“There is much to learn when someone new comes to our school. It is a difficult and costly task to train and mentor a new staff member. It is difficult to see a staff member struggle. I feel the pressure to prepare them for the challenges they will face. I want to give them them the understanding that will help them be successful in their classrooms. I tell them the most important thing they can do for children is to keep their own mood stable. School counselors are in a unique position as teacher leaders, and we can guide teachers on how to be curious about children’s behavior.”
District: Marysville School District
Award Amount: $5,000.00
Description: Our school is located on a Native American Reservation. A school shooting in our district directly impacted our student population and staff. Through the Teach to Lead Summit, we developed a plan to increase opportunities for staff and student growth in the area of social/emotional well-being through Compassionate Strategies to increase a feeling of safety, established routines, and calm-down skills. We have learned that students who have been impacted by trauma have needs that extend beyond academics. Once those needs are met, we have absolute belief that students are capable learners. In addition, staff members are impacted by vicarious trauma. They also have needs beyond normal structures. Our intention is to create a supportive environment where best practices in academic, social/emotional learning, and culture competency can be attained quickly with the urgency of student learning needs met. We seek to increase the viability of a video club where staff can be encouraged, in a low-risk manner, to develop skills and best practices related to meeting the social/emotional learning needs of our students. Staff are encouraged to create an acute and long-term self-care plan.
What was the problem you were trying to solve?
Educational systems are setup to focus almost exclusively on academics and is therefore neglecting the needs of the whole child. District/System level supports are not yet in place to equip and empower teachers to attend to the social/emotional needs of their students, especially historically underserved populations of students and Native students.
The goal is to design and implement supports (continuous professional learning, skills, routines, etc.) that build teachers’ facility with attending to the social emotional needs of all students in every classroom, and to do it in way that communicates the scope and urgency of the need.
As we start to introduce strategies and supports within our building, teachers were wanting to see them in action with students, with limited substitute availability teacher are not able to observe other teachers. We wanted to create a resource where teachers could watch strategies in action with our students. We hoped capturing these strategies on video would allow teacher to observe the work without having to leave their classrooms.
Why was the work important to your context?
We need to establish a supportive environment for students and staff. We’ve had a tragedy in our school district on October 24, 2014, that continues to leave staff feeling raw and emotionally injured. A school shooting that directly impacted our student population and staff. We lost ⅓ of our staff and 100% of our administrative staff. Through the Teach to Lead Summit, we developed a plan to increase opportunities for staff and student growth in the area of social emotional well-being through Compassionate Strategies that increase a feeling of safely, established routines, and calm-down skills. We have learned that students who have been impacted by trauma have needs that extend beyond academics. Once those needs are met, we have an absolute belief that students are capable learners. In addition, staff members are impacted by vicarious trauma. Our intention was to create a supportive environment where best practices in academic, social emotional learning, and culture can be attained quickly with the urgency of student learning needs met. We created a video library where staff would have access to the instruction of compassionate strategies, using Lushootseed (the Native Language of the Tulalip People) in the classroom, routines, class meetings, and calm zones.
Briefly outline the ‘scope and sequence’ of your work
To start the work of the video library the Teach to Lead team met with a district support person to discuss the possible protocols, ideas, and ways to launch the work. The video curator created a tutorial for how to capture video using Photo Booth, which was already installed on each teacher’s computer, this was shared with all staff, along with an introduction to the purpose of creating a video library. Teachers then started recording themselves and submitting the videos. Christy Anana spoke with individual teachers about specific lessons that would be helpful to capture and share. After collecting videos for a few months, the official launch of the Social/Emotional Video Library was sent out to all staff.
Mindfulness, including breathwork, has been a useful strategy to support students in their ability to regulate their emotions and increase focus on academic tasks. To increase our school learning, I was able to find a mindfulness expert, Andrea D’Asaro, who was willing to come to our school in the capacity as a roving substitute to install 2 mindfulness lessons into each of the 27 classrooms. Through this process, we have common vocabulary of 3 mindful breaths, which we practice at our morning assembly that begins with Native drumming, songs, and dancing. In addition, Andrea and I were able to offer a Self-Care for Educators using Mindfulness Strategies 3 clock hour class. We received good feedback from attendees. I often see staff pass each other in the hallway reminding each other to breathe. We then offered a family introduction to Mindfulness with our Native Liaison, Eliza Davis, where families watched as students practiced the mindfulness strategies they learned in class. This was a good step in family and community engagement.
