Spring 2017

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ATPE NEWS 27 and figure out these class issues that come up. I don't have a lot of behaviors that I have to stop and take care of because students have the tools to work things out on their own." Price notes that administrative support for SEL is a major factor in how successful the program is on each campus. If administrators are enthusiastic about SEL, they can pro- vide the tools necessary to help teachers juggle their time. Day agrees with this assessment. "Zilker is a great place for SEL," she says. "It's encouraged by the administrators, who put great stock into the happiness of the kids who attend school here." More than a Curriculum In addition to her early greeting, Day begins every class with a morning meeting, a 15- to 20-minute ritual that in- volves students' sitting in a circle, acknowledging each oth- er, and sharing thoughts and feelings. During each morning meeting, Day asks her students a few simple questions, for example, "How do you show kindness to others?" and "What brings you joy every day?" Students pair up and discuss their answers, and Day praises them on behaviors such as making good eye contact and politely in- viting others to partner with them. "What morning meeting does is allow everyone to have a say or voice their opinion about things in a respectful way," says Day. "We look each other in the eyes, we smile at each other, and we give firm handshakes." Day's morning ritual is just one of many ways she encour- ages empathy and understanding in her classroom. She conducts half-hour weekly SEL lessons, which are drawn from Second Step, AISD's preferred curriculum for ele- mentary and middle schools. A typical Second Step lesson includes classroom or small-group discussion around a so- cial scenario. These lessons are important to students' understanding, but in Day's classroom, SEL instruction is more than a curriculum. She makes a point of modeling appropriate behaviors whenever she can. "We have to model what we expect. We have to model what good conversations look like," says Day. "I'll have a con- versation with somebody so that everybody can watch. They're more successful because they know what is expected." Price says SEL lessons have the greatest impact when they are absorbed into daily routines, as in Day's classroom, but he admits that not all teachers and students are ready for that level of instruction. In the coming years, Price hopes to usher in a new understanding of SEL. "Too many teachers think SEL is just those lessons," says Price. "SEL is who we are. It's how we treat others. It's all day long. It's our culture. It's the fabric of AISD's culture. We're not there yet. That's where we want to get." A More Balanced Approach Price is proud of how far his team has come in the past six years, but he hopes the coming years will bring even great- er success for Austin's SEL program. Within the next year, Price plans to implement what he calls "SEL 2.0," which in- volves increasing the program's focus on school climate and providing SEL lessons to the adults in each school commu- nity (staff, teachers, and possibly even parents). Most of all, Price hopes his department's work will help offset the ever-increasing emphasis on testing and account- ability that public schools face. "What are schools for? People say learning, but when you really think about school, the purpose is to help kids become," he says. "I want my chil- dren to become productive and compassionate mem- bers of society. I really think we're on the right track in creating a more balanced approach in teaching." At the classroom level, Day 's goals are similar. She is sure her students will learn the academic skills they need. What she wants most is to know that they feel happy and safe in her classroom. With each morning greeting, Day hopes her students under- stand her true meaning: "No matter what happened yesterday, we're starting differently today. It's a fresh day. I love you. I'm so glad you're here." AUSTIN'S FOUR SEL PRINCIPLES EXPLICIT INSTRUCTION: Intentionally teaching SEL skills INTEGRATION: Addressing SEL through academic content and skill practice PARENTS AND FAMILIES: Creating SEL opportunities for parents and families CULTURE AND CLIMATE: Developing a positive culture and climate for the entire community

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