Tech & - Playbook, Saving our Future - April 2022

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d n a g n i t r o p p u s : e r u t u Saving our f s r e h c a e t s ’ y a d o t g revivin


Recognizing and Reducing Teacher Burnout By Erik Ofgang


20 Building A MultiTiered System of Supports Framework for Mental Health

Playbook 2022 Saving Our Future: Supporting and Reviving Today’s Teachers

By Erik Ofgang

By Dr. Kecia Ray

24 Explaining SEL to Parents By Erik Ofgang


4 Ways to Create Virtual Healing Spaces in Education By Stephanie Smith Budhai, Ph.D.

30 SEL For Educators: 4 Best Practices By Erik Ofgang



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g n i iv v e R d n a g n i t r o p Sup Today’s Teachers By Dr. Kecia Ray


By Dr. Kecia Ray


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INTRODUCTION n article appeared in my local newspaper advertising positions for special education teachers. The bonus package was $7,000 plus a year of groceries. This is not exclusive to one newspaper in one town. Cities across the U.S. are challenged to find highly qualified teachers to fill vast numbers of vacant positions within their districts. The world has not yet fully realized the impact of COVID but some organizations are getting a first-hand glimpse of the COVID fallout. During 2019, there were 3.2 million teachers in public schools and a half million employed in private schools. However, the quit rate in state and local public education reached 1.5% in July 2020, the highest rate in over 20 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Local public education employment

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experienced a loss of 570,000 workers, the greatest reduction in the sector ever recorded since federal tracking that started in 1955. The Great Teacher Resignation in 2022 showed that teachers are strained and tired of vacillating between online and in-person teaching, which is causing them to rethink their commitments to a teaching career. Exhaustion is not the only symptom of the exodus, as teachers have felt underappreciated and underpaid for years. Teacher salaries are one reason it is so hard to recruit into the field. The average teacher salary is $63,645, with the starting salary at about $39,249. Keep in mind that salaries vary greatly across the U.S. For example, the estimated average for teachers in Mississippi is $47,655, the lowest in the U.S., while starting teachers in Montana are the lowest initially paid at $30,036. A stark note: A teacher with a family of five is living in poverty in


2022 PLAYBOOK Montana and qualifies for federal aid programs, including free and reduced lunch and Medicaid. In fact, the majority of states starting teachers with a family size four or greater may qualify for federal assistance. Salaries aren’t the only impetus for those leaving the profession. Workload, dilapidated building conditions, unrealistic expectations, and lack of resources are cited as the top reasons teachers quit. A RAND Corporation study found that COVID was an accelerant, with 3 out of 10 teachers moving on to jobs that offered less money with no health insurance or a retirement plan such as the teaching profession often offers. A OnePoll survey of 1,006 K-12 teachers conducted on behalf of Vida Health in 2021 indicated that more than half of those surveyed considered leaving their jobs, citing mental health as a major factor. Impacting teachers’ mental health are health and safety concerns, a focus on their own children’s education, the stress of remote teaching, a lack of work/life balance, and reduced budgets in schools. Considering the incredible need for high-quality teachers to teach the 48.1 million public school students and 5.7 million private school students, states and districts must act swiftly to both recruit and retain teachers as well as attract substitute teachers to fill vacancies. Recently, New Mexico asked the National Guard troops to volunteer as substitute teachers while Fayette County in Georgia recruited bus drivers to serve as substitute teachers. Camden City School District in New Jersey is sponsoring international teaching applicants to come to the district. Recruitment must be a priority along with identifying rewards and acknowledgment programs, as well as increasing salaries. Building a teaching force for tomorrow must be every state’s priority on the road to revitalizing American education and the beloved teaching profession.

