Social-emotional learning (SEL) is an area that we need to intentionally focus on in our classrooms. As we reflect on the challenges experienced this past year, we must closely focus on our own well-being and make sure we can provide the right support for our students. For many educators, SEL has become a new addition to planning for each day. We need to be intentional in facilitating opportunities for our students to build their SEL skills each day and to do so, we need access to the right resources and support.
In our classrooms, it is crucial that we model SEL skills for our students. For example, the importance of building and maintaining positive relationships, developing self-awareness and social awareness are essential for everyone. And as we have experienced this year, being able to manage stress, making decisions and focusing on self-care practices are vital for us as educators and in our daily lives. Educators need access to the right professional development to know how to bring SEL curriculum into every classroom. With Peekapak, schools have access to structured and easy to use curriculum for students and SEL workshop resources for educators.
Research shows that teacher well-being has a substantial effect on school climate. If educators are experiencing burnout and elevated levels of stress and do not have the right strategies to push through, it will negatively impact students. To prevent this, we need to establish routines, work with colleagues and with students, and build trust with each other.
Building Our SEL competencies
To learn more about SEL, there are many resources and professional learning opportunities available. Peekapak offers the SEL Summit which has been providing informative webinars each month full of valuable ideas and resources for getting started. These webinars have been a great opportunity to not only learn about how to build holistic and school-wide strategies, but also ways that educators can practice SEL skills and feel more confident to bring it to life in our classrooms. During these live sessions, it is also a great opportunity to ask questions and connect with other educators.
During the most recent June 15th “SEL Starts with Adults” SEL Summit, the panelists discussed the latest research and shared some best practices and tips for supporting educator SEL. You can access the recording here to learn how the panelists have been supporting SEL in their schools and what their plans are for the coming school year.
Here are a few of my favorite tips from the event, given the importance of starting the year with a focus on SEL. There was a “Turn off the Noise” suggestion from Dr. Salvatore, encouraging us to limit distractions and give yourself mind breaks when possible. Additionally, I found Dr. Grant’s “Caller #10” activity to be an intriguing way to not only show appreciation for staff, but to get the students excited for their teachers to call and possibly win a well-deserved prize. Some other strategies included icebreakers during meetings, creating activities during PD days, trying out “half smiles,” and providing opportunities for staff collaboration. This emphasis on self-care and mental health is essential for teacher wellbeing, and more schools need to provide such resources for educators that promote SEL, and in doing so, help design meaningful experiences for students.
You can access the June 15th recording here to learn in greater detail the different ways the panelists have been supporting SEL in their schools and what their plans are for the coming school year. I think that if we all recognize and work toward improving SEL for all of us it is going to benefit us as educators and we can nurture all students through the upcoming recovery in the years ahead.
This is hard. I was very tempted to have that be my entire post as that is how so many people, including me, are feeling these days. I am always very solution focussed and generally very positive. That hasn’t changed, but I am trying to adjust how I approach solutions and celebrations. I am trying to listen to more, acknowledge that this is hard, recognize amazing work frequently, encourage everyone to take several deep breaths, and then offer as much support as I can to help. I have also been reaching out for help from my incredible support system. I need it. This is hard for everyone.
Our community has been asking questions about how we are supporting the mental health of our students right now. It’s a question we should be asking every day all year long whether we are in a pandemic or not, but this time has undoubtedly brought the concern to the forefront more than ever. As I compiled the list of what our team has done over the last several years to support learners’ mental health, it was staggering to see how much we have added and embedded across contexts. We have added licensed therapists to each school site that see learners through their insurance and help families who don’t have access to insurance apply for it. Some of those therapists also co-teach in classrooms and have office hours for staff so they can problem solve how to best help learners. We have classroom teachers all over our district embedding social-emotional learning lessons and Mindfulness into daily instruction. Our teachers spend a lot of time building relationships with our learners and offering them opportunities to build relationships with one another. We have a school counselor, social worker, and/or a school psychologist at each school to work with staff, learners, and families. We have Hope Squads at all our secondary schools so our learners have peer to peer support.
