Spring Semester 2016!

education

Welcome to your brand new semester, Austin ISD SEL fans!  Happy 2016! As a new year begins, it’s a great time to get back in touch with the five competencies of Social and Emotional Learning. These are the concepts we explicitly teach and practice with all 83,000+ students in our district, helping guide their paths toward engaged learning, positive citizenship and rich lives. Here is the Wheel of SEL Competencies, explained by an American luminary leader we also celebrate this week!

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As we remember the legacy of Dr. King in our hearts and classrooms, we revitalize the journey of growth, compassion, and learning for our students and ourselves. Here’s to new beginnings!

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December Homestretch!

We’re in the homestretch of the first semester!  These next few weeks before winter break are often full of excitement and celebration, but they can also be stressful and anxiety-provoking for all the members within a school community.  Luckily, there are plenty of resources out there to help our students and ourselves stay calm and mindful before the holidays.

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The Devereaux Foundation and its affiliated Devereaux Center for Resilient Children has these 7 Tips for Holiday Resilience, which are aimed at adult seasonal sanity, and also offers these ideas to foster social awareness in classrooms:

Holiday Tradition Quilt: Each student comes from a different culture and has his or her own customs. Use this time to allow students to share their holiday traditions with classmates. This can be done in multiple ways. One way is for each student to be given a square piece of construction paper as their “quilt” piece. On this they will draw or write a brief explanation of a custom or tradition that their family has over the holidays. When all pieces are completed, students can share aloud, if they choose, and discuss differences and similarities among themselves. This gives students a chance to reflect on their attitude towards others’ traditions in relation to their own. Another option is to partner or group students together. Each student will individually discuss one tradition that his or her family has (verbally or on paper). Then partners or groups will create one “quilt” piece together that reflects some combination of both or all traditions. This shows students how to listen to other ideas, and compromise on final solutions.

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Help an Outside Organization: This can be a classroom or whole school effort. The holidays are a time that many people donate extra supplies, or time, to people or organizations in need. Classrooms can discuss why it is important to provide this care to people in need, and how they might feel over the holidays. Some sort of donation effort could be made by the students such as a canned food drive, collecting pet supplies for an animal shelter, or sending holiday cards to a local hospital or nursing home. This will give students a sense of doing good for others during this time.

Random Acts of Kindness Poster: Create a Random Acts of Kindness Poster for your classroom. Explain to students that a random act of kindness refers to a positive action done for them or to them unexpectedly. If students experience a positive interaction with a classmate they can add it to the poster. Younger students can draw a picture and explain it to the class. At the end of each week read over the poster with the class and recognize these positive interactions between students!

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Team-Based Games: When reviewing for a test, or practicing a new skill, turn questions into a game format. Students can be put in teams and instructed to work together in order to come up with an answer to the question or problem. Before beginning the game, explain to students that they will need to cooperate in order to figure out the final answer. You can also add a bonus point for the team that works together best on each question. This will ensure those positive interactions are being recognized as well as the academic content of the game. Award a team winner based on correct answers, as well as the team who has the most points for working effectively as a team. This is a great way for students to experience authentic relationship skill building.

Speaking of team-based games and community-building opportunities, the Digital Activity Center from PeaceFirst is one of the most comprehensive, searchable resources for finding relevant connection experiences for students.  This time of year is perfect to restore and revitalize classroom culture ahead of the academic pressures of the spring semester.

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Finally, amazing educators from around Austin ISD share their advice and encouragement for these December weeks:

“Every year, at this time of year, when my students come in for class they are relieved to come into a consistent routine.  They know exactly what is expected of them and what they need to accomplish via their agenda and objectives for the day, and the routine remains the same, as do the expectations.  And while I might supplement a lesson with a sponge activity (regarding the season,) we mostly remain on track.” –Middle School Choir Director

“This is the time of year where I go through old notes students have written me to remind me why I do what I do. What we need to remember is that these students who give us a “run for our money” during the year are the students who, on the last day of school, are always the ones that surprise us with their appreciation. This can rejuvenate our passion as educators to keep on fighting the good fight.”–Middle School Assistant Principal

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“Introduce something completely new and utterly engaging. For example, this week, we are doing a modified version of Dungeons and Dragons to illustrate the way the Battle of Yorktown could have turned out.  Hey, I know I am going to have fun with it! And, when I have fun, my students tend to have fun!”–Learning Support Services Teacher

“1. Be kind, patient, and welcoming to other students and staff. EVERYBODY is stressed and people will GREATLY appreciate your calm demeanor and positive vibes.