RECRUITING THE BEST TEACHERS A variety of programs and offerings have already been established in states across the country to recruit teachers, including loan repayment assistance and forgiveness, alternative teacher certification, and teacher centers. Districts have their own strategies, such as financial incentives, “grow your own” programs, and marketing initiatives. In 2016, Hanover Research conducted a study for the state superintendent of California to determine the efficacy of these programs and found the top incentive at both the state and local levels was related to financial compensation. Makes sense since so many teachers start their careers in poverty if they already have a family. New York is the highest-paying teacher state in the country, followed closely by Alaska, but the cost of living is higher in these states so it creates an illusion that teachers are actually making more money. Washington has the highest ranking of any state for the Opportunity & Competition Index. The average salary in Washington is $72,925 and the teacher-pupil ratio is 18:1, making it the top spot to recruit teachers nationally. Other states must improve their ranking with the promise of better salaries, better working environments, and lower class sizes. So, how can a district prioritize education in their states to attract the best teachers? Policymakers can begin prioritizing education in their respective states in five ways: 1. Acknowledge and address overcrowding: Overcrowding of classrooms, especially with the severe shortage of teachers and substitutes since COVID, is an ongoing challenge for states and districts. Rethinking space, schedules, and accessibility to online programs can afford districts


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2022 PLAYBOOK the innovations needed to address overcrowding. 2. Make funding schools a priority: Funding is another issue that has an effect on every aspect of education, including the reduction of the teaching workforce, which, in turn, increases class size for the remaining teachers. States and local governments can address school funding by thinking creatively about taxes and the overall economy; for example, implementing a progressive tax code can boost education systems. 3. Address the school-to-prison pipeline: The increase of school violence across America has also increased zero-tolerance policies. Many students who encounter discipline issues in school ultimately drop out of school or seek alternative education. These students sometimes find themselves on the pathway to prison. Districts who design alternative programs offering a diploma rather than a GED or adopt a positive school community in which guards, school resource officers, and school officials have compassion and respect, can reduce escalation to hostile behaviors while offering students a new outlook on life. Some districts adopt a restorative justice model focused on conflict resolution rather than detention or suspension from school. 4. Raise standards for teacher:- Underqualified teachers produce


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underqualified students. Creating standards for teacher licensure that align with higher pay practices ensures the profession has the top-performing instructors available for every school classroom. 5. Partner with the community on classroom and curriculum practices: The COVID pandemic has changed the game in how schools and teachers partner with parents. The clocks can’t be turned back and that is probably a good thing. Parents are beginning to recognize the partnership between school and home can make all the difference in the student’s performance and attitude toward school. States and districts focusing on these issues that teachers have identified will have a better chance of drawing quality applicants. Check out this list from World Population Review to see where your state falls on the ability to recruit good teachers.

AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS THAT MATTER Rewarding teachers for their work cultivates continued engagement in the field and validates their expertise and professionalism. Historical studies show that respect, recognition, reinforcement, and

2022 PLAYBOOK Amazon Technology Classroom Supplies Clothing Schools and Accessories Newspapers and Book Stores Health and Car Insurance Museums, Hotels, Entertainment Cars and Trucks Teachers can also find special discounts while traveling or on vacation.


• • • • • • • •


encouragement from peers, principals, parents, and students are some of the most important reasons teachers have a positive feeling about their work. In the U.S. and Australia, merit pay has been a type of reward for teachers, however, research indicates this to not be a motivator for performance. If merit pay isn’t the answer, then nominate a teacher you know and love and believe does great teaching for a national award. Here are a few to consider: • National Teacher of the Year Program • Outstanding Social Studies Teacher of the Year Awards • Milken Educator Awards • Disneyland Teacher Awards • Riley Teacher Award • NSTA Award and Competitions • The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching • Creative 5 A Day Teacher of the Year • The Shaklee Teacher Award If you are familiar with Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), you’ll be excited to know there is a program designed to reward teachers and staff. Check it out at Workplace Rewards for Teachers. PBIS has even identified an ultimate list of teacher incentives you may find useful as the school year is coming to an end. In addition to in-district rewards, some companies also reward teachers, but it may be a well-kept secret. Here are a few companies that offer discounts to teachers: • Verizon • Shoes and Clothing Brands