Our professional development has also included training over the last several years in understanding trauma, culturally responsive practices, restorative practices, empathy and design thinking to solve problems, Zones of Regulation, Universal Design for Learning, innovative classroom practices, and many more. The idea is that staff members (including teachers, administrators, secretaries, assistants, recreation staff, facilities, and food service) have a wide array of tools to use in our schools to understand and empower all learners. They often get to choose sessions that are important to them or suggest topics on which they would like professional development as we want all staff to feel empowered in their work. We have also tried to build a lot of support for our staff through coaching as they need to feel our support to make it all work.
Now, we are trying to make education work in the middle of a pandemic. Our learners are all virtual right now. We are anxious to see them back in school and were optimistic a few weeks ago that we could start bringing them back a few days a week until our health metrics took a turn for the worse. We meet regularly with our local health department to discuss safety and are furiously planning safety measures and logistics for the time when we bring our learners back into physical schools. In the meantime, our recreation department has opened camps for elementary students and students with special needs that families who need care and/or support with virtual instruction can access. The camps can be kept small and can spread out across large spaces while providing a needed resource for some of our families in the safest way possible.
Our teachers are more stressed than normal. Our families are more stressed than normal. Our learners are more stressed than normal. Our administrators and coaches are more stressed than normal. Everyone is feeling disconnected from one another. The unpredictability of the current situation is overwhelming for all of us. The length of time this has gone on with no foreseeable end in sight is making it even more challenging. We are also headed into the cold and flu season with the weather getting colder, which means fewer opportunities to be outside. We have all had to adapt and do it quickly. It can be done, but this is hard. It is okay to say that out loud and recognize it.
I am really proud of the work we have done to shift the learner experience over the last several years, which is serving us well in virtual instruction. It does not make this less stressful on our team, but many of them have been adapting and shifting for years so they have tools to do it. We have been very purposeful in finding ways to meet teachers and administrators where they are and encourage them to make small steps that add up to big ones. As a district leadership team, we have tried to share the message that we are here to support our schools in any way we can to empower our learners to be ready to live life on their own terms when they graduate from our system. We are now forced to make shifts at warp speed and shift more frequently than we would ever normally ask people to do. It means instead of just support to grow as professionals; we had to start thinking creatively about how to take some things off their plates.
Our teachers have the option to teach from home or school during virtual instruction as we trust them to know what is best for them. We have built more planning time into the day at each level and shifted our professional development days to be planning and self-directed time for teachers. Purposeful professional development with choice for teachers is still a key element of our strategic plan, but that needs to look different right now. Instead of planning required sessions for all staff to attend, we shifted to self-paced courses that teachers could choose from and complete at their own pace and time. They could also choose not to select one at this time if they didn’t feel it was something they could take on. We will circle back to those staff later and build professional development support for them when they are ready for it and as they need it throughout the year.
We have encouraged our administrators to give our teachers permission to engage learners differently and focus on their interests. Academic content is an essential part of our work, but we can spend more time connecting and embed content as we go. In a collaboration session during emergency remote teaching last spring, a staff member shared how a learner went to work with his dad each day and spent a huge portion of one day on Facetime with his teacher showing her his community and what he had learned about his dad’s job. Others in that same session shared similar stories apologizing that they weren’t doing anything “academic”. My response was that what they were doing was building a sense of belonging and an academic mindset, which IS essential to academics and life success. We worked all summer to be ready for virtual instruction that was more robust than what we were able to do in emergency remote teaching last spring, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be focused on the whole child and embed time to connect as people. Teachers can find a balance synchronous time with some asynchronous time to meet the needs of learners. They can use choice boards, complete planned activities, write reflections, or work on long-term projects during the time they are asynchronous. They know their families and learners best, and we trust them to make the right decisions on finding balance.
We always want to hear feedback from our learners, staff, and community as it allows us to know what we are doing well and where we need to improve. We have sent out an employee engagement and parent satisfaction survey twice a year and learners complete a social-emotional learning survey so we can gauge how they are feeling about the development of their own skills in self-regulation, social awareness, classroom effort, growth mindset, and curiosity for the last several years. This year, we had the opportunity to offer different surveys that were much shorter for staff and families. While we still needed their feedback, we also needed a quick and easy survey for them to complete that gave us fast results so we can adjust resources and support. We added a wellness survey for our learners and do empathy interviews to ask them directly about how they are doing, if they are connected to adults and peers for support, and what they need to feel successful.