2. SMILE as much as you can. Remember the reason you’re at work everyday, and keep that in mind when things get frustrating, complicating, and stressful.

3. Love your kiddos! Ask them about their holidays (or to be extra sensitive, ask how their break was or what they’re planning to do during their break!) They’ll love you for asking, and they’ll love to share. If this doesn’t work or apply to your situation, remind them of how much YOU love them and care about them. That’ll generate some warm, fuzzy feelings in their hearts.

4. Teach what you can in the best way that you can. The holidays are approaching and it is inevitable that students know and feel it (whether they want to or not). Do the best you can, trust me, they will appreciate you for it!” –High School Social Studies Teacher

***EVENT HEADLINE HERE***

Here’s a post from October with even more resources for staying calm and connected, as that is a similar time of transition and stress.  And if all else fails, stay with your breath! You are doing a great job!

Happy December!

 

Get Your Gratitude On!

Last year around this time, everyone’s favorite AISD Social and Emotional Learning blog offered up this Ode to Gratitude, a short (and slightly silly) rhythmic rhymer with links to compelling research on the benefits of bringing more gratitude into daily life. More and more studies, even just within the past year, show how an intentional gratitude practice can increase positive feelings, improve physical and mental health, generate heightened awareness (mindfulness), and lots of other concrete good things (Better sleep! Deeper relationships! Better sleep!). “Great!” you say, ” It’s Thanksgiving, and I’m ready to sleep better! How do I start a gratitude practice?”

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In answer to that question, the students, faculty and staff at the Austin ISD Liberal Arts and Science Academy (LASA) have taken on a Gratitude Challenge this season. Inspired by Austin Mindfulness Center’s recent post on gratitude, Wellness Counselors Marissa Rivera and Meagan Butler invited grownups and students at LASA to use a smartphone app (iTunes: GetGratitude, Google Play: Attitudes of Gratitude Journal)  or paper journal with prompts to keep a daily log of gratitude experiences.  Members of the school community are running with it–one English teacher has made it a daily part of her class; another educator plans to share her gratitude observations with family on Thanksgiving Day. And dozens of students have been participating, posting their experiences on the two gratitude trees now growing up the walls of the school.

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“After the first 2-3 days of the Gratitude Challenge, the students actually took a lot of initiative with getting each other involved,” says Ms. Rivera. “As counselors, it’s been a great daily activity to share with our students. In addition to challenging everyone in our community to pause each day and reflect on positive aspects of life, there have been times we’ve witnessed people just stopping for a few moments to read what others had posted to either of the gratitude trees and smiling. Even small moments like that can help foster a more thoughtful community.”

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The responses to the LASA gratitude challenge posted on the trees have demonstrated the wide diversity of gratitude experiences among the staff and students. “Responses have ranged from the expected (family, friends, etc.) to some really touching, personal anecdotes. In between those two ends of the spectrum, there were lots of teacher/counselor shoutouts, some very LASA specific tributes (Robotics, Bruce Wayne the therapy dog, etc.) and some silly ones that brought the laughs (e.g., no more dinosaurs, and Drake’s dancing).”

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Students and teachers at LASA are really walking the gratitude talk.  With this kind of intentional practice, gratitude can physically re-wire the brain to experience more positive feelings and adopt a more hopeful outlook.  LASA is building a more connected, empathetic school culture with their gratitude challenge.  With or without Drake’s dancing, a focus on gratitude can increase personal feelings of happiness and therefore help foster deeper connection within groups of people.

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So give it a shot! Since it’s called Thanksgiving, let’s all come up with one way we can bring awareness to our gratitude.  Thanks for the inspiration, LASA!  And thanks to you, Dear Reader, for your precious time and attention given here…have a relaxing holiday!

 

 

 

 

 

“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!

SEL Highlights 2012 – 2013: Eastside Memorial Vertical Team

We are continuing with our 6 day series highlighting the different Vertical Teams each day on our blog. Please follow along to hear about all of the SEL successes this school year!

Join us today as we celebrate Eastside Memorial Vertical Team’s accomplishments.

Eastside Memorial High School’s staff has compassion!

