This is becoming a trend. The last time I blogged was nearly one year ago. The blog prior to that was, well, a spell before that. Since then I’ve taken a few more adventures, read a few more books, and collected a few more wine corks. I’ve also taken on a new role at work for the last couple of years, so that seems like a decent enough topic to bounce back into this bloggy stuff. I have a class blog that’s nearly new but that’s mostly for student and guest blogger posts.
For several years I’d been reading about this thing called hybrid teaching. I don’t mean a teacher fueled by part coffee and part chocolate because that’s already a very real phenomenon and existed long before hybrid vehicles. I was fascinated by the idea – in reality for people already – that a teacher could instruct children in a traditional classroom for part of her schedule and do something else for the remainder of her work time. Some hybrid teachers spend part of their day coaching teachers and the other part of their day teaching in their content area. Some teachers split their time between serving as technology support and content teaching. Others even may split their time between classroom teaching and administrative duties, like counseling or as a vice principal.
I found myself in the lucky proposition made by the best education leader I’ve personally known (my principal) to take on the campus advisory lessons (AKA: character lessons, social and emotional learning, or homeroom lessons) and being afforded time in the school/work day to write those lessons.
Flash forward about two school years and I can enthusiastically say that this experience has brought an even deeper level of satisfaction to my work as an educator. I’ve learned so much about adolescents, the brain, emotions, and human relations. I feel like I’ve grown as a person. I’ve attended training sessions and conferences that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to attend, heard speakers known nationally and globally for expertise in their given field, and I’ve cultivated an even greater level of appreciation and respect for what campus administrators (counselors, principals, and the like) manage on a day to day basis.
I’m attending campus leadership meetings and witnessing how a principal who truly listens to her staff (as my principal does) orchestrates a healthy school organization with a myriad of moving pieces. My non-teaching and meeting periods are spent writing the school’s homeroom social-emotional lessons. Our curriculum is partly based on the work and materials produced by a fantastic Dallas organization: The Momentous Institute. If you check out their data & success your hair is going to stand up at attention, salute you, and then faint.
There are challenges, as there are to anything “worth it,” but thankfully they are few in number. Some people view social-emotional learning as another “edu-fad” that will pass soon enough, so why invest time and money into it? Well, I’ve done a bit of reading on the impact of poverty on learning as well as the trajectory of poverty in our country. If we don’t address needs stemming from poverty, in education, we’ll go zero places. We could even be in economic and social trouble at some point without educating the whole child. Some will argue that this area is the job of families. I don’t disagree. But when children arrive at our school doors with academic, emotional, nutritional, and social deficits, we adapt or die. According to several reputable organizations, not only do roughly one in five American children live in poverty, but over half of American public school children live in poverty. source
It’s crucial in education to personalize learning for students. Or as best possible. Most education experts now admit that personalizing learning for every student on a large scale (think: a middle school with both genders and 1k-plus students) simply isn’t feasible. But we press on. So while I integrate opportunities for personalization into social-emotional lessons, I would be delusional to think I can meet the needs, every time, of each teacher and student on campus. But that’s always the goal!
Another minor challenge is the perception of having time carved out of my day to spend on social-emotional learning. With limited resources, growing student-to-teacher ratios in some areas, and an ever-growing list of demands placed upon teachers, it can be tempting to question the legitimacy of a teacher’s non-teaching period(s). I know that feeling. I’ve been there. “What DOES she do during those “off” periods?” There’s got to be some perfect Office scene reference for this.
Despite these few (and sometimes trivial) challenges, our program is growing and gaining more and more buy-in from teachers and students. We receive inspiring and positive feedback from both students and teachers, parents, and district colleagues. It’s hard work and sometimes difficult to be a part of something “new” or “different,” but again, it’s worth it. I’ve always counted myself lucky to be a teacher, but my current journey under my principal and her administration makes me even more thankful to be an educator. One of my favorite Tweeters (also a high school principal and author) recently had this to say about social-emotional learning:
This has been a long one! But with my recent track record you might not hear from me again until 2018.