The Rodel Teacher Council are no strangers to social and emotional learning (SEL).
In 2017, they surveyed more than 200 educators spanning every school district in Delaware to better understand the beliefs and perceptions of educators on SEL. That work resulted in Educators Speak Up: Social and Emotional Learning in Delaware.
The following year, they published Creating A Common Language for Social and Emotional Learning in Delaware, a research brief based on national and local research and meant to serve as a resource for anyone interested in learning more about how to intentionally integrate social, emotional, and academic development.
Their research led to a connection with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)—a national leader that today is helping Delaware develop a common language for SEL.
We caught up with RTC members Kevin Lair (Freire Charter School Wilmington) and Lindsay Hudson-Hubbs (G.W. Carver Academy) to hear about their continued work on SEL this year and where Delaware might take things next.
On this year’s goals…
Kevin: After spending the last two years researching the Delaware and national SEL landscape, we prioritized stakeholder engagement this year. We sought to find out what students, families, teachers, and administrators really want and need. This would provide a holistic view of what SEL looks like and what the needs are of those in our communities.
Lindsay: We took information that we’ve gathered over the last couple of years regarding social-emotional learning, and tried to dive into the community more, with parents, other stakeholders, individuals in stakeholder communities, and get their feedback from what they would like to see happening with social-emotional learning.
Big picture is to get SEL information spread throughout the state so that all of the districts are on the same page. Districts and community alike are already on the same page with understanding how SEL can impact all children.
On engaging Delawareans…
Kevin: Our focus was on engaging Delaware students and families, schools, and community organizations across all three counties. We engaged with various interests through a combination of focus groups and events, including workshops with Teach For America Delaware corps members and Relay Graduate School of Education students. These efforts sought to gauge their interests, understand their definition of SEL, and explore the ways in which they were already implementing SEL practices in their classrooms.
On what you heard from Delawareans…
Kevin: The feedback we received was truly inspiring–the vast majority of educators want SEL training and commitment and most felt that they have received some level of training from their current school.
As reflected in our previous surveys, there is clearly a thirst for SEL in Delaware. Teachers want it, administrators want it, and it is just a matter of what is the best method of effectively implementing it. And I am so glad that CASEL, with the work that they are already doing alongside our state collaborative, is already in the process and with resources to support teachers, students, and families.
Often when teachers hear that we are “trying to make a statewide initiative or commitment to SEL,” they think that it means another program to worry about or more work for us. We were trying to highlight just how much of the SEL work educators are already doing in their classrooms and ways that we can replicate effective practices throughout the state.
Lindsay: There’s a general understanding that kids with special needs or in special classes or schools need SEL help. But it helps in all classrooms, and there are kids dealing with trauma in so-called “typical classrooms” too.
For example, “Hey, there’s a student in a classroom that has 30 kids, who is a typical student, who experienced three deaths in one week.” Those are traumatic events, and children might need some assistance.
With social-emotional learning, it goes even deeper. It goes into a social aspect of kids and being able to understand feelings and express them. If kids don’t know how to interact, they don’t know how to handle disagreements and get anything done.
And we heard this sentiment when we spoke with parents too. Many appreciated the fact that SEL skills are being taught in typical classrooms and agreed that it should be supported in all aspects of their lives. This confirms what we as teachers believe everyday—it takes a village to help children grow and develop.
On next steps for Delaware…
Kevin: The state collaborative is currently working on a Delaware SEL framework and what exactly it entails, and we will continue to be the folks on the ground trying to engage the community throughout the process.
The good thing is that regardless of how soon the state really makes this a priority, districts and schools are already doing it. And even if it is not the exact same across all districts and schools, social and emotional learning practices are growing in Delaware and we all benefit from it.