We have encouraged our principals to think about a shift in teacher evaluation as well. Our teacher evaluation process is intended to be one of self-reflection wherein the teacher sets a student learning objective for the year and a professional practice goal. The observations should be an opportunity to collect evidence towards those goals with time to check-in with the teacher to help them celebrate success and adjust the goals throughout the year. We have not always approached teacher evaluation that way but have been trying to move to a more reflective process over the last year. We get to take this unusual year to accelerate that process so observations can be done in short one-on-one meetings during which teachers can share the evidence they have collected about their own their own practice to share with us. We want to take the pressure off the formal nature of teacher observation but still get at the intent of the cycle of self-directed, continuous improvement in a way that also gives us more time to connect individually with each staff member. We have some schools trying this out in the next couple of weeks. I am anxious to hear how it goes and to find out if the change alleviates some stress for administrators and teachers.
Our teachers also had the opportunity to meet as grade levels and departments before school started to share ideas and create lists of resources they thought they would need to make this all work. We have ordered thousands of whiteboards, music kits, art kits, sensory tools, apps, and online subscriptions. We want our learners to have access to instructional materials in addition to technology and hotspots at home. We trade reading books and give out learning kits once a month in a drive-up system at most of our schools. We also added many supplies to schools as students won’t be able to share materials with one another as easily in classrooms once we are back. We’ve added some new and adaptive resources for teachers that all still align with our strategic plan but make the work more doable in a virtual or distance learning. Teachers continue to send us requests regularly as they plan engaging activities to do at home in the next few weeks. Sometimes the requests make me wonder what will come next, but mostly they make me excited that our learners are still having interactive, hands-on opportunities in our virtual world.
This is hard. Saying so doesn’t make it any easier, but it does create space for us to rely on each other to get through it. I want all our staff, learners, and families to know that we see them. We see the efforts they are putting in each hour of the day. We see that they sometimes need us to support them in new and different ways. We see that they may feel overwhelmed by the world right now and sometimes need some space to feel that. We see that we need to find even more ways to connect and listen to them. Mostly we see that they are all doing the best they can each day, despite everything that is thrown at them, to always keep what is best for children at the forefront. I love this quote by Todd Whitaker, “The best thing about being a teacher is that it matters. The hardest thing about being a teacher is that it matters every day.” Not only does teaching matter, but the people who do it each day matter too.
I am a proud mother, wife, and educator dedicated to creating experiences for all learners that are authentic and connect their time in school to what and who they want to be well beyond high school. I serve as the Director of Leadership and Learning for the West Allis- West Milwaukee School District in West Allis, WI. The thoughts I share here are my own and my reflections on our work. View all posts by Deidreroemer
**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.
Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.
Explore New Ideas and Have Fun Creating With Buncee!
Now that the school year has started and for many, some are moving toward the end of the first grading period, you might be looking for some new ideas to try. Don’t worry, once he definitely has you covered when it comes to finding new ideas to use in your classroom. Whether you check out the many visually engaging tweets of Buncees created and shared by educators from around the world. Educators are posting how they are using Buncee in their classrooms with their students or in their roles as administrators and tech coaches. You should also explore the many templates available or ideas in the Ideas Lab, you can find exactly what you need.
Join the Buncee Educator Facebook community Check out some recent Idea o’clock live sessions that were held. The past couple of weeks had Shannon Miller, Amy Storer and Karina Q sharing ideas for journaling and time capsules, tips for instructional coaches and interactive Buncee journals and OneNote.
Sometimes we just need a few ideas to get started with and then before you know it, we come up with a bunch of ideas and what I find even more often, our students come up with many of their ideas as well. One that I start with in my Spanish and STEAM classes is creating an About Me. I love creating a new one each time with them! We are just getting started this week and I cannot wait to see what they create!
More Ideas to Try
With many schools looking to hold events for families virtually, why not try using some of the templates available within Buncee. It would be fun to have students create their own Buncee to share what they have learned and how they are enjoying their class. Students can add in a video of them talking about their experiences so far and add 3D objects, animations, stickers, emojis and more! All of the student Buncees can then be shared on a Buncee board to share with families. Imagine how fun it would be to see and get to know classmates and post comments even!
