Process

Process

This process will support staff in reflecting on their own social and emotional competencies, identities, and biases; and engaging in practices that affirm, explore and cultivate students’ cultures, values, and identities. This includes providing frequent opportunities for adults to practice, model, and enhance these competencies. Use the Rubric to assess your current level of implementation.

1. Support staff in reflecting on their own social and emotional competencies, identities, and biases.

A good starting point for engaging staff in their own social and emotional learning is self-reflection. When staff reflect on their own social and emotional competencies, they personalize SEL, gain…More

A good starting point for engaging staff in their own social and emotional learning is self-reflection. When staff reflect on their own social and emotional competencies, they personalize SEL, gain a deeper understanding of the lifelong process for developing competencies, and have insight into their own strengths and areas for improvement. This process of self-reflection builds staff self-awareness and allows them to assess their own strength and limitations, explore personal and sociocultural identities, and examine how their thoughts, feelings, and actions are interconnected.

Here are some resources that can help you develop professional learning activities to support self-reflection:

Some districts have begun by facilitating self-reflection activities with district leadership or the school board. They found that it is valuable for district leaders to first increase their own self-awareness and ensure that they are consciously modeling social, emotional, and cultural competence as they lead, interact and make decisions that impact many others. District leaders could then spread self-reflective practices through their spheres of influence and speak more clearly about the value of social, emotional, and cultural competence in education.

In addition to individual self-assessment and reflection, consider assessing how the relational skills and cultural competence of central office staff are perceived by school staff and the larger community. Likewise, school leaders should examine perceptions of school staff and students, and teachers should examine the perceptions of their students. This could take the form of talking circles anonymous questionnaires, focus groups, town halls, additional questions on existing community surveys, or a sampling of interviews, but it will be important to bring together a diverse group of staff from schools and central office, as well as students, families, and community partners, to gain a range of perspectives on questions like these:

  • Can staff comfortably and fluently discuss ways they build relationships and community across diverse settings and engage in practices that affirm and cultivate students’ cultures, values and identities? Does this vary by subgroup or role?
  • Do students, family members, and community members perceive staff in schools and the district to model social and emotional competencies? Do perceptions vary by subgroup?
  • Do students, families, and community members believe their cultures, values, and identities are respected and affirmed by school and district staff? Do perceptions vary by subgroup?

The answers to these questions will build collective self-awareness at the district and school level, and can be used to identify priority areas for growth and better weave social, emotional, and cultural competence throughout professional learning and resources that guide staff interactions with students, families, and community members.

2. Embed opportunities to deepen understanding and practice social and emotional skills and cultural competence in meetings and other interactions among adults.

Once your district team has reflected on areas for growth, identify priorities and plan ways for staff to develop in their social, emotional, and cultural competence.

One popular approach is…More

Once your district team has reflected on areas for growth, identify priorities and plan ways for staff to develop in their social, emotional, and cultural competence.

One popular approach is to organize a book study or discuss articles within teams or with cross-district groups. The District Resource Center Reading List includes a section focused on adult SEL, and the Aspen Institute’s Pursuing Social and Emotional Development Through a Racial Equity Lens: 5 Strategies for System Leaders to Take Action is also a good place to start.

Adult SEL can also be embedded into existing structures and daily experiences, which helps learners see how integral social, emotional, and cultural competence are to a positive and productive workplace and learning environment. This video from Oakland Unified School District describes how 3 signature SEL practices can be integrated into meetings and professional learning for adults. Here is a sampling of routines and practices that can support staff in strengthening skills in each of the five core SEL domains.

Self-awareness

  • Use check-in rituals to begin meetings, or begin by setting intentions for engagement and return to them at the end of the meeting.
  • Inquire about the day’s highlights, but also about workload and stress level when meeting one-on-one with staff.
  • Let staff know when they’ve done well; use recognition techniques such as shout-out boards and handwritten notes.
  • Divide work in ways that allow each person to apply and showcase their strengths.
  • Use problem-solving protocols to allow staff to share their challenges and benefit from a range of perspectives and probing questions.
  • When preparing communication, professional learning materials, talking points, and resources, consider how personal identity and bias shape content and how they may shape the way it is received.

Self-management

  • Establish meeting norms that reduce distractions and promote engagement and equity of voice in meetings.
  • Use meeting protocols that share responsibility and lead to clear action steps and due dates.
  • Encourage staff to manage stress throughout the day through self-care.
  • Regularly set personal and professional goals and check in with accountability partners about progress.
  • When reflecting on interactions or frustrating experiences, consider how personal preferences and biases impact emotions and understanding. Standardize the practice of wait-time before hitting “send” on an emotional email and using “I statements” to communicate emotions without blame.

Social awareness

  • Form working groups that are intentionally diverse for special projects.
  • Normalize protocols that allow colleagues to give feedback to one another, and build shared agreements to ensure feedback is constructive and well-received.
  • Track dynamics in staff meetings and reflect on root causes of inequitable participation.
  • Reflect on participant receptivity and engagement at professional learning and what the presenter can do differently for a better outcome.
  • Visit local establishments and community gathering places near the schools you serve. All central office staff should visit schools at times when they can interact with students and families.

