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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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.

Dawson

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.

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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.

Uphaus

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.

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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.

Houston

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.

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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

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

Point Counter Point: Is Happiness a Worthwhile Goal?

One key concept that teachers teach when they talk about feelings and empathy is that there are no good or bad feelings, only comfortable and uncomfortable ones.  It’s natural though that most people prefer to feel the comfortable ones, such as happiness.  This brings us to our first debate question in our ongoing series “Point Counter Point:”

Is Happiness a worthwhile goal in and of itself?

To give you some background, This Emotional Life on PBS gives us thoughts on What is Happiness?

Now, for Point Counter Point….

Point: There’s More to Life Than Being Happy posted in The Atlantic on January 9, 2013

Counter Point: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Flow, the secret to happiness

Now it’s your turn.  What do you think? Is there more to life than being happy? Is happiness a goal you have for your own life?