That’s the impetus behind a new web site, www.selforteachers.org, devoted to showcasing teachers’ instructional practices in social and emotional learning (SEL) that we at Education First are launching with support from NoVo Foundation. For the past few years, we’ve worked with NoVo and partners such as the Collaborating Districts Initiative to study and write about how districts and schools are implementing SEL. In addition, two years ago, we launched the SEL Innovation Fund to award mini-grants to teachers across the country with promising ideas to implement SEL, and with that came a flood of requests to see how their peers were using SEL.
With the new web site, we wanted to go beyond the surface and spend time in classrooms to ask a few questions: What are promising instructional practices that teachers are using to build their students’ SEL skills? What does it mean to truly integrate SEL into academic instruction and the school day so that it isn’t “one more thing” for teachers? What structures at a classroom or school level – ranging from how rooms are arranged to how teachers collaborate – enable teachers to reinforce SEL skills?
So we hit the roads and the skies to find out. In Los Angeles, we visited two charter schools that brought SEL guiding principles to life through thoughtfully planned structures such as daily advisory classes. In Nashville, we visited classroom where students with interrupted formal education – primarily refugees displaced from their home countries –engaged in developing SEL competencies such as self-management and self-awareness alongside math and English. And in Elk Grove, Ill., outside of Chicago, we watched teachers collaborate on SEL instructional strategies during a weekly professional development meeting.
As you’ll see on the web site, if our primary goal was to go deeper, we wanted to show, not tell. Everywhere we went, we took a camera crew with us to document how teachers infused SEL into their classrooms. The web site features videos from each district, as well as artifacts (lesson plan, templates) that teachers were eager to share. This was a new approach for us, too: Instead of writing a paper or creating case studies, we filmed teachers and students and tried to tell their stories in their own words.
Teachers and principals are hungry for ideas when it comes to SEL strategies. A national survey of teachers conducted for the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) showed that 93 percent of teachers surveyed believed it was very important or fairly important for schools to develop students’ SEL skills – but just 44 percent of teachers report that teaching SEL skills is happening in an organized and programmatic way in their schools. Teachers have much to learn from each other, and we hope that our web site will inspire them to work with their colleagues on concrete ways to bring SEL into their classrooms.
There’s no limit to how deep we can go. Stay tuned for future videos on the web site that will feature more teachers from across the country sharing their SEL instructional practices – how best to embed SEL within academic content, for example, or which instructional strategies work particularly for students with disabilities. Please send us your feedback, and let us know what promising SEL instructional strategies you’re building in your schools.
Thanks for reading. Now, go deeper.