There is now a strong consensus that young people need more than reading and writing skills if they are to be successful in school, work, and life. According to the California Department of Education’s Expanded Learning Division, “there is a growing body of research proving that social and emotional learning (SEL) is fundamental to academic success, and must be woven into the work of every teacher in every classroom and every after school and summer enrichment program, if we truly want to prepare all our students for college and careers.” (When we refer to “SEL”, we are also referring to social emotional skills).
Beyond teachers in a classroom, youth workers should provide opportunities for students to learn social emotional and character skills. According to Julia Rugg at WINGS for Kids, “we believe that afterschool programs are well-positioned to directly teach social-emotional skills like self-awareness and responsible decision-making. We see both value and opportunity in using the hours after school to help teach these critical skills to our most vulnerable kids—the students who need them most. We take advantage of the flexibility that afterschool offers to not only teach social-emotional skills but use the additional time it affords for kids to practice them and apply them in social and academic settings.”
While we hear a lot about the “why” of SEL and character building, little is heard about the application (the “what” and “how”) within afterschool programs. Expanded learning practices need to be uplifted so that the field can begin to see what good character/SEL looks like.
"Promising Activities, Practices, and Resources Promoting SEL and Character Skills in Expanded Learning Programs" a newly released paper by Sam Piha and Rozel Cruz, Temescal Associates, provides an overview of social emotional and character building skills. It goes on to provide examples of activities and practices for expanded learning programs provided for, and by, Expanded Learning Programs and Technical Assistance organizations. To identify expanded learning practices and activities, they reached out to leading organizations across California.
THE IMPORTANCE OF ADULT STAFF AND THEIR OWN SKILLS
We know that the success of any program to promote social emotional and character skills is partially dependent on the social emotional and character skills of the adult leaders. Below is a reflection from Stu Semigran, Founder of EduCare Foundation, on the importance of adult staff and their social emotional skills. "We can only truly teach or impact our students in the value and competencies of SEL to the degree that SEL is becoming part of our own repertoire...our own way of being. As we commit to our personal SEL self-development, this naturally influences our instructional practices, programs, and decisions. SEL becomes more than a collection of lesson plans, activities, or programs. It becomes a way of teaching...a way of being...a way of living. Then we as role models can deeply assist our students as they evolve in their own mastership of SEL. This has implications for how we hire and provide professional development.
There are a variety of valuable SEL skills that can be addressed through staff professional development. EduCare Foundation teaches “Eight Skills for Heartset® Education”. Some of these include tools for self-awareness, mindfulness, self-forgiveness, and empathetic listening. When these and other SEL skills are personalized and become our baseline, then we are more equipped to create an SEL styled climate with SEL curriculum and activities that can really “stick with” and impact our students. Perhaps the first step in this ongoing process of the adult leaders as students of SEL is taking care of ourselves. As we develop a deeper positive regard (honoring and caring) for ourselves, then we can have a mindset and a heartset that really sees the best in our students and their aspirations. This personal foundation of SEL leads to becoming a more effective SEL spark and influencer for our kids."
ABOUT STU SEMIGRAN CO-FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, EDUCARE FOUNDATION:
EduCare Foundation implements comprehensive daily Extended Learning Programs on the campuses of 18 high schools and 1 middle school, serving over 30,000 students in the greater Los Angeles area each year. In addition, EduCare implements 3-day ACE Student Success Program at 35 schools throughout Los Angeles, reaching over 5,000 youth each year.
Contact Stu Semigran; firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT TEMESCAL ASSOCIATES: Temescal Associates is dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development who are serious about improving the lives of young people. Our clients include leaders of youth serving institutions and organizations, school and youth program practitioners, public and private funders, intermediary organizations, and policy makers. Their work ranges from building large scale youth and community initiatives to providing services to young people on a day-to-day basis.