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According to National Center for Education Statistics, there will be a projected 7% increase from 2016 to 2028 in the number of teachers in elementary and secondary schools, both public and private. The majority of teacher education programs reported no or small changes in enrollment between Fall 2020 and 2021, and 20% saw a decline that exceeded 10%; 13% of responding colleges and universities saw declines in graduate school enrollment. This phenomenon sadly isn’t new. The challenge of building a teaching force to meet the demand has been studied since the early 2000s. Universities are recruiting future teachers from across the country by designing more online programs to extend their reach and offering flexibility in taking courses and receiving credits. Arizona State University’s teacher college reports a program increase every fall since 2017, which the university attributes to the state-funded scholarship enabling students to finish their program debt-free if they commit to teaching in the state for a certain period. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a similar pledge of financial support. In addition to the traditional route of entering the teaching field through a bachelor’s degree program, some are also choosing teaching as a second career. In fact, almost 40% of the teachers today are secondcareer teachers. Citing the advantage of experience and career diversity, many secondcareer teachers come with the rich life experiences that K-12 students need and, in many cases, parenting experiences that prove to be helpful as well. Second-career teachers also tend to be more innovative and think outside of the box more than traditionally trained teachers, which puts them at an advantage for solving problems and not getting rattled by workload or quick pivots that may happen in a typical school environment. Other pros for second-career teachers is their overall outlook on life and ability to remain calm in most situations. Even though being a newbie at a non-traditional age may bring some anxiety, the stress of teaching is often less than the stress of the high-powered career they left behind.

ROADMAP TO REVITALIZING THE TEACHING PROFESSION According to the “State K-12 Education Trends for 2022” from the National Governors Association, at least 19 governors called attention to the need for improved health and wellness services at schools, from


often made a much higher national focus. Top-ranked nations support teachers through universal high-quality teacher education that is typically paid for by the government and includes extensive clinical experience, as well as coursework, equitable and competitive higher salaries, reduced teaching load combined with shared planning time to mentor beginning teachers, and opportunities for professional development that is embedded within collaboration time at school. Teachers also are directly involved in developing and making decisions around curriculum and assessment. For example, Finland, a country known for its excellent education system, attributes its success to getting the right people to become teachers and helping them develop into instructors who are effective in the classroom by ensuring all students have excellent instruction.



personal protective equipment during the pandemic to mental and behavioral health services to support students as they adjust to being back in the classroom. From the report: Alabama Governor Kay Ivey celebrated increasing education investments, including student support services such as autism therapy and mental health care in schools. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer acknowledged that inperson learning has a positive impact on most students’ mental health and social development and celebrated investments in mental health services in schools. Education has been impacted by staff shortages across many roles, from classroom teachers to bus drivers. With increases in education funding this year, at least 22 Governors also proposed increasing teacher salaries or providing bonuses to teachers and school staff with many acknowledging the importance of strengthening recruitment pipelines and career ladders to retain the best educators. For example, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a seven percent pay raise for all teachers and increases to the starting salaries for each tier of educators to help retain high-quality teachers. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson celebrated giving teachers raises over his tenure while increasing funding for education and creating a record-high reserve fund. Outside of the U.S., the teaching profession is held in higher esteem and