Perhaps create your presentation to share all of the information about your class and design your virtual classroom choosing from many the templates available. Why not also include your bitmoji and then record audio and video to go along with it. It’s very important for our students and their families to be able to see and hear us and our excitement for teaching and working with the students. What better way than to create a Buncee virtual classroom
Love these ideas shared from Buncee! Find the templates available in the Buncee library:
Meet the teacher flyers
Daily remote learning journals
Time capsule activities
Digital citizenship lessons
Social media profiles
Record a video for genius hour
So many choices!
Get involved in the upcoming Global Write with Buncee and help to connect students with students from around the world. Daily prompts are provided for students to create and share stories. Learn more about this amazing collaborative project and get involved today!
Check out the many ideas that have been shared by Holly Clark. Look how many great ideas are listed in this graphic! Check out what teachers and students can do with Buncee and see which apps you are using that integrate with Buncee too! My students love using Buncee with Flipgrid and I love being able to share Buncees through Microsoft Teams and even schedule meetings! The possibilities are endless!
Explore the many new templates and have students create vision boards and more with Buncee! Virtual lockers, class schedules, organizers, newsletters, About me Buncees and so many other options to get started with here.
Learn about how other educators are using Buncee in their classrooms. Read about how Teresa Liu is using Buncee to engage special needs students in this blog post.
Updates and training!
If you’re looking for some help in getting started with Buncee, don’t miss out on the daily live training that is offered throughout the week. Each session is focused on helping educators get started with Buncee by showing some of the many possibilities and where to find all of the amazing graphics and the options that are available within Buncee. There really are endless possibilities when it comes to creating with Buncee and there is something in it for everyone.
I love taking courses through the Microsoft educator program, check out the Buncee course on Creative Expression & SEL with Buncee.
Buncee is always adding new features and expanding all that they provide for educators and for student learning. Recently they had a partnership with Flipgrid where now you can find many Buncee templates available to use in combination with Flipgrid, especially some for promoting SEL and also for organization. Stay tuned for some new updates coming with Buncee’s partnership with Microsoft.
Buncee is currently taking applications to become part of their Ambassador program. Applications are due on October 9th and if you’re looking for a supportive network to become a part of and to learn more about the power of creating with Buncee, I definitely recommend that you check out the ambassador program and see what is happening in the community. Especially at a time like now, where we are working through a lot of challenges in the world and an education, we need to have a supportive network to learn and grow with, especially one that is focused on promoting student voice and choice!
One of the ambassadors, Ilene Winokur has been telling the story of Bunceeman’s adventures! Bunceeman is visiting all of the Buncee ambassadors and this is a fantastic way to collaborate and learn about people and places from around the world! Check out his adventures here!
Global Events Coming up!
DigCit Summit happened on October 14th and Buncee was a sponsor of the event. See all of the digital citizenship templates and graphics available in the Buncee library! One of my first Buncees was a digcit lesson! Add in links, videos, audios, questions and more to create a lesson for students and then have them create their own digcit PSA! Join in the #Usetech4good Buncee challenge!
Global Maker Day is coming up on October 20th! Sign up to join in this day of amazing learning opportunities! Looking forward to seeing some Buncees created and shared throughout the day!
Teachers are in crisis, suffering from compassion fatigue and burnout at an alarming rate. Tasked with adapting to the pandemic, protecting their students from school shootings, teaching to high-stakes state tests, juggling crushing workloads, working overtime for little pay, responding to their students’ trauma, and more—teachers need our help.
The JabuMind self-care app for teachers is here to help. JabuMind was designed by a group of teachers, coaches, artists, school principals, and mental health clinicians. We share a common goal of creating a safer, stronger, and more supportive classroom experience for both teachers and students. Our mission is to support teachers in their own social and emotional growth so that they, in turn, can help their students and school communities.
Why Teachers Need Self-Care
Teachers are overworked and overwhelmed. No doubt about it, teaching is one of the most stressful professions. An analysis by the National Foundation for Educational Research revealed that “one in five teachers (20 percent) feel tense about their job most or all of the time, compared to 13 percent of similar professionals.” In addition, The American Federation of Teachers found that “78% of teachers reported feeling physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day.”
Let’s not forget the additional weight placed on teachers during the pandemic. A March 2020 survey from Yale and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) showed that teachers’ top emotions regarding teaching during COVID included fearful, worried, overwhelmed, and sad.
