On the Journey 

news reel: stories of People, places, and learning AT Aspen Country Day School
Professional development: a top social-emotional learning conference
Posted 10/21/2019 05:54PM
ACDS Professional Development News

Morgan, Mary, and Brenda attended the Social and Emotional Learning Exchange hosted by CASEL (Collaborative for Academic and Social Emotional Learning) in Chicago on October 2-4. The inaugural conference presented groundbreaking work in social and emotional learning practice, research, policy, and communication. It was an opportunity for us to experience meaningful learning and networking and exchange ideas with people from other schools around the world.

One of Brenda's favorite parts of the Exchange was the Pre-Conference session called "Building Parent-Educator Partnerships and Emotional Development: Leading with Heart and Cultural Humility" presented by Jennifer Miller, M.Ed. from Confident Parents Confident Kids and Shannon Wanless, Ph.D from the Office of Child Development at the University of Pittsburgh. In this day-long workshop, Miller and Wanless acknowledged that parents are the primary teachers for children's social and emotional development, however, many have little support and few tools to learn about how to manage this complicated role. At school, educators also have a responsibility to teach social and emotional learning, using a variety of tools available. At times, though, they sometimes have a limited connection to families' SEL approaches, which can vary based on culture, background, and beliefs.

Some of the highlights of the day included conversation around cultural humility -  the "ability to maintain an interpersonal stance that is open to others in relation to aspects of cultural identity that are most important to an individual." In other words, it's important to understand where others are coming from, without necessarily agreeing with them; approach one another with empathy, as opposed to judgment. If parents and educators can interact with a set of agreements that include being respectful, leading with curiosity, adopting a positive mindset, asking questions, and listening, we are more likely to partner productively as we raise and educate children. We are ALL role models for young people, whether we are raising them in the home or teaching them in the classroom. It's important that we team together to bring our unique perspectives and experiences to bear when helping to develop children who are healthy in mind and body.

Morgan's most valuable takeaways came from a breakout session called "Cultivating Emotional Well-being in Educators: Challenging Our Thoughts and Beliefs About Our Emotions," presented by Amy Eva, Ph.D and Vicki Zakrzewski, Ph.D. from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. The primary focus of this session was to examine our beliefs about emotions and how they might influence our relationships with students, colleagues, and parents. We explored our cultural backgrounds and childhood experiences that create the lens with which we perceive our relationships and the outer world. This experiential workshop helped to broaden our views of other people's expression of emotion. Emotion is simply a reaction to an event. It is information. Our guiding question was "If emotions can ultimately serve as tools to guide our responses, how might we teach ourselves (and others) to cultivate these tools?"

Cognitive reappraisal is our primary tool to shift our interpretations of a situation or event. It can help to lessen both emotional and physical feelings of anxiety. It can also be used to reduce depression after stressful experiences. Try it today! Use this worksheet to challenge your thoughts around a recent situation that was difficult for you emotionally.

For Mary, the most relevant workshop was co-led by Adlai Stevenson School District employees Michelle Backes and Courtney Croak, representing the Family & Consumer Sciences program, out of Lincolnshire, Illinois. They presented the STAR Model as an action framework to integrate social emotional learning within classroom instruction. The five pointed star is broken down into five practices which represent the foundation for building SEL culture.

  1.  Emotional Safety:  Students Feel - Responsible Decision Making
    Students need to feel accepted, supported and valued by others in school in order to try new things in learning.

  2.  Growth Mindset:     Students Believe - Self Management
    Students will not be penalized for mistakes when learning. They need to believe they will learn. They can persevere through setbacks. Teachers need to model and give feedback with growth mindset language.

  3.  Meaning & Purpose:  Students Strive - Social Awareness
    Students need to know why they are learning and find meaning in experiencing new things. Students recognize the connection with the grit to strive in school and life. 

  4.   Belonging & Structure:  Students Support - Relationship Skills
    Students utilize group learning, collaboration and collective commitments which encourage interaction and active listening. All students are valued, perspectives of others are respected, and gratitude is expressed for contributions.

  5.  Student Reflection: Students Actively - Self Awareness
    Students need to be involved in their learning and accountable for their progress and goal setting. Goals, both academic and social, need to be set and evaluated on a regular basis.

Mary says, "My take away from this discussion is how the five core values at ACDS embody the responsive and responsible classroom setting so all students are set up for success. The five STAR action framework creates SEL opportunities with the classroom culture; regardless of the type of class being taught or the age of the student. The points of the star represent a student's emotional growth:  emotional safety, growth mindset, meaning & purpose, belonging & structure and student reflection. All of these compliment our Community Code at ACDS: respect, responsibility, perseverance, character and community."

Brenda, Morgan, and Mary are grateful to have had the opportunity to continue their professional growth by attending the CASEL conference. They came away with new ideas, and they also felt validation that ACDS is doing good work in the field of social emotional learning.

For an archive of last year's 
On the Journey, click here;
For the year before, 
click here.

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