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Every spring we begin the task of winding down one school year and beginning preparations for the next by working on our budgets. Over the past several years, monies have been made available to support student health and wellness throughout the pandemic and ensure students’ academic progress is not stalled due to the challenges of providing consistent learning opportunities. On average, states contribute a total of $274.7 billion in support of K-12 public education with local governments on average putting $269.3 billion toward public education. The federal government provides flowthrough funding for students in poverty, those eligible for special education services, those who need support with language services, and support for career and technical education. The federal government allocates about $400 billion to support these programs annually. COVID made it possible for states to receive additional federal funds to the tune of more than $189 billion. But, of the additional funds allocated, most states have spent less than 40% of the money while the clock is ticking down on spending. States and districts aren’t spending for a few reasons. First, many were operating in emergency mode when the initial funds were distributed so even though they had monies to spend they were having to put their attention on protecting students and ensuring learning was taking place in some capacity. Then, additional funds were released in ESSR I and II with requirements to attend to learning loss with 20% of the allocation and the remaining funds had almost no strings attached, except for policies on procurement and spending in districts. Finally, the monies are definitely temporary and more temporary than any other grant fund received through the federal government because they are one-time spending bills. The last time education was this politically charged was most likely Brown v Board of Education, a monumental time in education and American history. That said, states and districts can’t allow the political


• Teachers’ professional development, specifically supporting the new technologies introduced during the pandemic. • Mental health via video conference for students is another great resource that could be provided to those still trying to manage the impact of the pandemic on their families let alone on themselves. • Upgrading classrooms to support more collaborative and creative student work • Upgrade library spaces to offer students more collaborative and study spaces • Create learning labs for content and credit recovery • Create outdoor learning spaces and classrooms for students • Explore hybrid schedules by setting up distance learning classrooms • Explore using the funds for teacher recruitment and retention

CONCLUSION The focus on supporting teachers and growing the teaching profession in the U.S. has long been overlooked when prioritizing funding. The severity of the teacher shortage has been reported for decades, such as by the Learning Policy Institute, and all the neglect has finally caught up with us as we are now in a position of crisis.


discord to become debilitating. These monies can be put to good use in districts and schools; especially the remaining 80% of the ESSR I and II funds. Here are just a few ideas for how to put that money to good use in your district:

That said, when you consider that most children spend over 9,000 hours of their 5-18 years in school, we may want to spend a little more time making sure we have the most qualified teachers in their classrooms. Rethinking compensation, reimagining school schedules, and involving teachers in more decisions around curriculum and assessment could be a great starting point. Teachers are essential to success as a country, state, or neighborhood. No matter how much we do to improve opportunities, we also must raise the value and increase the recognition of the teaching profession.

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RECOGNIZING AND REDUCING TEACHER BURNOUT Signs of teacher burnout include emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a feeling of no longer being effective at your job. It’s important to listen to these feelings and make changes.


By Erik Ofgang



eacher burnout is a bigger problem than ever. According to one recent survey, 55 percent of teachers are thinking about leaving their profession earlier than they planned, with nearly 600,000 teachers already having left the profession between 2020 and 2021. For the teachers who remain, staffing shortages and ongoing pandemic and non-pandemic stressors make burnout a continual concern.

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How to recognize and overcome teacher burnout is critical to successfully remaining in the classroom and working with students.

SYMPTOMS OF TEACHER BURNOUT Teacher burnout, and burnout in general, has three main symptoms, says Laurie Santos, a cognitive scientist and Yale University professor who teaches the popular Yale “happiness” course.




1. Emotional Exhaustion Even after a really great night of sleep, you just feel unrested and exhausted the next morning, Santos says. 2. Depersonalization “It’s like an extreme cynicism of other people. You just read other people’s intentions as negative,” Santos says. “You get really frustrated even when people are asking you for things that are part of your job description.” 3. Lack of personal efficacy “You feel like you’re not doing your job at work,” Santos says. “You feel like you’re not making a difference, and you feel frustrated in terms of how effective you are.” Santos advises teachers to look for these signs of burnout in themselves and to consider taking The Maslach Burnout Inventory, a free survey that assesses occupational burnout. Recently, Santos noticed the signs of all three areas of burnout in herself and will take a leave absence to address it. “My first sign was starting to get frustrated with students for asking the normal kinds of things that students ask in my role as a head of college,” Santos says. “I was also really feeling ineffective in my role. The COVID-19 pandemic had changed my job completely.” Santos also felt emotionally exhausted, and knowing the science behind

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burnout, she decided to take action.