  • Eastside has created a “culture of calm” – it is becoming cool to be smart and successful!
  • There is a sense of pride and confidence, and students here take the time to help each other with both personal and academic concerns.
  • SEL is woven into Advisory lessons, school-wide expectations for students, and character education lessons in athletics.
  • Next year’s focus:  Consistency and depth.

EastsideEastside students receive awards for succeeding and making progress in school

Martin Middle School is all about relationship building; from the Principal high fiving students in the hall to teachers using positive language to redirect misbehaviors.  Here’s an example of one way Martin encourages relationships: teachers share personal information about themselves outside of their rooms to encourage a deeper connection between staff and students.

Martin Teacher Door Sign

Allison Elementary was one of the first schools to pilot SEL campus wide.  This year, they have been focused on encouraging a positive culture and climate to reinforce the explicit instruction in the classroom.  The Principal, Mr. Velasquez, at Allison Elementary likes to start off morning assemblies with jokes, often submitted by students.  This practice builds language arts skills as well as contributing to the positive culture and climate at Allison!

“What flies around the Kindergarten room at night? Alpha-bats!”

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Allison is also excelling at integrating SEL concepts into core academic areas.

Allison integration Here’s an example of SEL Standard Goal IV Objective A: “uses positive communication and social skills to interact effectively with others,” integrated into ELA.

Blackshear Elementary does a wonderful job integrating SEL skills into other subject areas. Here’s an example of empathy skills and feeling identification integrated into a second grade English Language Arts lesson!

Blackshear 2nd grade ELA Intergration Bulletin Board

Brooke Elementary integrated SEL language into their campus wide behavior management plan so that students are practicing problem solving skills to better learn how to prevent behavior issues.

Brooke Brooke’s behavior management plan linked to SEL strategies

Govalle Elementary has been encouraging adults to model SEL skills as their students learn them. Check out their hallway expectations that include a column for adults.

Student AND Adult Expectations at Govalle Elementary

The Parent Support Specialist also took parents into classrooms for them to view peace areas. Many parents have already created their own peace areas at home!

Metz Elementary did so many awesome campus wide events this year. For No Place for Hate, Metz students lead a peace walk to Zavala Elementary to build new relationships and respect for others.

Metz Peace Walks

Metz also does an SEL focused morning assembly every Thursday where students act out skits, sing Second Step songs, and celebrate their SEL skills.

Metz assembly Second grade students leading the “Calm It Down” dance

Ortega Elementary knows how to build community and welcome new students and staff! Over the summer, teachers developed activities for the first 30 days of school to encourage team building in their classrooms as students coming from several different schools all came together at Ortega. They already have a plan for having student welcome ambassadors to help new students transition in to this caring school.

Ortega Kindergarten teachers at Ortega sharing SEL strategies for waiting during a morning assembly.

Zavala Elementary’s peace areas have really taken off (their Principal, Mr. Fox, created one for his office as well)! One third grade teacher made her own Zen Garden for students to use in the peace area. She took a small Tupperware container and added sand, marbles, and a fork. Genius!

Zavala Fox Peace AreaPrincipal Fox’s Peace Area

At the end of the year, the SEL steering committee celebrated staff for their different SEL skills they modeled during the year.  What a wonderful way to end their first year as an SEL campus!

Zavala Award Ceremony

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Let’s wrap up today’s post with a note of appreciation written by a student at Eastside Memorial.

SEL Highlights 2012 – 2013: Austin High Vertical Team

For the next week and a half we will be highlighting different campuses each day on our blog. Please follow along to hear about all of their SEL successes this school year!

Join us today as we celebrate Austin High Vertical Team’s accomplishments. Be sure to share comments, ideas, and questions with us below!

Austin High School: Austin High has been implementing a pilot class called MAPS: Methods for Academic and Personal Success to teach social and emotional learning skills to incoming Freshmen.

The three year data continues to show remarkable improvement.

The freshman class at Austin High School has had a 41% decrease in number of failures and a 38% decrease in the number of disciplinary referrals. We can’t show causality, but we believe the data does show correlation.

Students have built a strong classroom environment and learned many SEL skills over the course of the year. There have been many special events including: a student panel on SEL for CASEL Learning Event, an etiquette luncheon, and a special field trip to hear one of the freedom writers (Manny Scott) speak.

This May, students and families will gather at an area park for a Good News pot luck, where students will share highlights from the year and finish with a positive social event that includes their families.

