GRIT–The Story of Marathon High at Dobie Middle School

One goal of social and emotional learning is helping students develop their own true grit–that stick-to-itiveness,  that ability to stay focused on achieving what they want to achieve, even in the face of difficulty and set-backs.  “Grit,” says Mr. Evan Gonzalez, of Dobie Middle School, “is the relentless commitment to a goal.”

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Who is Mr. Gonzalez, you ask?  He is an 8th grade US History teacher at Dobie Middle School, and happens to be the sponsor of that school’s chapter of Marathon High.  Marathon High is a running community that pairs high school and middle school students with elite running coaches from Rogue Running, and works with them for five months, training toward the goal of running a half-marathon–13.1 miles!

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This year, fully THIRTY THREE Dobie students trained with the Marathon High program and completed the Austin Half-Marathon on Saturday, February 15th.  Other schools in AISD were represented by their own grit-ful students as well, but Dobie’s crew had three times the number of participants of any other school!  Watch their story:

The Dobie students, like all the participants of Marathon High, really embody the essence of grit.  They ran on cold rainy days, through sore muscles, through discouragement and through victory.  They juggled their school work, extra-curricular activities, family responsibilities, and training schedule to make sure it all got done.  They formed and maintained positive relationships with coaches, Mr. Gonzalez, and other teachers who supported them (all SEL skills!).  And behold, they Got! It! Done!

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Congratulations to Mr. Gonzalez and all the Marathon High students at Dobie, and all across AISD!  Thanks for being such shining examples of real grit.  Keep on keepin’ on!

SELebrating Success! Creative, Collaborative Conferences!

Greetings SEL Fans!  Remember how important celebration is?  Well, I am so happy to report that this week’s campus facilitator workshops were wildly worthy of SELebration!

Our goal was to get our facilitators together from across the district and honor their expertise and myriad experiences by providing an opportunity to collaborate, network and share.  The elementary specialists held a north and south parfait party to maximize convenience for the large number of campuses they serve, and the secondary coaches invited their facilitators to “taco bout it” at centrally-located Fulmore Middle School.

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photo credit: Lynne Unruh

Elementary level SEL facilitators  traveled through three different interactive stations including: SEL integration, campus problem solving, and a gallery walk of photos and examples from different schools.  The meeting opened and closed with community circles to share and reflect together.

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photo credit: Lynne Unruh

Some of the ideas generated during the workshop include:

  • Train classified staff on SEL
  • Have a rotating SEL bulletin board on campus led by different grade level teams each month
  • Create a peace area make and take for staff with items like squeeze balls and glitter wands
  • Facilitate adult SEL skill builders at staff meetings
  • Teach staff about the Anticipate, Reinforce, and Reflect integration strategy
  • Spotlight teachers’ SEL successes
  • Create peace areas in common areas
  • Lead SEL morning announcements on their campus

It was a real treat to get to learn with all of these amazing educators!

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photo credit: Lynne Unruh

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photo credit: Lynne Unruh

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photo credit: Bobby McLeod

Secondary specialists transformed the Fulmore library into a World Cafe-style “un-conference” around carefully constructed questions.  Facilitators enjoyed tacos with home-made fixin’s (thanks to Kevin, Jason and Jimmi!) and fresh baked salted caramel bars (thanks to Gala!) while going deep about the work of creating positive climates and cultures on their home campuses.  Facilitators rotated through three tables, each with one question and hosted by an SEL specialist. The questions were presented with starting assumptions to encourage rich, expansive thought.

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photo credit: Sherrie Raven

We began with a multi-lingual “Cheers!” to each other, and then all our participants contributed their creativity, practicality and diverse experience to answer these questions:

Assumption: – A positive and safe climate is an important precursor for student learning.

“What does it look and sound like when a student feels like she belongs at school and what role do we, as faculty and staff, play in this?”

Assumption: – Humans are social creatures and as such desire meaningful relationships in their lives where they feel respected, recognized for their effort, and able to contribute.

