Moderator Pick
May 27th, 2020

SEL Volunteer

I am affiliated with SEL4CA which is a Social Emotional Learning Alliance in Los Angeles. I volunteer with a program (Community Circle LA) which trains parents in the community through their local schools.

The goal of the program is to teach children character building and SEL skills, promote empathy and inclusion and has been a success at a couple of schools in my area for over 10 years.

Parent volunteers are recruited, trained and matched with teachers. They present a 30 minute class once a week, and also have a weekly supervisory meeting to share feedback.

I truly believe in the power of collaboration and partnerships to ensure that our youth develop into kind, caring and inclusive future leaders who can serve as role models for the nation, change the culture, and help heal our country.

The program is simple to implement, yet very powerful. It could be used to build healthy communities and serve as a platform for parents and teachers to help students who struggle against a daily tide of bullying, intolerance, lack of inclusion and support.

I would like some advice on how to scale this program and how to reach principals as a collective group because they are the key component in adopting the program and improving their own school climate. The program can be adapted specifically to each school to reflect its unique culture and environment.

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Comments (4)

Comments (4)

Sharla - We are looking to start something similar for our elementary school next year. We conducted a parent/teacher survey and pivoted our decision based on direct feedback from the stakeholders. If you can standardize a survey for the schools to use to assess the readiness and state of the current SEL adaptation - that might lead to the next steps in improving awareness or kicking off programs (tailored to the school).

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I'm an Administrator in Northern California and we have adopted an SEL Curriculum called Toolbox. Toolbox is a research-based social-emotional learning curriculum. It teaches critical social competencies necessary for academic and life success such as: resiliency, self-management, and responsible decision-making skills.

There are 12Tools in this particular Curriculum which are basically life skills that we all take for granted. When I first began in education I always thought these skills were just a natural instinct and wondered why so many of my students lacked these types of skills and instincts. However, I soon realized all of the many reasons why and the "why" wasn't as important as the "what" are we as educators going to do about it.

I've spent years of research in the field of childhood resiliency and social-emotional learning and have learned that emotional and behavioral regulation skills can be explicitly taught in schools and that the benefits are huge!

My biggest hurdle was always to get all stakeholders on board. Especially when your bringing in one more Curriculum. Teachers are already slammed with so many standards that, to be honest, won't all be taught in a single school year. I love the idea of volunteers to partner with teachers but with the COVID 19 protocols are having volunteers on your campus wise?

Partnering with parents is the key. We also held parent classes to teach the parents the same curriculum that we are teaching the students. This way everyone is using the same language and is aware of what the signs or signals mean. This also bridges the home to school connection.

Since being in distance learning I began a weekly coffee talk with parents via Zoom. This was just a time that parents could interact with other parents and me and ask questions, offer ideas, or just to check-in. I'm wondering if we could have SEL parent meetings once a month and teach a certain social-emotional skill via Zoom? How many would actually come? This could be done with a specific SEL Volunteer as you had mentioned.

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Sharla, Getting parent volunteers is brilliant. It finds a good way to bridge home and school. I think that parents often feel that school is conducted by experts and professionals, which leaves them feeling incompetent to teach the youth in the school setting. I would be interested in reading more about schools implementing this parent outreach.
Your question about getting principles on board is a difficult one. I think that many principles are interested in measuring and showing that their school is doing better under their leadership, but are not necessarily willing to put their reputation on the line on a new item for their district to implement. Factors like teacher and parent buy-in, organizing logistics of it, etc. as you might be very aware of.
Something that might be of use to help promote this idea to principles has to do with the ESSA of 2015. Measurements are not yet put in place for this, but schools have been watching some of the criteria and its potential impacts. Social and emotional learning may help reduce suspension rates and behavior problems. Many educators know that solving behavior problems is fundamental, and SEL taught by real people from the outside would be more engaging for students. It could prove to me more effective. Thanks for sharing. I really like this idea, and see it possibly working as a pilot program in my district.

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Hi Sharla:

Thanks for sharing your idea. Recruiting and training parents sounds like a terrific approach. As for scaling up and reaching principals, what worked in your situation? What convinced the principal with whom you work to support the program?

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