The Compassionate Parent Summer Series!

Summer is here and school is out! Summertime often allows us the opportunity to spend more time with our children and The Center for Nonviolent Communication provides some incredible parenting tips that we believe you will find useful! Here is the first part in our summer series:

“Is your intention to connect or to correct? Parents who can define their parenting purpose or intention can help meet children’s vital needs, including stability, security, safety and guidance.

What is your purpose or intention? To correct and manage your children or to connect with and enjoy them?

For one week, count the number of times in a day you correct your child, and then count the number of times you connect. Which number is greater? What might this information tell you?”

~The Center for Nonviolent Communication

One way to connect with your child is by making something special with them. Since Father’s Day is coming up, here is a great way to bond with your child and be prepared for this Sunday!

Fathers Day Card Craft

Here are the instructions for this Father’s Day idea and many more you can do with your children!

Crafts with your Kids!

Making time for family dinners is another way to connect with your children. This Emotional Life, a series developed to improve our social well-being and development provides many resources as well as this blog with more suggestions on 10 Tips to Connect with Your Child.

SEL Highlights 2012-2013 Travis High Vertical Team

This week we start off by celebrating Travis High Vertical Team’s successes. Please read on to hear about some of  their many accomplishments this school year!

The Travis Vertical Team’s staff is passionate!

  • Everyone got off to a great start this year, and each school has unique strengths.
  • Overall increased student and staff investment in school (seen in climate surveys and attendance) and decreased discipline referrals.  One example:  This year the staff perception in this vertical team that “Overall, my school is a good place to work and learn” increased 11 points more than the district average!
  • Every school achieved No Place For Hate (NPfH) status!
  • Leaders in all schools are reflecting, building on successes, and addressing challenges to make next year even better.
  • Every school plans to increase consistency and depth, including setting aside time in the schedule for teachers to teach SEL lessons to kids simultaneously, and to plan and share best SEL practices with colleagues.

Travis HS

Travis High School students and staff create “I Can” posters together for a visual reminder of the positive self-talk that we teach students to exhibit at all grade levels

Travis High School’s staff gets involved!

  • Formed a robust Steering Committee that met weekly to provide engaging materials and training to support their peers teaching SEL lessons in Advisory for all students.
  • Character education lessons were woven into athletics.
  • Extensive surveys and focus groups with staff and students guided planning for next year – students will participate in SEL explicit instruction lessons, student interest activities like cooking, and academic monitoring.
  • Next year’s focus:  Consistency.

Travis HS staff

Travis Steering Committee enjoying a meal together while taking a break from planning for next year

Fulmore Middle School’s staff is committed!

  • Consistently taught Second Step lessons in Advisory and planned and shared best practices with colleagues during PLC meetings throughout the year.
  • Steering Committee connected SEL with systems like Positive Behavior Support, No Place for Hate, and Peer Assistance Leaders, and sought extensive feedback from students and colleagues to continuously improve throughout the year.
  • Saw at least a 50% decrease in discipline referrals!

Next year’s plan:  Invest in the Steering Committee with 2 leads per grade level as “SEL Instructional Coaches” and “Integration Trailblazers,” and devote regular time during PLCs to planning and sharing SEL best practices.

Fulmore with faces

Fulmore PALS teach their peers how to resolve conflict peacefully

Becker Elementary School’s staff has clear, high expectations! 

  • Becker built on clear school-wide expectations to keep the focus on learning.
  • Teachers here found great success with writing integration, even in the lower grades.
  • Next year’s focus:  Build Second Step into school-wide vocabulary and systems, and deepen writing integration.

Becker with facesBecker students volunteer to share their writing about a time they showed compassion

Dawson Elementary School’s staff is supportive!

  • Dawson teachers go out of their way to ensure students and adults feel welcome and supported on their campus.
  • SEL provided a framework to align robust and meaningful NPfH and character education programs with Second Step and other resources.
  • Next year’s focus:  Consistency.


Every bulletin board and conversation at Dawson affirms the whole child

Linder Elementary School’s staff is nurturing!

  • Linder offers a warm, caring, and positive school climate that enables risk-taking – students constantly practice their teamwork skills by working with peers.
  • SEL built on robust and meaningful PBIS expectations and PALs and NPfH programs.
  • Next year’s focus:  Consistency and assertiveness.

linder with faces

Linder teacher leads students in hands-on guided math

Travis Heights Elementary School’s staff values collaboration!

  • Travis Heights’ students work collaboratively on real-world projects regularly.
  • They became a student-centered charter school that will feature service learning as one of 3 main instructional models with overwhelming support from parents and teachers.
  • Every staff member recognized the importance of doing the SEL lessons weekly and committed to teach them on the same day at the same time next year.
  • Next year’s focus:  Consistency.

Travis Heights

Travis Heights students each decorated a letter to create a visual reminder about teamwork in the classroom

Uphaus Early Childhood Center’s staff is innovative!

  • Uphaus has clear school-wide expectations for students, even in their first year.
  • Conscious Discipline is the why, and Second Step is the how, that they help students grow socially and emotionally.
  • Next year’s focus:  Build Second Step into school-wide vocabulary and systems.


