Join me in an open dialogue about SEL, Transition Programs, &
how to best serve all students
how to best serve all students
It's the first day of school in a new kind of world. The couches are in storage; the beverage station is locked in the closet. Half the students aren't even here today. And there is a bigger loss that hovers over us - a remembrance, a sadness that so many of us did not survive the storm that still brews. For those of you are wondering what is happening in school today, let me tell you what remains. A student with color-coded folders decorated with VOTE and LOVE stickers bought off Etsy. A student who decides to name all the plants in the room as soon as they enter. Another who immediately projects videos they have made over the summer. Students excitedly whispering to one another over the 6-feet aisles, even when they aren't supposed to. Students with shirts so new their pressed creases still remain. Students tik-tocking (is that a verb yet?) outside the front door before walking in - peace-signs and arms thrown in the air.
We will have to be patient, more aware of each other in ways we are not used to. There are new rules that we must (sometimes) begrudgingly obey. But, right now, just so you know, there are students outside my window on their new mask break for the first time. The Northeast weather has obeyed today. There is sun and their faces are turned upwards.
The foundation of an SEL Transition classroom is both a reflection of the values of its community and a platform which seeks to further identify and extend those values.
Firstly, the genesis of such a classroom importantly does not come from the top down. Instead, it is a reflection of how community members are already approaching wellness. As many of us expand the definition of wellness to include both social and emotional well-being, we are also changing the fundamental way we interact with others. Nationwide, from big cities to small towns, communities are increasingly providing mental health services, focusing on addiction awareness, promoting group fitness, and learning about the importance of nutrition. Simply put, providing a public service, including education, without an SEL component is no longer providing a service that reflects the values of its public.
While the SEL Transition classroom reflects the values of the community, it is not passive; a successful program is based on an ever-evolving and active extension of those values. This means that we locate ways to
Check back soon to learn more about how the SEL Transition classroom applies its foundational values and why the world is suddenly paying attention now.
In my last blog post, I wrote, “A teacher in a transition classroom wears many hats. They are part behavior re-mediator, inclusion specialist, curriculum developer, instructional specialist, and importantly, a team coordinator.”
For those of us who are SEL Transition room teachers, finding our own identity can be a challenging, and exciting, process. With a field so new, many school systems, and even teacher’s education services, have not yet defined our role. Statewide programs and national platforms promoting SEL Transition programs have largely taken a macro-view: creating and developing an infrastructure to support school-wide social & emotional programming. This gives relevant teachers the rare opportunity to define their own roles.
Over the last three years, I have worked diligently to both implement and evaluate skills that best support my teaching role in the SEL classroom. I have done so with careful attention paid to the needs of the Director of Social & Emotional Learning, administrators, the Guidance department, classroom teachers, parents, Special Education, and students. Evaluation has been conducted through meticulous data gathering, assessment, and intervention.
As a result, I have developed a detailed job description for the lead teacher in an SEL-based High School Transition Classroom. These descriptors serve to certainly explain the responsibilities of my current position, but also to highlight the key aspects of a classroom based on a new approach to education in an effort to inspire and assist all teachers as they try to incorporate more social and emotional learning into their curriculum.
The following are a list of 5 areas of focus. Each will be unpacked in their own upcoming blog entry. Check back for more!
The SEL transition classroom relies heavily on its ability to communicate effectively and efficiently with various providers including general education teachers, guidance counselors, special educators, administrators, parents, and, of course, the director of social-emotional learning. It can feel like a full-time job - keeping everyone updated in real time. However, there are a myriad of strategies that can help ensure that everyone is on the same page.
re-mediator, inclusion specialist, curriculum developer, instructional specialist, and importantly, a team coordinator. This requires significant abilities in the areas of data collection and communication. Having a strong foundation in behavioral technology can reduce confusion, misinterpretation, and saves time for the entire team.
5th period comes fast. Creatively organized, at my school fifth period is broken up into four segments - a rotating arrangement of lunches, reading periods, and classes. It's also the time when RISE floods with alumni, friends, and current RISE students. They bring lunches on trays, backpacks, and winter coats. They plop down on bean bag chairs and they talk. It is tempting to work through it - the students are engaged and happy - but recently I've been throwing myself down on a bean bag, as well. I listen mostly, encourage positivity, provoke. I say again and again, "this is your space." Way back in graduate school, Virginia Woolf told me that we all need room to grow. Recently, I've seen proof.