I purchased books and materials to incorporate into a Trauma-informed library where teachers/staff can know more about the effects of trauma, the ARC model (attachment, regulation, and competency), and strategies to get stress out of your body such as the MeMoves DVD of brain breaks and conversation starter balls focused on feelings.
As a result of the work, what are the significant impacts you are able to evidence? (What changed as a result of your work?)
As a staff, we have strengthened our self-care practices with mindfulness. Our grant plan has elevated our learning community by giving them a resource, through the video library, to incorporate more cultural and compassionate strategies into their daily practices. When new staff members come to our school, they will be able to become quickly acclimated to our cultural and compassionate strategies.
What were your major learnings? (successes and challenges)
We were able to capture and share 41 videos of various compassionate strategies.
We found a way to expand our student, staff, and family practice of Mindfulness. I see evidence of this work throughout our school. Where once it was common to have chairs thrown daily, it is now a rare occurrence. When a child is asked what strategy they will use when they feel a big feeling, they have a good response. It is more and more that students are using their strategies.
In our plan, we hoped to create a protocol to establish a list of “Look Fors” in order to find evidence of best practices, and then be able to provide teachers a stipend for watching with videos with the protocol in mind to be able to implement the strategies in their classrooms, however this protocol was never able to leaving the planning phase.
There is much to learn when someone new comes to our school. It is a difficult and costly task to train and mentor a new staff member. It is difficult to see a staff member struggle. I feel the pressure to prepare them for the challenges they will face. I want to give them them the understanding that will help them be successful in their classrooms. I tell them the most important thing they can do for children is to keep their own mood stable. School counselors are in a unique position as teacher leaders, and we can guide teachers on how to be curious about children’s behavior.
The question now is how to take care of the staff we have to stay committed to this
difficult work? How do we maintain an environment where teachers feel safe,
vulnerable, and present for students? How do we teach them to maintain their self-care plans so they will have a long, healthy career at our school? We hope to attract those who feel a calling for our work, a resonance for this compassionate work with children.
What resources did you need to use or to create to support the work?
Throughout all the work around social/emotional learning the book Compassionate schools: The Heart of Learning and Teaching (available as a free download) was utilized as a framework. http://www.k12.wa.us/compassionateschools/
A tutorial for how to record video was created and submitted to all teachers. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9rQo69L3Zt-dzFHYmU1c01ldGM/view?usp=sharing
We also started drafting a Social Emotional Well-being Curriculum Map. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1tZsLeSjQCRs9yKVuE-jvb29SzyGEGGl9lwZcSRNqT-c/edit?usp=sharing
In order for the video library to be easily accessible to all teachers we decided to create a folder using the Google Drive, teachers already has access to the Google Drive through their email and use it frequently for other purposes. This created a platform teachers were already familiar with, and allowed easy access for all teachers.
As a result of your work, about how many teachers were directly impacted? How do you know?
If we empower students to understand themselves through culturally responsive teaching of social emotional well-being, then students will feel calm, connected competent and safe so they can excel socially and academically. As a community of learners, we have developed the idea of OurWay, huyadadčəɫ. This means that we have a way of doing thing that is compassionate and with high expectations, predictability, and cultural competence.
All teachers and staff were directly impacted by the infusion of mindfulness into our learning community. All classrooms received 2 lessons from a mindfulness expert, and about 20 teachers/staff attended a self-care using mindfulness 3 hour class. All staff experienced mindfulness morning messages delivered at morning assembly by Christy or the mindfulness expert.
What words of wisdom do you have for the next teacher leader working to increase teacher leadership in their context?
I’ve learned a great deal about grant-writing and Systems work through this process. It is important to look at your district’s process for writing and accepting grants. You save yourself much grief by understanding the process ahead of time.
It is exciting to be at the front of unique strategies that stimulate student growth and teacher leadership. There is a synergistic momentum to working toward the work that we see needs to happen at the ground level.