By Guest Bloggers Heather Daly, Courageous Hearts and Normandie Nigh, A World Fit for Kids (Note: This blog was originally developed for The Afterschool Alliance.)
So… you want to bring social emotional learning (SEL) to your afterschool program? Great! Before you decide which curriculum you’ll teach your students, it’s important to ask yourself if your staff are trained on how to deliver SEL content. Conveying SEL skills and modeling them to young people requires specific competencies in addition to an educator’s existing skill set. In a previous blog, we talked about the importance of teaching our young people methods to navigate stress and uncomfortable emotions. Today we will discuss why educators need training to deliver this type of content, and also share some common pitfalls when incorporating SEL content.
The etymological origin of “educate” comes from the Latin root “educaré,” which means “to draw out from within.” Many teachers are trained with an “outside-in” approach to education. The theory is that there is information out there that we as a society have decided young people should know. A teacher’s role is to get that information into them, like filling a bucket. However, the core of all SEL curricula is empowering young people and honoring their inner wisdom — an “inside-out” approach. Because of this, SEL curriculum must be facilitated, not taught. Traditionally, scholastic subjects like math, science, and English are taught using an outside-in approach; using the same method to deliver SEL content is doomed to fail.
Additionally, for the population of students who need a trauma-informed approach, their social and emotional needs must be addressed before academics. Trying to get information into the mind of a young person while they are engaged in a stress response is futile. This can be frustrating for educators who don’t have the facilitation tools to address social emotional needs. Ideally, educators would become adept at learning when to teach and when to facilitate.
Another challenge for successful delivery of SEL content has to do with the need to model it to the students to effectively teach it. SEL is necessarily responsive and works moment-to-moment over time; because it’s all about behaving and interacting, a “do as I say, not as I do” approach doesn’t work. Students learn and emulate self-awareness from someone who is demonstrating it. For this reason, educators must continue to develop their own social emotional skills so they can set the example — working on their personal development, becoming more self- and socially aware, learning how to manage their own stress, and walking the talk.
Also, delivering SEL blocks once or twice a week is not nearly as effective as being immersed in an SEL-based culture in which all adults that interact with students are participating in continued social and emotional growth. It requires lots of buy-in from other adults in the community, but principals, afterschool staff, teachers, security guards, and janitorial staff all must be trained to support this SEL framework. (We recognize this can be a tall order! But the payoff is enormous.)
Educators across the country are being asked to deliver SEL curriculum and attend to the social and emotional needs of their students. Training on how to facilitate this type of content is essential, as is supporting educators with developing their own social emotional prowess.
To be successful in creating an SEL-competent culture, educators must learn the art of facilitation to deliver this unique content and must model it to all students. By honoring our young people’s hearts, emotions and the inner wisdom that guides them on their own path, we will strengthen them from the inside out to stand forward as tomorrow’s leaders.
Heather E. Daly, Ph.D. is the Director of Courageous Hearts, an organization committed to educating afterschool staff with drug education and prevention content. Normandie Nigh is the Chief Executive Officer of A World Fit for Kids, whose mission is to prepare young people for fit and fulfilling lives. To learn more about the training opportunities available for afterschool staff and program providers, visit Courageous Hearts and Fit For Success, a project of A World Fit For Kids.
By Guest Blogger Erik Peterson, Afterschool Alliance
With the 2020 presidential election only 10 months away and primary voting now under way, it is a good time to check in on where the presidential candidates stand on afterschool and summer learning as an issue. As we discussed in our blog last fall, education and childcare has been a popular campaign topic for many candidates, from student loan forgiveness to increasing teacher pay, however several candidates have gone on the record in support of afterschool and summer learning programs as well.
While the nonpartisan Afterschool Alliance does not endorse candidates, we do track their proposals related to support for afterschool and summer learning programs and have summarized the positions of the candidates that have gone on the record in support of afterschool, community schools, summer learning, and wrap around supports for school age children. Read more about the candidates’ (from both parties) positions on afterschool here.
Stay tuned for updates from the campaign trail and review our election toolkit and candidate guide (being updated for the 2020 election).
Erik Peterson joined the Afterschool Alliance in July 2009 and coordinates and advances the Afterschool Alliance’s policy efforts at the federal level by helping develop policy goals and implementing strategies that advance access to quality afterschool programs for all. Erik works to build and strengthen relationships with policy makers and allied organizations to increase public support and funding for quality before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs. Prior to coming to the Afterschool Alliance, Erik worked for the School Nutrition Association (SNA) in the Washington DC, area and as both an AmeriCorps VISTA and staff for the Sustainable Food Center in Austin, Texas.
By Guest Blogger John Fuentes, Bay Area Community Resources
What happens when adult allies continue to make authentic youth voice a priority? When High school students in various leadership groups from San Diego to Oakland, CA speak truth to power? When technology becomes a resource for across state collaboration? When young people meet up in Sacramento to speak to legislators about the challenges they’re faced with and how afterschool funding supports overcoming some of these challenges? Answer: a $50M ASES increase with the support of our “TACA”(Teens Advocating for Civic Engagement) youth.