Every morning Uphaus students choose a greeting to receive from their teacher

Mendez Middle School’s staff has soul!

  • Mendez uses Capturing Kids Hearts to develop caring relationships with students school-wide.
  • Approached No Place for Hate in a unique way – through Physical Education classes and grade level assemblies.
  • Next year’s plan:  Consistency – SEL Leaders in each grade level will support colleagues during Advisory and regular planning time will be devoted to SEL planning, sharing best practices, and professional development.

mendez with faces

Mendez administrators greet students as they enter the school in the morning

Houston Elementary School’s staff is encouraging!

  • Houston offers a warm environment that creates a sense of safety and stability for our students.
  • Though very consistent school-wide Second Step lessons on Monday mornings, teachers built a common language for SEL.
  • Next year’s focus:  Transferring SEL skills throughout school and community settings.


At Houston, messages from families encourage students to succeed

Rodriguez Elementary School’s staff is focused!

  • Rodriguez students use Total Physical Response to participate in their learning every day.
  • Though very consistent school-wide Second Step lessons on Monday mornings, teachers built a common language that connected with character education and NPfH.
  • Next year’s focus:  Transferring SEL knowledge into action in multiple settings.


Rodriguez’ students often respond with their thumbs

Widen Elementary School’s staff values student voice!

  • Widen’s students led school-wide assemblies, sharing and reinforcing what they learned about SEL.
  • SEL built on robust NPfH and character education programs this year.
  • Up Stander Wall of Fame – Students who stood up to bullying are recognized at an assembly where their action is told to the student body and they are given a certificate for their bravery to stand up for someone else.
  • Next year’s focus:  Consistency.


Widen’s students create posters to explain concepts like respect to their peers

The Compassionate Educator

Last week Manny Scott, one of the original  Freedom Writers came to speak to schools in AISD. His powerful message began with, ” I was once considered unreachable.” Manny spoke of his experiences in life and at schools and the impact it had on his self-esteem. Just a freshman in high school, he began to say, “People like me, we ain’t supposed to make it!” Manny asks us, “How do you reach that kid?”


Manny Scott-Original Freedom Writer 

“When your students come through the door, do you see them as whole human beings with their own thoughts, feelings, needs, talents, interests and gifts to share? Or do you see them as lazy, disruptive, wild, demanding and rebellious?

How do they feel about themselves?

How you think about your students at the beginning of each day and throughout the year often communicates what you believe about them far louder than your words.

Quickly write down ten descriptive words or phrases that come to mind when you think of your students. Might the way you think about them be affecting the way they are acting?”

-The Center for Nonviolent Communication

Scientific American magazine recently published an article about how stereotypes can hinder academic performance….Read about it here!

How to Expel Hurtful Stereotypes from Classrooms across the Country

And another recommended read on stereotype threat and how it can influence behavior and performance…….


The Compassionate Educator

On behalf of the AISD Social and Emotional Learning Department we would like to extend our greatest appreciation and thanks for your amazing dedication to our students! You are our gift!teacher-appreciation-week[1]

“More than anything else, human beings want to contribute to life — to share our gifts.

Our gifts vary widely; everyone has unique contributions to make. Your ability to recognize student gifts and to receive them allows every student to meet his/her needs for belonging and contribution.

Make a list of all the students in your class (especially those you are having trouble making a connection with) and write down their gifts as you see them. Add to this list on a regular basis.”

-The Center for Nonviolent Communication

The Compassionate Educator

Linder Elementary filled a whole bunch of buckets this week during STAAR testing! Primary teachers, students and staff showed empathy for the intermediate students and teachers that tested this week by “adopting” a class and showing them love and support in many creative ways. These bucket fillers gave out goodie bags to those that were testing and hung posters with words of encouragement to acknowledge all of the hard work their fellow students and colleagues have done this year. Thank you Linder Elementary for leading the way to our next tip in the compassionate educator series!
Linder Elementary

“One of our important needs is empathy.

To meet this need and to increase student-to-student connections in your classroom, consider organizing an empathy buddy system that students could be part of.

Set aside a time of the day or regular times in the week for students to share with each other, and give and receive empathy.”

-The Center for Nonviolent Communication

A Compassionate Educator

As we speak about our needs with those in our lives we begin to build connections and understanding. Look at our newest tip from our compassionate educator series:

“Learning is not the only need that students bring to school. They also bring their needs for belonging, fun, freedom and contribution. Unless these needs are acknowledged and met, students will not feel safe enough to fully engage in the learning process.

Create a needs inventory with your students — a list of all the needs they bring with them to school. At least once a week, ask everyone to look at the list and express how well their needs are being met at school.

Use this information as the basis for class discussion.”

Click on this link for an insight into what your students may be seeking in the classroom!

