News! …and the Return of the Blog!

Hello again, Austin ISD SEL fans!  Happy October! We’ve been hard at work on SEL 2.0, with new team members, new opportunities, and a refreshed commitment to helping build a district where truly #ALLMEANSALL!

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This summer on June 16th, McCallum High School hosted the first-ever SEL Summer Symposium, with presenters and participants from all over our district and city.  With over 40 break-out sessions and a dedicated leadership strand, 325 members of our AISD community learned and shared together about the most cutting-edge topics in Social and Emotional Learning.  Sessions topics ranged from “Frank Lloyd Wright and Restorative Classroom Management” to “The Neuroscience of Mindfulness;” “Color Blind or Color Brave?” to “SEL in Children’s Literature.” The sheer number of folks who showed up for the inaugural SEL Summer Symposium demonstrates how deeply Austin ISD educators believe in Social and Emotional Learning.

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(Photos by Eli Roberts)

Another significant first for the SEL Team was presenting at the Leadership Institute for about 400 administrators before school started.  With the focus on the overarching SEL theme “All Means All,” SEL Specialists presented a workshop on creating trauma-sensitive schools. The level of commitment from district leadership for Social and Emotional Learning work is the highest it has ever been!

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(L-R) James, Angela, Lynne and Darla presented at the Leadership Institute.

In fact, SEL was the topic of the 10/7 “News from Dr. Cruz.”  Our superintendent had this to say about SEL 2.0:

Resiliency, positivity, grit and determination—these are just some of the skills that are foundational to Social and Emotional Learning. Now that AISD has implemented SEL at all of our schools, we’re moving on to SEL 2.0. This next iteration includes new practices that are integral to ensuring student success.

Mindfulness activities like breathing exercises help kids focus. Restorative practices counter old discipline techniques that don’t work and replace them with a relationship-based approach. Moreover, trauma-informed care is helping staff support students who are suffering from intense negative experiences.

Students need to learn about the five SEL competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships skills and responsible decision making. They have been described as soft skills, but I see them as essential skills.

Transitioning from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset is a major tenant of SEL 2.0 and one we need to embrace. A fixed mindset is the approach that individuals have “fixed” skills—that their capabilities are limited and finite. A growth mindset takes into account that the brain is constantly evolving, and that individuals can develop all kinds of new talents. This approach helps us reframe a student’s potential.

I’m proud of the positive, resilient people on our team who are preparing our students to excel. Thank you for the amazing work you’re doing now and for your exceptional commitment to our students.

Finally, our team is happy to welcome our new members, each of whom bring their unique experiences and gifts to support Social and Emotional Learning all over our district:

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Theresa Garcia

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Elena Rodriguez

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Alonzo Blankenship II

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Emily Hoaldridge-Dopkins

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James Butler

Stay tuned…our blog is BACK!  See you soon with more Austin ISD SEL news!

 

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!