REDUCING TEACHER BURNOUT Learn to Say No Kyle S. Whipple, a professor of Education for Equity and Justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, warns the future teachers he works with to establish boundaries. “You’re going into education, I promise you that every hour of every day, you could work if that was your goal,” Whipple tells the students during the first week of classes. “You will always have a basketball game you could attend. You will always have something you could be grading, and you will always have some lesson plan that could be better than it was.” It’s important for young teachers to not let their passion for education overextend them. “A lot of us do receive a ton of energy and excitement and thrill from our jobs,” Whipple says. “I love coming to work. It’s very fun for me, I love engaging with my students. And that’s awesome. But you know what else I love? Being in a kayak.” Whipple sets boundaries on digital communications. His phone turns off at 10 p.m. each night and does not go back on until the next morning, and he doesn’t accept requests that will take up too much time. “Part of my spiel with my students is if they don’t learn right now as undergraduates to start saying, ‘Nope, I’m not going to do that thing because I want to do this other thing instead,’ they’ll really struggle their first two or three years of teaching because, my gosh, do we overwork our early teachers.” Listen to Symptoms of Burnout and Make Your Identity About More Than Your Profession Many times when people feel symptoms of burnout they try to suppress their emotions. This is a mistake. “We ignore our negative emotions at our peril,” Santos says. “They’re really signs that we need to make some changes in life. Think of putting your hand on a hot stove and experiencing pain. If you just ignore that pain and keep your hand there, you get an awful burn. And I think our negative emotions work the same way. If you’re noticing some of the signs of burnout in yourself, you need to take some action. You need to make some changes at work.” In addition to finding ways to rest at work, there is evidence that shifting your identity to something other than your profession can help reduce your risk of burnout, Santos says. “Burnout really happens when people are putting their all and putting their entire identity into the job that they do,” Santos says. “I think that this is something you see a lot in teachers. And so finding other ways to enact your identity -- putting time and effort into being a good friend, into hobbies, and into being a good parent – these are ways that you can shift your identity away from work. And that means that when things are tough at work, there’s something else that you can focus your energy on and get enjoyment out of.”


Experts recommend a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) that can help students get the mental health assistance they need to flourish both socially and academically. By Erik Ofgang


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hese have not been easy times for educators or students. Stress from the pandemic, social unrest, and more recently, the war in Ukraine, have all led to widespread reports of a spike in behaviorial incidents among students. In October 2021 the American Academy of Pediatrics declared an emergency in child and adolescent mental health. To address these mental health challenges, schools need to implement a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS), say psychologists Laura E. Rutherford and Brittany Zakszeski. Rutherford is director of training and a research psychologist at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Consulting, a behavioral healthcare nonprofit, while Zakszeski is a training and consulting specialist at Devereux Center for Effective Schools.

RECOGNIZE THAT A MAJORITY OF MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ARE PROVIDED IN SCHOOLS More than 80 percent of mental health services are delivered within the school setting, Rutherford and Zakszeski wrote in a recent playbook about social and emotional behavior in schools. “Most mental health services are provided in schools, for a variety of reasons,” Rutherford says. “Access to care and services is much easier in schools, and it’s easier to refer to school-based services.” Receiving mental health services also has less stigma when it is provided in schools rather than in the community, Rutherford says. This is why a robust MTSS framework is so important for schools.




Rutherford and Zakszeski suggest coordinating your MTSS framework around three tiers. Tier 1: “A really strong MTSS program would have supports for all students universally across the school,” Rutherford says. This should include social-emotional learning programs and perhaps some school-wide trauma-informed classroom management practices and supports. In addition, there should be a mechanism to identify students who are in need of additional support and therefore need Tier 2 interventions, Rutherford says. Tier 2: This should include targeted group-based interventions for students who are more at risk, and there also should be a mechanism to see if kids are doing well with these targeted group programs. If they’re not thriving, they need to be given additional Tier 3 level support. Tier 3: Students who were not sufficiently helped by Tier 1 and 2 interventions should get targeted individualized support. This might be individual school counseling or referrals to outside agencies, or outside agencies providing services within the school itself, Rutherford says.

