and empowered to create a path that would bring this service to our school while drastically shifting the work and culture of our staff. Together, we worked for change while delivering this valued instructional resource.

Related content: 6 ways to get teachers on board with edtech…Read More

Rigor and joy: SEL and academics go hand-in-hand

Demographics

McMinnville School District serves 6,800 students across 9 schools

Biggest challenge

We are a Title 1 school in rural Oregon with over 60 percent of our students experiencing poverty and our best estimate tells us that 36 percent have also experienced some sort of childhood trauma. These obstacles create barriers for our students coming to school ready to learn and thrive both academically and social emotionally. Our teaching staff was struggling with knowing how to meet both of these needs simultaneously, focusing on both SEL and academics. In our field, there is a false dichotomy that educators should focus on either SEL or academics, hence the unending pendulum swing in education. The truth is our kids need and deserve both simultaneously. We needed to foster a growth culture that fostered high expectations and support for the whole child.

Solutions

The transformational growth that we took on in our building could not have happened without growth mindset. The foundational belief that intelligence is malleable and that each child’s “true potential is unknown and unknowable.” (Dweck, 2006). We began this work by starting with the adults. We examined our own tendencies toward growth mindset messages and fixed mindset messages. We recognized that our systems often reflect past practice and can sometimes be obstacles to growth. We challenged one another to ask deep, difficult questions and foster each other’s learning as we tried new things. We sought to understand growth mindset not as a fad in education, but as ethical responsibility to understand and teach in ways that support brain development for our students.…Read More

The whys and hows of SEL implementation

CASEL, The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, defines social and emotional learning (SEL) as the “process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions.”

SEL implementation can be the underpinning of every action a principal or classroom teacher makes about their campus, classroom, or environment for students.

According to Jeff Goelitz, Director of Education at HeartMath Institute, during a recent edWebinar, SEL affects everything from systems and structure to climate, culture, and academics. “Everyone” is interested in SEL and buying into the theory and the models but the how can be a daunting challenge as school districts try to make it a priority. Rachelle H. Finck, Coordinator Social and Emotional Learning for Round Rock ISD, TX, remarks that when SEL programs are planned with intention, they become more of a philosophy than a black binder program.…Read More

Transform your staff lounge to support teacher wellbeing

[Editor’s Note: This article was first published on the Move This World blog.]

According to a study done by the University of Missouri, 93% of teachers are experiencing high levels of work-related stress. Mindfulness has already been proven to boost the emotional climate of the classroom by supporting teacher wellbeing; however, many schools still struggle with incorporating mindful practices for staff into school culture. What can schools do to begin prioritizing mindfulness as a daily routine for staff? Peace corners could be a place to start.

Related: 8 ways I practiced mindfulness this year…Read More

How to transform a library into a makerspace

In a recent edWebinar, hosted by edWeb.net, Michelle Luhtala, library department chair, and Donna Burns, technology integrator, both from New Canaan High School (NCHS) in Connecticut, showcased the transformation of the NCHS library from a collection of used reference and biography books into a living, breathing makerspace. Using mostly recyclable materials, equipment, and furniture, these educators are providing learning opportunities for students and teachers that have changed the school climate and culture. “Making learning more real for students allows them to learn better in a much more energized school,” said Luhtala.

A multi-year redesign

Through a five-year radical book-weeding process from 2011- 2016, the NCHS library had eliminated all of the library’s free-standing bookshelves. This process created both an opportunity and a challenge for Luhtala and Burns to convert this newly created space into a makerspace. With minimal funding in the early stages of the makerspace, the duo salvaged discarded lab tables and art stools and recycled material from all areas of the school.

Although this space was optimal for student making, organization and storage issues became the prime concern in the second year of the makerspace. Luhtala and Burns rescued much-needed shelving from the elementary school and clamped the refurbished shelves together to create an 80-bin storage system that provided teachers and students easy access to the makerspace materials.…Read More

How SEL inspired a transformation in my school

When I accepted the position as principal at Langley Elementary in Washington, D.C., I had two objectives in mind: one, to empower teachers who truly care about supporting the whole child, and two, to inspire a schoolwide culture shift.

Langley Elementary has historically struggled with dropping student enrollment numbers, a rise in suspension rates, and an unimpressive student satisfaction rate—all factors linked to an incohesive school culture. A rise in charter schools in the area has resulted in a competition between public and private education, and the gentrification of area neighborhoods has tension at an all-time high. With behavioral challenges and no defined philosophy of how to interact with students, Langley Elementary didn’t feel safe.

There was a disconnect between teachers, students, and parents that was impeding on the learning process. My answer to this was to ingrain social-emotional learning (SEL) in every aspect of the curriculum.…Read More

3 ways to navigate American politics in the classroom

In our current social climate, it can be tricky for anyone, especially a teenager, to talk about politics and the role of government. But as educators, it’s our job to explain the varying viewpoints that make up our political discourse. It’s also our job to foster an open, secure environment in which students feel safe to share their own opinions.

As an online instructor at a statewide public school, I’ve taught U.S. government and politics during two contentious election cycles. And although I live in California, a left-leaning state, I teach students from across the state whose core beliefs fall all along the political spectrum. From day one, I explain to students that respecting different viewpoints—even when you don’t agree—is part of building maturity. Here are three ways I build a culture of respect in my classroom.

1. Set guidelines
At the start of each session, I provide several rules for students about how we will discuss upcoming topics. Students must respect their classmates’ opinions and offer constructive criticism. I also remind them that I may revoke chat privileges if they do not adhere to these class rules.…Read More

Tips & resources to prevent cyberbullying

Each act of cyberbullying hurts students, disrupts classrooms, and affects your school’s culture and community. So how should you handle it? What should you do or say? And what can you do today that will help your students recognize, respond to, and avoid online bullying?

No matter how proactive you are, the reality is that students may still very well witness or experience cyberbullying. Acknowledging this and understanding how to deal with the aftermath is just as important as knowing how you can prevent it.

Changing the culture of how we both prevent and respond to cyberbullying can lead to powerful effects in the larger community. Rather than simply focusing on the consequences after the fact, we must guide students to understand that they have a choice in all their online relationships. They can say something positive or say something mean. They can create great community support around activities or interests, or they can misuse the public nature of online communities to tear others down.…Read More

Resources for creating a school culture of empathy, inclusion, and kindness

Since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we’ve heard from many educators who are looking for resources to support students’ social and emotional development. To help, we’ve collected our best social and emotional learning (SEL) resources for building a culture of safety, kindness, and upstanding in your school.

SEL Educator Toolkit
SEL skills aren’t core content, but they’re at the core of all content. Find lessons, activities, classroom tools, and family resources to help students learn about character strengths and develop empathy, compassion, integrity, and more.

Digital Citizenship and SEL
A key aspect of digital citizenship is thinking critically when faced with digital dilemmas. Navigating these challenges isn’t only about rules and procedures; it’s about character. Help students examine challenging online situations with this discussion guide.…Read More