Let’s Keep the Fire Burning

By Gina Pin, #SELinAction Series

We had a great time connecting at #SELinAction in October but it feels like years have gone by. Many of you told us that you wanted to stay connected with each other so that you could keep the momentum, and connections, going. As our friend Gina Pin put it, “I need to be pushed back into the warmth regularly so that I can stay fired up and inspired by the relationships and the ideas shared by the journeymen and journeywomen who epitomize SEL in Action.”

Gina hosted a conversation on Tuesday, December 12 at 8-9pm Eastern to reignite our collective frame and bring the SELinAction community back together. Here’s what we heard!


Creating the spark: Challenges in getting started

As we saw in New Mexico, social-emotional learning can take so many forms in schools and can grow in incredibly creative ways. So, how do you find the right path for your students, and where do you start?

Teachers shared that the keys were connecting SEL with what they were already doing, and being intentional about habits that support it.

Betty Skiles of the University Laboratory School in Honolulu, HI shared that she “started with moments of quiet — it wasn’t anything terribly structured. I did it everyday. It became something bigger — it’s not just about students settling down.”

Chris Poulos of NNSTOY and the Joel Barlow High School in Redding, CT participated in a RULER training with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence that helped him structure a pilot in his school.


The power of peer mentoring

Peer mentoring was a common theme, and multiple high school educators in the chat had found this strategy beneficial for their schools.

Like Chris, Melissa Gentile of Central High School in CT is using the RULER program in her school by infusing the practices into the peer mentoring curriculum. She’s seen a measurable impact on attendance and observed strong bonds between students that have made the school feel more like a family.

At Cumberland Regional High School in NJ, Jaime McEwan found that the “bond between freshman and seniors showed the power of starting on a positive note” both in terms of academic benefits and school-wide culture. The class is an elective with a character education focus on the transition to high school. Freshman are selected based on 8th grade counseling sessions. 

Jessica Williams of South Anchorage High School in AK creates connections with the lower 48 by teaming up with a group in Wisconsin. Like Jaime, her program focuses on the transition to high school. She’s helping to expand this homegrown program this year, and thinking about how to involve student leaders.

We will be diving more deeply into peer mentoring in a future chat!


Making SEL stick

In New Mexico, we heard many of you share concerns about sustainability and spreading practices within your buildings. During the chat, this community shared some great ideas for building SEL momentum!

Gina has found in her work with adults that it helps to infuse SEL rather than compartmentalize this. Jessica expanded by saying that we “need to help adults see that they are already doing this work [and] can be more intentional about it, but that’s really all we need to do. It starts to unfold more and more on its own — you have to call it out and share it with peers.” 

Betty shared how she is helping to shift adult mindsets by thinking of teachers as researchers. She is collecting data on students that are practicing mindfulness and measuring impact with the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale, and a teacher perception scale. By taking a small amount of time to measure progress, she is able to see long term benefits to SEL practices.


Great reads for the holidays and beyond



Feeling inspired to stay connected with this community?

It was energizing to hear each of your SEL interests and to uncover ways that you can support each other. In addition to these chats, we’ll be offering opportunities for you to come together around  the nuts-and-bolts of how to implement SEL practices within your schools. Problem of practice groups, buddy pairings, and a workshop on spreading SEL will launch in January.