One of teachers’ main stressors is compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is the experience of emotional and physical fatigue due to the chronic use of empathy. It is often used interchangeably with the terms secondary trauma and vicarious trauma.
As teachers, we care deeply for our students. When our students face trauma, we feel the weight of heartbreak, fear, uncertainty, and responsibility as their caretakers. Distraught over how to support a traumatized child, we might start experiencing the symptoms of compassion fatigue—anxiety, difficulty sleeping, exhaustion, hypervigilance, decreased motivation, trouble separating work from personal life, increased cynicism, or a sense of hopelessness.
Suffering from compassion fatigue is among the top reasons teachers leave the profession. No longer able to handle the pressure and heartbreak, they experience burnout. “Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. The negative effects of burnout spill over into every area of life—including your home, work, and social life. Burnout can also cause long-term changes to your body that make you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flu.”
The Solution? Mindfulness
Fortunately, there is an antidote to the struggles teachers face. Research shows that teachers who participated in a mindfulness course had reductions in burnout and increases in self-compassion. Additional research proved that teachers who followed a mindfulness program developed resilience to stress and nonreactivity by practicing mindful awareness.
JabuMind Brings Teachers Mindfulness and Self-Care
The JabuMind self-care app for teachers uses the iRest® method to support teacher self-care. Co-Founder of JabuMind, Jill Apperson Manly, explains why JabuMind chose the iRest® method of meditation for its app in this interview. We explain the 10 tools of iRest® and their connection to teacher wellness here.
The JabuMind app offers guided meditations, daily sleep and mood check ins, and professional development designed to meet teachers’ stressors. All premium app content is free through the pandemic to support teachers during this difficult time.
Learn more about how the JabuMind app can support your self-care in these articles:
Across the country, millions of teachers are preparing for what will be the hardest year of teaching in modern history. Educators are dealing with stress, anxiety and fear from unrealistic public expectations and rapidly changing plans. While we work diligently to perfect our Zoom skills and transform curriculum into distance learning content, the nagging thought on almost every teacher’s mind is an entirely different one; a looming problem of epidemic proportions. Our country is entering one of the biggest mental health crises we have faced in decades.
Once we tackle the logistics of where our children will physically be as the school doors “open,” our gears will have to quickly shift to where they are at emotionally, and how to best support them.
Like many teachers, some of my favorite work hours are spent learning from my PLC on social media. These days, our conversations center on how to include more social emotional learning (SEL), including diversity and inclusivity curriculum. However, with so much going on in the intersection of education, politics and public health, teachers are finding themselves with a Herculean labor to perform. Teachers are busy either preparing their classrooms for in-person learning to comply with ever-changing guidelines (often without adequate funds); or transforming their entire curriculum into a virtual learning format…or both. This leaves little time for SEL efforts, which often fall to the back burner despite our best intentions.
Many teachers know the benefits of investing time on social and emotional learning. CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, has collected decades of research showing the impact of SEL education. Focusing on social emotional learning leads to better academic outcomes, such as better test performance and higher graduation rates, as well as reducing behavioral issues and improving mental health. So how do we create a safe, nurturing, relationship-based environment for students when we have so little time to invest in it? One answer is to use “SEL Hacks” from the MUSE Framework for Social Emotional Learning.
SEL Hacks are stand-alone curricular components that can be easily incorporated into the classroom with minimal effort. Start by choosing just a few of these to add on for the start of this school year. As each component becomes ingrained in your curriculum, visit the MUSE website to find new ideas and learning units. SEL Skill Set #1: Modeling Behaviors
Developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky calls this concept ‘apprenticeship.’ The incredible learning that happens through apprenticeship starts very young, in the home, and continues with teacher scaffolding throughout the school years. We model emotional health for students by prioritizing our physiological and psychological well-being. We ALL must ‘Maslow’ before we can effectively ‘Bloom.’
Start by spending the first week of school sending this message loud and clear. Introduce your students to virtual tools they can use to learn and practice SEL skills, and dedicate at least 30 minutes per day to the explicit teaching and practice of social emotional learning. For example, here is a feelings board that was created using padlet. Tell students to identify which emotion(s) they are feeling each morning, and make sure you include your own name as well.
