Rae Anne Locke
Elementary library media specialist
Our district has adopted RULER [recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing, and regulating emotion] as our social and emotional learning program from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Last year, we explored it as a staff in order to help grow our own emotional learning, and this year it will be introduced to students and parents. I am looking forward to incorporating meta-moment strategies, the mood meter vocabulary, and ways to build empathy. I can’t wait to share the picture books Rulers of the Playground by Joseph Kuefler and There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi.
Learning center coordinator
Chinese American International School, Middle School
Our middle school has not yet adopted an official SEL program. Most of our SEL lessons/activities have taken place in our Advisory program, but I do my best to make sure that things don’t get too compartmentalized, as I believe SEL is important to extend into the whole culture of the school. Some of the ways I have done that include planning whole-school events I call “Middle School Mayhem,” which involve team-building challenges to encourage a positive, collaborative tone. I organized a whole-school event called “The Human Library,” inviting a diverse group of speakers who have experienced prejudice or discrimination based on some aspect of their identity to be the “books.” Students got to choose which “book” they wanted to engage with and met in small groups to hear their story and then have a conversation. It was an incredible way for them to interact with people very different from them in a way that doesn’t often happen in our society. I organized the painting of a mural on our campus with the theme of kindness and had all advisories participate.
Besides these large events, I am working with the new counselor to build an SEL program, I provide professional development resources and book titles for the teachers, such as Create a Culture of Kindness in the Middle School by Naomi Drew and Christa M. Tinari, and I even host a teacher mindfulness session in the morning once a week before school starts. Some people might say that some of these activities are outside of the traditional role of the librarian, but I get involved with anything that will help provide tools for my students and teachers to be healthier and happier and make our school a positive place to be.
Reading specialist and reading teacher
Wilson West Middle School
Sinking Spring, Pa.
Wilson West Middle School does a variety of social and emotional literacy lessons that focus on young adolescent concerns. We have an advisory period in the morning where teachers lead small groups of students in discussion. We’ve used the book Dear Bully as a catalyst for discussion. The book features popular YA authors telling experiences they had growing up feeling different.
I co-advise a club where middle schoolers go to the various district elementary schools to discuss with third, fourth, and fifth graders refusal skills and ways to promote positive self-image.
In addition, I serve on the school Student Assistance Program as the eighth grade liaison. The West health curriculum also focuses on SEL, and the building psychologist runs student social groups, as well.
Middle school English faculty
The King School
Formally, my school has a Life Skills curriculum that includes practices in developing wellness strategies, appropriate communication, mitigating bullying, yoga, mindfulness, and healthy relationship building. As the students get older, they have more complex discussions surrounding identity, social norms, media/technology, etc., but all students are required to partake in these classes as supplementary coursework to their core curriculum. In my classroom (I’m a middle school English teacher), my biggest focus is developing healthy communication with peers as well as incorporating social justice and civic engagement into the curriculum. Mindfulness and communication strategies are a huge part of that, and I utilize the cross-curricular content to help create a less hectic space.
Digital learning specialist
Pulaski Community School District
In my first grade classroom, I loved incorporating Julia Cook’s books, like My Mouth Is a Volcano, Personal Space Camp, and A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue, into my social skills lessons. Julia’s books were always a fantastic way to introduce students to social issues that we were experiencing in our class with a bit of humor, but even more importantly, gave us a springboard to help us learn how to solve our own problems and have better behavior.
Moon Area High School
Moon Township, Pa.
We have an anti-bullying program, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, but are changing to Rachel’s Challenge [a violence- and bullying-reduction program promoting compassion and kindness, named for Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim in the Columbine school shooting] this year. We do have a mentor program, where each teacher meets monthly with an average of about 15 students.
As far as social and emotional learning, since we are at the high school level, a lot of this comes with discourse. I most enjoy the kinds of discussions I have with students when they are making connections from literature to the real world.
Fourth grade teacher
Le Jardin Academy
My school is an International Baccalaureate school and we have a social and emotional scope and sequence that is embedded into our program. With each unit that we teach, we are required to include activities that teach and promote social and emotional learning. In addition to this, I use Responsive Classroom [teaching practices intended to create a safe, joyful, and engaging classroom and school community] every day and feel that it provides a huge component of social and emotional teaching and development.