Students are currently completing semester projects where they will present one SEL skill. They will create a lesson, poster, brochure, movie, short story, or song designed to promote positive social and emotional skills among their classmates.

O. Henry Middle School: The Second Step resource is being implemented during RODEO (advisory) time weekly. The two SEL facilitators and the principal have been supportive of the teachers and students during this time by making sure that materials are readily available to the teachers and by participating in classroom discussions. Next year, O. Henry will have an elective class that will be devoted entirely to SEL. O. Henry has welcomed many interested visitors this year specifically to look at a successful middle school model for SEL implementation. The principal is very proud of the fact that his referral rates have reduced since O. Henry became an SEL campus.

O Henry

O Henry

Barton Hills Elementary:  The teachers at Barton Hills have done a nice job of structuring supportive and nurturing classrooms that promote student learning and sharing of ideas. They experienced their first SEL Learning Walk this year and were proud of the positive feedback they received. Classrooms are implementing SEL instructional strategies in many of the academic areas.

Bryker Woods Elementary: Bryker Woods has done a great job with promoting a positive culture and climate on their campus. Every grade has participated in classroom and school wide activities that promote SEL. When walking in the halls of their campus you can see many beautiful bulletin boards that display SEL related themes.

Bryker Woods

Casis Elementary:  Casis students have enjoyed working on their “No Place for Hate” activities this school year, but especially devoted a lot of time and dedication to the “Peace Pedals” project. The culture and climate at Casis is a positive one and can be felt instantly as one enters the building. The primary classrooms are especially proud of the class promises they have made to their peers and teachers.

Casis Elementary

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Casis

Mathews Elementary:  Mathews held their SEL assemblies every Friday. Each grade level was responsible for a mini presentation that reinforced an SEL skill or concept. These assemblies also allowed for the appreciation of cultural diversity and for celebrations of staff and student accomplishments.

Mathews Elementary

Pease Elementary: Pease Elementary scheduled monthly faculty meetings that focused on SEL related topics. The principal, campus facilitator, and SEL coach met monthly to plan for these meetings. Pease has been proud of keeping their commitments to the staff and class social contracts.

Peace Elementary

Sanchez Elementary: The students and staff at Sanchez worked very hard this year on their “No Place for Hate” school wide projects. Visiting Sanchez parents eating lunch with their children have been impressed with how the cafeteria monitors have been using the “How to Calm Down” strategies and “Problem Solving Steps” in the cafeteria during lunch time.

Second Step Posters

The large Second Step posters hanging in the cafeteria as well as the mini poster lanyards the monitors have been wearing, have served as good visual reminders for using these strategies.

Sanchez Elementary

Zilker Elementary:  The students in the primary grades at Zilker Elementary have been consistent with their use of the Peace Areas and Peace Paths. The principal reported a drop in the referral rate, which correlates with the implementation of these processes.

This year the students in the “No Place for Hate” coalition produced, directed, and edited an SEL infomercial. The video was posted on Vimeo and received many favorable reviews!

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/62585085″>Zilker Elementary No Place For Hate Video</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/btothehill”>Brian Hill</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Small Middle School: Elective teachers from grades 6-8 have been teaching the Second Step resource during TRACK time once a week at Small. Activities that promote a positive school culture and climate have emerged this school year. Students have been receiving Cougar Kudos for using SEL skills. This year staff members submitted fellow colleagues’ names in a box in the office for demonstrating exceptional team work and collaboration. During faculty meetings, there were drawings for recognizing these teachers.  The teachers whose names were drawn received gift cards!

Small Middle School

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 Oak Hill Elementary:  Oak Hill has enjoyed celebrating cultural diversity by displaying international flags representing countries from all over the world in their cafeteria. The Oak Hill PTA has organized social gatherings periodically for the school staff, parents, and other members of the community to meet and have international food tastings on the weekends at Oak Hill.  More Peace Areas have been seen in classrooms this year! Oak Hill

Oak Hill Elementary

Patton Elementary:  Patton has been especially proud of their “Bully Blockers” initiative. Students in grades K-5 sign a pledge to not be bullies and to be allies to those who may be targets. They also receive bracelets after signing the pledge. Squad leaders are selected from each grade level to lead a squad that helps to empower other students that may be experiencing bullying. Each squad can earn points for modeling “ally” behaviors.

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Patton Elementary