Having a feelings board shows students they are not alone in feeling such turbulent emotions. It also increases student awareness of their own resiliency as they notice their moods shift back to the positive, which can help increase optimism. Lastly, this gives you the opportunity to quietly note which students seem to be struggling more frequently. You could follow up one-on-one with these students by having private chats, phone calls home, or using apps like Seesaw that allow you to communicate with your students individually. Another great ‘first week of school’ activity is to discuss a set of classroom rules or community standards. The emphasis you place on this discussion will help you set up a safe learning environment for the school year.
Allow students plenty of opportunities to feel heard each day. Keep your lectures to a minimum and allow for group games, break out rooms, and one-on-ones. One way to accomplish this is to record your lessons for students to watch asynchronously, so that more of your synchronous learning time is spent connecting with one another and practicing their learning. Motivation theory says that allowing students to use their voice, and additionally allowing them to make choices in their learning, increases engagement.
One model example of student choice is Genius Hour, inspired by Google’s policy of allowing employees to spend 20% of their time on side passion projects. During Genius Hour, students are allowed to pursue their own educational learning objectives. SEL Skill Set #2: Understanding Emotions The Feelings Board, shown above, is one way to help students to label their emotions, which is one of the first steps in building self awareness skills. You can also add mindful moments into your students’ days. Mindful moments allow your students to check in with their emotions and their body throughout the day, an important step towards building emotional regulation skills.
Another useful time in the day for a quick check-in is just before class ends. Exit slips can be used as a simple tool for seeing how students are feeling about class, or just in general. Exit slips can also be a useful formative assessment tool for teachers, allowing insight into whether or not each student is understanding the concepts being taught.
The most important part of helping students understand themselves and their emotions is to give them plenty of opportunities to speak up and connect. “Be willing to have personal, empathetic, authentic conversation,” says fellow educator Traci Browder. SEL Skill Set #3: Social Skills
While it may seem as though socialization and the teaching of social skills has necessarily hit the pause button, there are still ways to teach these crucial life skills. If your district is doing distance learning, one practical way to start off the school year is to have a conversation about virtual classroom etiquette. Here is an infographic you are welcome to use:
Teach children to show respectfulness and kindness to their peers, even via video conference. This means using non-disruptive signals, being on time and prepared as they would be to a normal class session, and respecting each others’ privacy. If you are teaching in-person, these masks that allow students to see your facial expressions will help greatly with creating connection. Practice greetings by the door, if possible, though without the hugs and fist bumps. Make mornings fun and relationship building — for example, you could ask students to do a little dance move that you mimic as they come through the door.
If you are teaching virtually, smile and greet each student every morning by name. Ask attendance questions to get students sharing and connecting right from the start of class. Having morning meetings is just as important now, if not more important than ever. Visit Responsive Classrooms for inspiration for morning meetings.
Not all of your time on video calls needs to be academic learning. Spend some time allowing students to share, getting involved in random discussions, telling jokes, and discussing feelings — just like you would in a regular classroom environment. Create break out rooms and pair students with random “recess buddies” — you could allow them to play digital games together, or interview one another. Another idea for building relationships is to create virtual ‘dialogue journals.’ You could create a journal to write back and forth with each student, and also create journals for students to dialogue with their peers, taking turns in rotation. You can include a combination of SEL topics as well as academic check-ins in your journaling prompts.
You can build student communication and conflict resolution skills by teaching “I Statements.” I statements are scripted conversations that follow this format:
I feel…because…I need…
While this format often feels stuffy and unnatural at first, with practice you may find students attempting to use a more relaxed version on their own. For example, “I feel overwhelmed by the constant changes in expectations for teachers, and I need the administration to pick one course and stick with it for at least one solid month.” SEL Skill Set #4: Emotional Regulation
Emotional regulation has been a struggle for many people lately, not only for children. Mental and emotional health issues are rapidly rising, and often result in behavioral issues. One of the most important skills you can give your students is the ability to manage their responses to their emotions.
The MUSE website has a virtual curriculum called ‘Piloting Your Plane,’ geared at early elementary age students. This curriculum uses the analogy that our bodies are like planes and we are the pilots. Our responsibility is to fly our plane smoothly without crashing. In order to do so, children learn to check their control centers throughout the day, including their emotional thermometer and hunger/thirst gauges. The curriculum comes with plenty of ready-to-use activities that could be easily integrated into virtual or in-person classrooms, creating a wonderfully playful and highly effective common language.