TACA started a little over a year ago when a group of CA3 (California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance) members discussed how powerful it would be to bring more youth voice to the front lines of civic action. Myself, Brad Lupien (ARC), Donny Faaliliu (L.A. All Stars) and Aleah Rosario (CalSac) spent some time during 2018/19 school year unpacking what TACA should look and feel like.
Once a month from October to May in the 2018/19 school year approximately 8 to 12 students from 5 High Schools representing ARC, L.A All-Stars and Bay Area Community Resources (BACR) got on a Zoom chat and discussed issues they were facing in their communities and what action steps they were taking to help resolve some of these issues. With the support of CalSac’s resource guides and the support from afterschool leadership staff, TACA students learned the difference between service and civic action. They learned more about local government and what issues the local officials were passionate about. This work helped support an informed dialogue between TACA students and their local and state officials.
We found that the reoccurring challenges students were faced with in their communities were affordable housing, violence, suicide, and lack of equity in education. Whether students were attending JFK high school in southern California or Oakland Tech high school in the Bay Area, these issues were similar. Using Zoom video chats, TACA students had an opportunity to see, hear and learn from other students across the state and know that they were not alone doing work. Students shared ideas, action plans and goals for sustainability and systemic change.
TACA students expressed how cool it was to be able to connect with other students across the state, share their ideas and get feedback. How cool it was to see each other on a Zoom chat once a month and then meet in person for the first time in Sacramento; to know that they played a part in getting the $50M ASES increase because they shared their stories and mobilized.
Now, in year two, TACA has over 25 members from San Diego to Oakland, CA representing 14 high schools and 4 middle schools. Me, Brad, Donny and now Ayala Goldstein (CalSac) continue to support the TACA members as adult allies and coaches. This year TACA is made up of 1-2 students who are part of an existing afterschool leadership group and represent that group during our monthly Zoom chat meetings. The goal is for the two TACA representatives from each school site to join the monthly Zooms and share their learning with their peers and mobilize for Civic Action and change.
Affordable housing, violence, and education continue to be pressing topics for our TACA youth and their peers and we will continue to support them with their Civic Action goals. We have a few new goals this year which include: Supporting with the 2020 Census, getting people registered to vote and once again showing up in Sacramento on March 9th and 10th for the California Afterschool and Summer Challenge.
If you want to see, hear and learn more about TACA, please check TACA out at this year’s BOOST Conference as they lead a workshop on Thursday April 30th, 3:45-5:30pm entitled "Student- Lead Campaign for Civic Engagement." You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ayala Goldstein at email@example.com
John Fuentes is a program manager with Bay Area Community Resources in Oakland and Alameda. In addition, John is the lead facilitator for the “Heads Up” Saturday Leadership Academy program at Head Royce School in Oakland and an expanded learning quality support coach and trainer in the San Francisco Bay Area. John is a two-time Alameda Unified School District Salute to Education recipient and a 2018 Region 4-CDE Spotlight on Quality Award recipient.
By Sam Piha
Why is learning enhanced when it is meaningful?
Research tells us that if we hope to make a difference in young people’s learning, we need to provide opportunities for learning that is meaningful. If young people are engaged in meaningful participation, they are empowered to be self-directed, make responsible choices about how to use their time, and participate as group members in making decisions that influence the larger program and what they learn about.
They are also given the opportunity to learn group leadership skills and to assume leadership roles in planning activities and projects. They have opportunities to “give back” by contributing to the program, to other young people, or to their larger community.
We know that young people experience their participation as meaningful when they report feeling a sense of belonging and ownership in the program. When they are participating in meaningful ways, they feel that their contributions are valued, and, by participating, they “make a difference.” In a program that fosters meaningful youth participation, adults serve as mentors and facilitators to build the skills of the young people. “Fostering meaningful youth participation means providing opportunities for problem solving, decision making, planning, goal setting, and helping others, and involves adults sharing power in real ways with children,” writes Nan Henderson, prevention specialist.
What MEANINGFUL learning looks like:
Three things you can do right now to promote meaningful participation:
1. Explore and assess: It is important that you take the time with your staff to explore and assess your alignment with this meaningful principle.
2. Encourage self-reliance and responsibility to the group: Allow young people to responsibly address their own needs, whether it is access to the drinking fountain or to art supplies. Design your program space and storage system in a way that allows young people free access to needed project supplies, materials and equipment. The privilege of access comes with responsibilities of caring for and returning things to their proper place. Brainstorm the needed agreements with your group to ensure the respectful use of these materials.
3. Incorporating the Interests of Young People: Regardless of the teaching and learning methods you employ, it is important to incorporate young people’s interests in your program. You may want to survey the young people in your program about their interests, and then work to incorporate opportunities to learn academic and life skills into activities that reflect these interests.
You can build on learners’ existing knowledge and skills. When introducing a new topic or project, begin by allowing young people to show what they already know. There may be some true “experts” among them. By building off the momentum of their knowledge and prior experiences, you can help them both test and deepen their present understanding. Equally as important to designing programs with young people’s interests in mind, is ensuring that programs are relevant to the learners. It is crucial that staff understand young people’s life contexts, including their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds and have the flexibility to design programs that are relevant to participants.
To learn more see our Youth Development Guide 2.0. This 165- page guide is available as a free download or can be ordered as a spiral bound, hard copy.
Sam Piha is the founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development.