MAKE IT COMPREHENSIVE A good MTSS framework should encompass academics and mental health.

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“The type of MTSS framework that Laura and I really recommend is an integrated one that is focused on mental health alongside other indicators of social wellness, emotional wellness, and behavioral wellness,” Zakszeski says. “We’re really saying, ‘Let’s not have all these different programs and frameworks, and service-delivery mechanisms for addressing those different types of student needs. Let’s have one integrated connected framework that’s really advancing all of those types of outcomes.’” This type of framework is necessary because student setbacks are rarely siloed. “We know any challenges in any of those areas could really create significant barriers to students’ learning,” Zakszeski says.

TELEHEALTH AND BEING PROACTIVE Telehealth for mental health is an increasingly popular option for students. “Although these are not school-based mental health services, we certainly are coordinating with community agencies and providers,” Zakszeski says. “There is some research to suggest there are in some ways fewer barriers and more attendance and commitment to treatment if telehealth is an option, especially for some adolescents in some circumstances. So it could be a way to supplement the school-based services that are being provided primarily within the walls of the building in the schools that we’re working in.” Given the current social pressures, Rutherford says that school leaders should plan on their students needing assistance. “Rather than saying, ‘Are there mental health needs?’ We should assume everyone’s going to need some sort of support now because students have missed a lot of socialization and normal interactions on top of academics and other concerns.”


SEL has become a flashpoint in the education wars. However, when parents understand what SEL is, they rarely oppose it.


By Erik Ofgang



xplaining your school’s SEL policies to parents has become increasingly important. Outside of the education world, few people know that SEL stands for social and emotional learning, and even those who understand the acronym are often uncertain as to what SEL programs in schools look like. In our highly politicized education landscape, this can have unfortunate consequences, especially as schools and districts continue to invest more in SEL — according to one analysis, spending on SEL increased by roughly 45 percent between late 2019 and early 2021. As it turns out, SEL has become the latest flashpoint in the education

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wars, with conservatives in some districts equating SEL with liberal identity politics, according to the Hechinger Report. “It’s very disheartening to see something as overwhelmingly agreed upon as a priority turned into a politically divisive issue by politicians that are looking to be divisive instead of doing what’s best for kids,” says Melissa Schlinger, vice president of Practice and Programs of CASEL, a nonprofit leader in SEL education. However, once people understand what SEL is, they rarely have problems with it regardless of their political background, Schlinger says. That’s why she and other SEL experts advise the following to make sure parents understand exactly what SEL programs are and what they are not.


SEL EXPLAINED ESTABLISH LINES OF COMMUNICATION TO DISCUSS SEL AND MORE The first step to effectively describe your school’s SEL program is to establish open communication with parents and the community, Schlinger says. “[Schools] need to make sure that they are providing opportunities to be in discussion with parents about the social-emotional learning skills, and that they are focused on what it means to create a supportive climate founded on relationships and belonging,” she says. “Invite open conversation and make sure parents recognize that their voices are not only welcome but encouraged as part of SEL implementation.” This type of transparency and openness can go a long way to alleviating potential concerns about SEL programs before any crop up by giving parents a clear understanding of what these programs are actually about.

EXPLAIN SEL TO PARENTS AND HOW IT WILL HELP THEIR CHILDREN “What we’ve heard from our superintendents and our district leaders is that when they show parents ‘This is what we’re focused on, and these are the skills, and here’s how we do it,’ there’s really very little disagreement,” Schlinger says. It’s when education jargon and acronyms are paired with political interests looking to stir up anger that some schools get pushback.