Teaching ‘growth mindset’ can also help students with emotional regulation. The concept of growth mindset helps students to normalize mistakes, treating them as part of the learning process rather than as a sign that they are incapable of learning.
Having calm down kits and either in-person or virtual calm down centers is very helpful for students who need to take breaks in order to remain regulated. Storyline offers a wonderful online library of books read aloud by celebrities, with beautiful animated graphics to go with them. Set up your own virtual calm down center, and teach students how to use it when they are in need of a break.
While we will continue to see the effects of this pandemic on our children for years to come, incorporating the MUSE framework into your classroom will help you begin to rebuild your students’ emotional health.
For more tips on how to help your students (and yourself) during this chaotic time, please follow me. I am working fast to upload hundreds of units of SEL curriculum for all ages to my new site, EmotionalMUSE, and will send out updates as new units become available.
**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.
Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.
We are a few weeks into the new school year and for many educators, it has been an interesting start to the year. Whether in physical classroom spaces or in a hybrid or distance learning environment, our focus at the start of the year is on building relationships and engaging students in learning. The challenge this year for many is creating the right spaces to build those relationships when we are not together in our physical classrooms. Buncee provides so many possibilities for doing just this.
I can create with Buncee and engage my students in opportunities to not only create and engage more in learning, but provide a way that they can feel connected to each other if we cannot be together in the same physical space. A great place to start is exploring the Ideas Lab. There are great templates available to choose from that work well for the beginning of the year and a back to school theme, or for some ice breakers to build relationships that are so important.
Check out some of these recent additions to Buncee templates for having students express themselves by creating an acrostic poem or a virtual locker. These are great options to have students create a Buncee to introduce themselves to their teacher and to their classmates!
(this one was shared by Buncee)
(drag and drop items into your virtual locker)
Using Microsoft Teams or Google Classroom, it makes it really easy to share these with students. For global collaboration, create a Buncee board to post all of the amazing student creations. With project-based learning, my students have been able to connect with students in Argentina and Spain and share a little bit about their experiences as students and what life is like here in the United States. With all the options available for creating within Buncee, it’s fun for students to be able to create something that represents who they are and even to have the option to include audio or video to really get to know each other. Being able to collaborate like this is quite valuable regardless of where learning is happening but definitely beneficial as many schools are working with hybrid and distance learning. It helps students to feel more connected to their classmates and their teachers and also to be able to connect on a global scale which is important for all students.
Teach a Lesson
One of my favorite ways to use Buncee is to create lessons to share with my students. One of the first ones that I did was to teach about digital citizenship and it was easy to create something using all of the different options available within the media library and to give students an opportunity then create their own buncee to share what they had learned.
Set up class expectations for virtual learning
Explore the templates and create something like this fast and make it your own by selecting from the more than 35,000 choices available in the media library!
Ready-made templates and new topics
Something else that I’ve always loved about using Buncee is that it integrates with other tools that we use in my classroom. With this new partnership with Flipgrid, there are even more ways to use these tools together to provide more opportunities for students to build essential skills. You can find pre-made Buncee templates available in the discovery library focused on topics like social emotional learning, goal-setting and schedulers and organizers. Check out all of the choices today!
One of the things I love the most about using Buncee is that there is always support available. Whether you connect with the Buncee team through the different social media platforms, or make connections with educators from around the world through Twitter or Facebook, there are so many ways to learn and grow as educators. And even more importantly, to bring new opportunities to our students. If you need some quick resources on different topics, check out all of the many options available at their Buncee help desk.
Looking for more ideas? See what the Buncee Ambassadors are up to! Explore the 66 ideas for using Buncee from Maria Jose Giavedoni. Did you catch the Creative Beginnings event at the beginning of August? Three days of sessions and so many topics and ideas. Catch the recordings here.
Don’t miss out on the new idea o’clock with Buncee starting September 16th happening live on Facebook at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. First up was Shannon Miller and Amy Storer is on the 23rd! Be sure to tune in to learn new ideas from Buncee educators!
When COVID-19 struck in the spring, it forced an unprecedented portion of our country’s schools to suspend brick-and-mortar instruction. Teachers were thrown into distance teaching—referred to by many as “crisis teaching”— with little preparation. It was like trying to build a plane while flying it.
