Spring 2017

ATPE News is the official publication of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the largest educator association in Texas. The magazine addresses the most important issues affecting public education in the state. Learn more at

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Page 24 of 43

Every morning, no matter how she's feeling, Emily Day looks each of her third-grade students in the eye and greets them with a smile as they enter her classroom. It is a simple idea, but the effect it has on her students is transformational. "They're cheerful when they walk in," Day says. "And I can check with them and say, 'Hey, are you ok?' if I see them come in a little off. It allows them the space to say, 'I had a rough morning,' which is important because we expect our students to come in ready to go, but it's hard to come in ready to go every morning." This morning greeting is just one of many ways Day incorporates social and emotional learning (SEL) into her classroom. SEL, an initiative that teaches students how to manage their emotions and respond to the emotions of others, is growing in popularity, and Austin ISD, where Day works, is one of a handful of districts across the country leading the movement. Austin Takes the SEL Plunge Austin's Zilker Elementary isn't your typical neighborhood school. The campus is covered with gardens and art projects (one garden is a declared "child-life habitat"). Classrooms include "peace areas," quiet places where students can sit alone to calm down and reflect, or invite a peer to resolve a conflict using a "peace path," or conflict resolution script. The school hosts Mindfulness Mondays, when parents, teachers, and students meet to practice calming exercises. And unlike most children across Texas, Zilker students couldn't identify "por- table brown" on a color palette. In an effort to de-institutional- ize the campus, Zilker's portable buildings have been painted vibrant blues, oranges, and yellows. Zilker's staff and parents have worked hard to create a warm and student-friendly environment. So it's not surprising that an approach like SEL would thrive here. Austin ISD instituted its SEL program six years ago, in partnership with CASEL (the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning), an organization that works to advance SEL in K-12 education. The rollout started with just a handful of schools, but by the 2015-16 school year, all 130 of the district's schools were on board. Zilker has been a part of this program for five years now. ATPE NEWS 25

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