In those instances, Schlinger advises sitting down with parents, unpacking what SEL is, and saying, “Here are the competencies that make up socialemotional learning, and here’s how we promote them.” Getting specific about what these competencies entail can also help, says Brittany Zakszeski, Ph. D, a training and consulting specialist at Devereux Center for Effective Schools, which is run by Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Consulting, a behavioral healthcare nonprofit. “We want to be teaching things like recognizing emotions, managing emotions, using coping strategies – a lot of these things are ones that most people would agree are important for school success, and that are not related to any partisanized outcome or agenda,” she says. Research supports this. A poll conducted by the Fordham Institute found that although there is broad support among parents for teaching SELrelated skills in schools, the term ‘social and emotional learning’ is relatively unpopular.

SHARE WHAT SEL PROVIDES STUDENTS “As schools, we’re in the business of preparing our children for life,” Schlinger says. “If you look at what employers are saying that they need from a future workforce, they need people who can work with people who are different from them, who can collaboratively problem solve, who can manage stress, and who have self-awareness.” It’s also important not to frame SEL as somehow separate from the academics that occur at your school. “We know that this is actually foundational to all academic learning,” Schlinger says. “It’s not like we’re taking away time from academics to focus on these things.”

REMIND PARENTS WHY SEL IS SO IMPORTANT NOW SEL is particularly critical as we move out of the pandemic, and parents may need to be reminded of how much regular socialization and in-person school many children have missed, says Laura E. Rutherford, Ph.D., director of training and a research psychologist at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Consulting. “I think most parents will say, ‘Oh, yes, now that you’re saying it this way, I do see a need. My child is not used to the things that we would think of as typical that I grew up with.’ We actually have to go back and teach and help students learn them.” It’s important for parents to understand that schools need to create a safe and positive environment in which kids feel like they belong and they’re connected. “That’s a really important strategy for promoting mental well-being, which we know is really critical right now,” Schlinger says. “There’s certainly a lot of depression and anxiety and behavior issues that are happening. And we know that social-emotional learning can play a really important role in providing supportive environments for kids to be in.”


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4 WAYS TO CREATE VIRTUAL HEALING SPACES IN EDUCATION Virtual healing spaces have the ability to bring together students, teachers, and their families in times of unrest


By Stephanie Smith Budhai, Ph.D.



s Spring 2022 approaches, we prepare to move forward after more than two years of living through a global pandemic. While great efforts have been made to continue teaching and learning during these turbulent, uncertain times, students, teachers, and families have been woefully taxed. Virtual learning environments have proved to be effective in continuing teaching and learning, beyond the confines of a physical classroom space. However, these environments can also be used to create virtual healing spaces. Mental health and wellness is important for students to be able to focus and

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engage in learning, so having these spaces available is incredibly needed. Here are four online environments that can be used as virtual healing spaces:



Create a variety of affinity break-out room circles in which students and their families can come together over shared interests, issues, and obstacles currently being faced, while supporting one another. These

VIRTUAL HEALING SPACES smaller affinity break-out room circles, which can be hosted through a video conferencing platform such as Zoom, can be informal or formalized with questions to consider. You could even collaborate with your school’s counseling staff to serve as a facilitator for these calming circles. The affinity spaces can be based on topics, grade levels, schools within a l arger district, demographic groups, or any other ways to bring students and families with shared experiences and challenges together to reflect and debrief.





While designed as a social media and image-sharing platform, Pinterest is a wonderful virtual healing space that can be used to build community affirmation. Create classroom community affirmation Pinterest boards where students and their families can post inspiring quotes and images that can serve as peaceful inspiration. Post a link to the Pinterest board within your classroom LMS. You could even share new postings with your class each Monday to start the week off in a positive and uplifting way.

Sometimes students and their families want to share their

thoughts, but not in a live space. With reflection, it can take time to gather thoughts and prepare to speak aloud. In these cases, making available voicerecorded reflection domains on a platform such as VoiceThread can allow students the space to think about the challenges they are facing, and share with the larger class community. Classmates and teachers can respond to the reflections with advice, words of support, and further affirmation.