The crisis has exposed societal inequities impacting our students’ daily lives including food deficits, inadequate health care—including mental health care, issues with housing stability, and insufficient access to the internet.
This fall, to ensure that I’m meeting the needs of my marginalized students even as I shift to a new learning environment, I plan on creating a culturally responsive digital classroom, one that can provide a space where students feel welcomed and valued. Culturally responsive instruction centers on building the learning capacity of all students. According to Zaretta Hammond, author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, “There is a focus on leveraging the affective and the cognitive scaffolding that students bring with them.”
Here are three ways in which I plan to implement culturally responsive teaching this year:
The single greatest investment teachers can make is to build relationships with their students. Relationships boost motivation, create safe spaces for learning, build new pathways for learning, and improve student behavior. The question, of course, is how can I build relationships with students who I might never see in person?
First, I plan to master the soft start to class in order to ease students into our learning environment each day. Though often thought of as an elementary school strategy, my middle schoolers respond well to soft starts. It allows time for students to transition and to re-engage their mental muscles with a short game, puzzle, brainteaser, reading, or interesting “Would You Rather” question. Be cognizant that typical icebreakers like, “What I did this summer” may leave children with nothing positive to share and create a social hierarchy of who had the most impressive summer break. Instead, pose questions like, “Imagine your best day ever. What would happen?” or “If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?” Taking even ten minutes to check-in with students at the beginning of class each day is vital because high-trust, low-stress environments can help marginalized students effectively process and retain learned information. Additionally, I plan to do the following to build relationships and increase connectedness virtually:
Learn my students’ names promptly and use them as much as possible. As a teacher who often mispronounces my students’ names, I’ll assign students to create a short video in which they pronounce their name so that I can reference it.
Ask for student feedback regularly through an ungraded video or Google Form known as “Friday Feedback”
Host informal office hours that will encourage one-on-one communication
Collect and share virtual notes of gratitude and appreciation
Be a Personal Trainer of Students’ Cognitive Development
As a teacher who is preparing for Round 2 of distance teaching this fall, much of the success or failure of this upcoming school year will depend on my students’ ability to work independently. In order to foster this independence, I will be providing students who are dependent learners with cognitive routines and tools that will help them organize their thinking and process content. Consistently using a regular set of prompts in all assignments helps students internalize cognitive routines so that they can use them when I’m not around. After all, isn’t the goal of education to help students become lifelong learners who can marshal their critical thinking skills long after they’ve left the classroom? Internalizing cognitive routines will help expand the learning capacity of students who have been historically marginalized and work to dismantle dominant narratives about students of color.
Make It a Game, Make It Social, Make It a Story
Each day students walk into our classrooms (or this year, log in to our classrooms) armed with their own learning tools, but too often teachers fail to use them to maximize student learning. Students’ culture can inform us whether they learn best on their own or by collaborating with others. In a distance learning context, students are often given packets and assigned independent projects, which serve independent learners, but are a detriment to communal learners. For example, diverse students who come from oral traditions, might benefit from activities that require social interaction, physical manipulation of content, or narrative. In other words: make it a game, make it social, or make it a story. Utilizing breakout features in Zoom and apps like Jamboard, Flipgrid, and Socrative can help engage communal learners. However, it’s important to remember that culturally responsive teaching isn’t simply a set of strategies. It’s consistently mirroring students’ cultural learning styles and tools.
My job is to be responsive to students’ individual and collective lived experiences, and in particular this year, their experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic. That will require me to integrate my students’ cultural learning tools into my pedagogy and be a warm demander of their cognitive development. But above all, this year will be about relationships. Creating a learning partnership that encourages my students to take ownership of their learning has always been important, but this year it will be paramount to address gaps in learning outcomes between diverse students and their white counterparts. Through robust reflection of my own pedagogy and the adoption of culturally responsive teaching practices, I plan to make learning exciting and joyful for my students so that they’ll be motivated to take ownership of their own learning. Students will be seen. They’ll be heard. They’ll be loved. And we’ll make it through this school year together.
Call me stubborn, but I refuse to quit! T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T. is the foundation to success in learning and life! Exploring the dynamics of a successful classroom and how grit is a vital characteristic for student achievement