California Educator

November / December 2016

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"Kids should be getting a lot of these skills at home, but they 're not. Now students are teaching these skills to their families. One parent said her son helped her to calm down by teaching her belly breathing." Improving school climate "Kaitlin" and "Omar" are working together in class. Omar wants to do his work, but Kaitlin wants to tell a story about something that happened. Omar feels bothered. What should he do? Rich Whitall , a counselor and SEL specialist, uses this hypothetical situation as a discussion tool when teaching interpersonal skills during a community circle at Shearer Ele- mentary School. "How do you say 'Please stop talking' in a nice way — but also a strong way?" asks Whitall, Napa Valley Educators Association. Omar could ask Kaitlin to tell the story at recess and remind her in a respectful way that he's trying to get some work done, says one student. "What if Kaitlin persists in being annoying? What if she is humming quietly?" asks Whitall. Students suggest that Omar tell her to "shut up," or complain to the teacher. "How about self-talk," Whitall proposes. "Tell yourself that you can just ignore Kaitlin and do your work. Self-talk can help you stay focused." Some colleagues tell Whitall they don't have time for SEL and have enough on their plate. His response is that in the long run, it saves time. " When students have greater self-regulation, they require less classroom management, which makes things easier for educators. ey are also less likely to engage in substance abuse, bullying and violent behavior." What is social- emotional learning? • An opportunity for students in be aware of their feelings, emotions and strengths. • A way to foster compassion and empathy toward others, and pre- vent bullying. • Guidance for building positive rela- tionships and dealing with conflict. • Teaching students to make good choices and decisions. • Allowing students to manage their own behavior, set their own goals and achieve them. For more information and tools, see or Yasmine Amezcua and Saul Torres listen to SEL specialist Rich Whitall at Shearer Elementary School in Napa. At Pioneer Elementary, learning how emotions manifest themselves in facial expressions. 23 November / December 2016

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