It is always good practice to bring the entire class community together as one. Consider holding quarter live synchronous caring sessions using a virtual conferencing tool such as Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or whatever platform is available at your school. Each class community member can finish statements such as “I care about ...”, “Caring about others has made me …”, “Caring to me means…”, “I feel cared for when….” Virtual healing spaces have the ability to bring together students, teachers, and their families in times of unrest and serve as environments in which reflection, calm, and community can be nurtured and thrive. Consider offering your students, their families, and yourself the space to heal and renew. If you would like to incorporate additional mindfulness activities, check out 5 Mindfulness Apps and Websites for K-12.

SEL FOR EDUCATORS: 4 BEST PRACTICES Effective SEL programs start with educators and establish sustainable best practices.


By Erik Ofgang


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aving an effective social and emotional learning program begins with educators, says Dr. Collette Bozek, the vice principal of Springs Charter Schools in California. Bozek, who specializes in SEL, likens it to the advice given on airplanes that are low on oxygen: You need to put your mask on first before you can help others. “So as districts are talking about implementing social-emotional learning practices, it’s really not looking at the students first but rather the teachers,” she says. Here are tips from Bozek and others for implementing effective SEL programs for educators.




While paying more attention to the SEL needs of teachers, it’s important for school leaders to remember the conversation does not end there, said Dr. Dawn Bridges during a recent Tech & Learning Webinar. “We need to make sure that it includes the community, it isn’t just teachers,” said Bridges, the AASA SEL Cohort Program Lead and the Senior Director of Education Partnerships for Right At School. “It’s the staff and bus drivers. It’s the Board of Education and the whole entire community. And when we think about moving forward and what schools need, we need to take a very comprehensive look and make sure we’re including all stakeholders in that.”


It can be easy to pay lip service to SEL, but implementing research-backed and sustainable programs is more difficult, Bozek says. “We’re so driven by academics and things that are quantifiable and measurable. Oftentimes, SEL is considered fluffy, like, ‘Let’s talk about our emotions,’” she says. District leaders need to realize that SEL is not fluffy or extra, but essential. Leaders also need to realize that it starts with educators. Bozek cites 2017 research by Anne Gregory and Edward Fergus. “One of the things they found is that most SEL models are centered on students but not on the adults who interact with them,” she says. “Yet research shows that an educator’s own social-emotional competencies strongly influences a student’s motivation to learn, and the school climate in general. So we see right there that we need to look at our teachers and how to support them.”



Schools and districts almost never have an abundance of spare time, but prioritizing SEL with educators is not a luxury, especially after such a difficult year. Karen VanAusdal, senior director of Practice for The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), advises setting time during staff meetings to focus on SEL. “Build in some rituals of connection, and rituals of reflection,” she says. She also advises school leaders to take the time to do individual outreach to teachers and express gratitude for what they’ve done this past year.




Leaders should encourage their staff to build SEL into their own instructional practices and include space for self-reflection. “What have they learned about themselves as teachers over this past year, about the importance of connecting to students in new ways, about rebuilding lesson plans?” VanAusdal says. “For many of our teachers, it was like being a first year teacher all over again, even if they had been teaching for 20, 30 years.”


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-----Online----In our virtual Roundtable webinars, Dr. Kecia Ray talks with leaders from across the country about how they are solving some of the biggest challenges facing today's schools and districts. REGISTER FOR FREE for our upcoming Tech & Learning Roundtables or catch up on the previous ones with our on-demand content now available.


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UPCOMING: APRIL 20, 2022 - 3:00PM ET MTSS for Educators: Ensuring all stakeholders get the support they need

Educators nationwide have used multitiered systems of support (MTSS) to help provide students with academic and behavioral support for years. Now' innovative leaders are expanding MTSS to ensure that the same level of emotional, behavioral and academic support reaches teachers and staff. Discover how educational leaders can adopt creative and strategic MTSS models that support every stakeholder.

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