Relationship skills

  • Build in regular outlets for staff to get to know about the lives of their colleagues; organize social events that are appealing to all.
  • Use sharing/listening protocols with pairs and small groups to allow all staff to have meaningful interactions with all of their team members.
  • Use restorative practices to address conflict.

Responsible decision-making

  • Encourage leaders to model for others by apologizing and taking responsibility when they offend or make a mistake.
  • Analyze problems and data together, disaggregate data and have courageous conversations about disparities.
  • When making any decision, consider the impact on students and school communities and consult stakeholder groups whenever possible.

For more about strengthening relationships and collaboration among staff, see Key Activity: Staff Trust, Community, and Efficacy.

3. Leverage SEL implementation to expand efforts for strengthening cultural competence.

Your district may already have begun efforts to strengthen culturally competent adult practices, and SEL implementation can help support, sustain, and enhance these efforts. These efforts may inclu…More

Your district may already have begun efforts to strengthen culturally competent adult practices, and SEL implementation can help support, sustain, and enhance these efforts. These efforts may include professional learning and other resources to support teachers or other staff in culturally relevant teaching; restorative disciplinary practices; or the development of cultural, racial, and ethnic studies courses and units. The brief Toward Transformative Social and Emotional Learning: Using an Equity Lens (Jagers, Rivas-Drake, & Borowski, 2018) underscores the role of adult social and emotional learning in driving educational equity, and highlights key adult practices of cultural integration, classroom community -building, and promoting ethnic-racial identity development.

Other practices that call upon adults to exercise social, emotional, and cultural competencies include:

  • Connecting to students’ cultural references in instruction and curriculum to empower and support deeper engagement and learning (Ladson-Billings, 2009).
  • Creating learning environments that embrace and uplift the multiple languages and cultures of different communities (Paris, 2012).
  • Learning about and supporting students in learning about their own and other cultures.
  • Reflecting and analyzing current and historical events and their connections to power and justice.
  • Understanding and examining one’s own ethnic-racial identity, lived experiences, privilege, and biases.
  • Using instructional and disciplinary strategies that close opportunity gaps and racial disproportionality.
  • Building authentic relationships with diverse families and communities.

For more information about incorporating practices throughout the district that strengthen adults’ skills understanding of SEL, see Key Activity: Central Office Expertise and Key Activity: Professional Learning.

4. Frame what social, emotional, and cultural competence look like in practice with students, families, and community members, and incorporate this framework throughout all tools, resources, and professional learning that guide staff engagement.

School districts communicate expectations about how staff should interact with students, families, and communities in a range of ways. These include professional development, onboarding materials f…More

School districts communicate expectations about how staff should interact with students, families, and communities in a range of ways. These include professional development, onboarding materials for new staff, employee handbooks, staff evaluation frameworks and school improvement frameworks, disciplinary guidelines, board policies, and the work of offices dedicated to family and community engagement. It’s important that all of these provide clear messages about how staff should demonstrate social, emotional, and cultural competence in their interactions with stakeholders.

It may be helpful to narrow down to a set of memorable core messages to serve as a framework for messaging, as exemplified in these districts:

  • Tulsa Public Schools’ Commitment to Excellence in Equity frames four key components: intentionally honor diversity, courageously discuss inequities, authentically engage communities, and continuously learn and improve. Watch their video featuring their Equity Ambassador teachers.
  • Boston Public Schools’ Essentials for Instructional Equity frames four core competencies for all educators, which are then operationalized into sub-competencies that identify specific adult behaviors. For example, the first competency is to create and maintain a safe, healthy, and sustaining learning environment, and the sub-competencies include examining personal biases, getting to know each student and using that knowledge to shape the learning environment, valuing and affirming diverse identities, and taking risks and sharing feedback in pursuit of continuous learning.

Students can play an important role in the creation of this framework; their perspective about adult skills and behaviors that help them to be resilient, connected, and successful provide a valuable primary source for developing the framework. To hear from Sacramento City high school students about ways adults should interact with students, watch their video Lifting Our Voices. For more about how to engage and learn from students, Washoe County School District has developed a Student Voice Toolkit.

5. Develop a structure for regularly engaging school staff, students, families, and community partners in assessing the district’s social, emotional, and cultural competence.

When strategies have been put in place to strengthen adult social, emotional, and cultural competence, plan to measure growth. If new professional learning is developed, plan to follow up with part…More

When strategies have been put in place to strengthen adult social, emotional, and cultural competence, plan to measure growth. If new professional learning is developed, plan to follow up with participants to ask whether and how their practices and relationships have changed since the training. If schools focus on adult SEL as part of their school improvement plan, follow their progress through the results of their annual school climate survey.

Continue to engage regularly in reflective practices with stakeholder groups as described in step 1. If you are adopting or already have a districtwide survey that goes out to student, families, and staff, consider adding items to provide data on perceptions of the social and emotional behaviors of school and district staff. For more about planning for assessment, see Focus Area 4: Practice Continuous Improvement.

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