Needs Inventory

A Compassionate Educator

In the Filipino language they have a word “gigil” that expresses the urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute! In fact, many languages around the world have feelings words unique to their cultures. In English, we have over 400 words that can express our emotions. Find out more in our latest compassionate educator tip below:

“A wide-ranging feelings vocabulary provides deeper self-connection and an enhanced ability to express yourself to others. These skills can strengthen compassion in any learning environment.

Help your students enhance their feelings vocabulary.

With your students, make a list of feeling words, and try adding a new word a day for as many days as you can. Put your feelings vocabulary in a prominent place in your classroom.

Each time students feel an emotion that isn’t on the list, invite them to express it by saying it aloud or writing it on the board.”

Feelings & Emotions

A poster with visuals of different feelings helps students identify and label their emotions.

Feeling Words

Check out this list of feelings and emotions you can hand out to your students!

A Compassionate Educator

How often do we pick up on the nonverbal cues our students give us? Our body language sends a message that is often times more powerful than our words. Read the newest tip from our series:

“Body language can convey whether we are speaking from a “power over” or “power with” perspective.

What is your body language with your students? What is your body language communicating?

Regardless of how short a child is, to convey that we want to speak with them from a “power with” perspective, we can squat or sit down to talk with them eye-to-eye. We can invite students who are taller than we are to sit down so that we can talk eye-to-eye with them, as well.

Notice how often your students are looking up when they interact with you.”

A teacher and pupil

Here are some tips from the NEA website on how body language can help teachers establish a good rapport with their students!

NEA’s Tips for Teachers on Body Language

Self-Care for a Stress-Free April!

Exercise more, eat healthy snacks, get a good night’s sleep… We hear these mantras daily in the media suggesting the newest remedy to combat stress. Campuses are also coming up with creative ways to relieve stress.

Find out below what is working in our Austin schools as well as quick mood enhancers that are proven easy and effective. Travis Heights classroom climate - student snack sign up classroom community building and self-care

At Travis Heights, students sign up for healthy snacks to share with the class. 

How to promote self-care if you have 2 minutes:
  • Let someone know you’re thinking of them
  • Give kudos to someone
  • Send some possible dates to get together with someone
  • Smile
  • Stretch
  • Take a few deep breaths
  • Thank someone

Oak Springs April Fool Skit

Nothing beats a laugh to start off your day! The PALS at Oak Springs showcased their comedic talents at their morning seminar to alleviate some testing anxiety and take advantage of April Fools’ Day.

How to promote self-care if you have 5 minutes:
  • Send people in your life a brief personal update
  • Write a thank you card
  • Reflect on what you need relationally in your life right now, and can ask for
  • Respond to an email that’s been nagging you
  • Sit quietly
  • Have a brief conversation with someone you don’t normally interact with
  • Take a short walk

Travis Heights culture - lunch bunch movie watch

In another class at Travis Heights, students enjoy a movie during their lunch bunch. 

How to promote self-care if you have 30 minutes:
  • Play a game with a child or adult
  • Cook with someone
  • Go for a walk with a friend or family member
  • Eat lunch with a colleague
  • Have a “walking meeting” with someone rather than sitting in the office
  • Rearrange or spruce up your work area

Lee STARR Secrets

Lee Elementary students shared their testing tips by writing acrostic poems with their names
How to promote self-care ideas at school:
  • Start faculty, grade level, and department meetings with shout outs
  • Acknowledge the challenges we face, and how colleagues are overcoming them successfully
  • Acknowledge the hard work of our colleagues
  • Ask staff what would lower their stress levels and help them take care of themselves, then do that
  • Make sure all students and staff know how and when they will take breaks and eat during testing days and during any abnormal schedules
  • Hire a substitute for a day to give each teacher a short (~10 minute) break, and let them know in advance so they can plan for something productive for students to do while they are gone (maybe during a test)
  • Bring your own family members/loved ones to work functions and encourage others to do the same
  • Make sure school schedules, expectations, and procedures are crystal clear for staff and students
  • Have a regular, structured communication strategy (some combination of brief faculty meetings and staff bulletins)
  • Bring healthy snacks to school to give to staff with a message of appreciation for their hard work

STARR Secret Poem

Ben’s tip for the N in his name is an important reminder to us all!

A Compassionate Educator

As we begin to feel the pressures of the upcoming tests ahead, let us be reminded of this tip from our series:

“The emotional center of the brain is so powerful that negative emotions such as hostility, anger, fear and anxiety automatically downshift the brain to basic survival thinking.

Imagine the impact on student learning in an environment dominated by academic or social pressures, threats of punishment, or peer hostility.

In such an environment, the reasoning center of the brain shuts down and students automatically prepare to flee, fight, or freeze in our tracks. The brain is so thoroughly preoccupied with survival needs that students are literally unavailable for the complex activities of the mind that learning requires. Their curiosity, wonder, and ability to focus are usurped by a state of heightened vigilance and an immediate need for protection and security.

Look for instances of this happening in yourself and your students. Ask what you can do to enhance emotional safety in your learning environment.”

Survival Mode Brain

The Committee for Children uses a simple pie graph to illustrate the three ways educators can create a positive classroom environment:

Positive Classroom Climate