“How do you know when you are part of a positive community and how can all staff feel this way?”

Assumption – Campuses that develop a common language related to SEL provide the ideal context for students to apply their social and emotional skills in relationships in school and maximize the potential for generalization to other settings.

“What steps and factors are important to consider in building a common language for SEL on secondary campuses and how do you know your efforts are successful?”

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photo credit: Sherrie Raven

All in all, our fall gatherings fostered community, built relationships, and honored the expertise and versatility of the amazing campus facilitators that nurture the growth of social and emotional learning at their schools.  I am so grateful to be part of the AISD Social and Emotional Learning Team!

More Acknowledgements:

Thanks to Aleza, Darla, Amber, Lynne, and the whole Elementary Specialist crew for contributing copy and photos to this article. Thanks to Sarah and Hilary for creating those awesome questions.  Thanks to Sherrie for taking pictures at the secondary gathering, and thanks to everybody for making it possible!

Celebrate Good Times…Come On!

Hello SEL Fans!  Happy Diwali y’all!

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Diwali is a huge and ancient Hindu celebration of light, prosperity, and renewal.  It’s observed for 5 whole days of parties, fireworks, food and revelry. And what a coincidence…this week’s bloffering is all about SELebration!

See what I did there?  Okay, full disclosure: This post will be about celebration in general, not just with regard to Diwali (although what a great celebration!) or to AISD Social and Emotional Learning (which is a lot to celebrate as well!). Celebration is a crucial aspect of social and emotional well-being, and we highly recommend you partake in celebration as soon as possible.  Why? Read/listen to this!

Two Guys on Your Head: Celebration

According to the Two Guys from NPR (and also Austin Texas, baby!), celebrating accomplishments both major and minor activate the pleasure center of our brain.  This pleasure center also happens to play a big role in motivation.  It makes sense, right?  If your brain is working on something, and it gets a little shot of those delightful brain-chemical pleasure makers dopamine and endorphins (among others!), it is likely to want to keep on keepin’ on.

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As the article/broadcast mentions, humans have the great ability to set long-term goals, but we have a hard time actually doing them unless we plan short-term steps to reach the long-term goals.  If I feel like I have a long and arduous road ahead, I’m less likely to see it through to the end, or even get started.  But if I set short term goals to reach my ultimate goal, and I also plan to celebrate my little steps along the way, I am much more likely to get it done!

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Celebration also helps us to increase our level of gratitude, and “perpetuates the positive,” as the article states.  So create your next celebration right now!  Used the stairs instead of the elevator a couple times this week? Treat those feet to a pedicure!  Get your blog post published on time for your job? Go on a picnic! (bwahaha) But truly, whatever little celebration you can fit into your life, give yourself permission to have it and enjoy it. It’s good for your brain and it’s good for the world.

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“The time to be awesome is now.”

As teacher’s come back to campuses in Austin, we want everyone to get pumped up and inspired for an amazing year!  Share these videos with friends, teachers, students, and anyone else who needs a little encouragement.

A pep talk from the Kid President:

Ten year old, Dalton Sherman, asks: “Do you believe in me?” to all of Dallas ISD.

Do you believe in you? We here at the department sure do!

Brain Break Wednesday: High Five Affirmations

It’s the end of the school year and many of us are exhausted. This brain builder is an instant energizing, relationship building, feel good, mood lifter!  Plus it takes under a minute to do and is easy to adjust for any audience.

Have students (or adults) turn to someone sitting next to them and say, “You’re awesome!” then give them a high five.

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Now watch as the energy of the room takes a dramatic and uplifting turn for the better.

Feel free to put any of your favorite positive affirmations in the quotes. For example, “You work hard and it shows!” “I’m so glad you’re here today!” “I am ready to learn with you!” “You have wonderful ideas!” “You make my classroom a better place!” “You rock!” “You’re a great person to know!”

What are your favorite brain breaks? Feel free to share in the comment section.