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April 2021

Community - Connection - Care

Spring Into a New Beginning

“Belonging: Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” ― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.

Spring season is here and that means a new start. The earth comes back alive in the spring. This month, the Social and Emotional Learning and Character Education Department through the newsletter welcome a new start and celebrate spring by honoring the great people of Guilford County Schools. The connections and care that all educators, support staff, students, parents, and community members have shared and created has opened the door for an educational community that honors belonging.

Author Brene Brown, in her quote highlights how belonging “is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us.” The accomplishments and goals that our district has made and will continue to make throughout this momentous school year are huge and amazing. To continue reaching goals, being innovative, culturally responsive, and inclusive, it is important that belonging is centered in our school, community, and instructional choices.

Belonging builds resiliency, self-efficacy, agency, identity, and purpose. Belonging allows for students and educators to fulfill their ultimate potential. This month’s newsletter provides resources and examples of how to cultivate spaces where students and staff can feel they belong in the school community. Please use these resources to boost your own professional knowledge as well as your school’s learning environment through the SEL competencies of self-awareness, social-awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

The SEL and Character Education department would like to encourage you to embrace the symbolism of spring and utilize the useful tools and resources in the newsletter to promote a sense of belonging within your school community. As we move toward a return to normalcy there are still a lot of challenges that our community face. Never has it been more important that our community spaces, such as our schools, are safe and inclusive for all identities and cultures.

The SEL Spotlight

SEL Quick Wins - Belonging

Belonging is not the same as fitting in. Fitting in means we have had to change ourselves to be similar to in order to be accepted. Allow adults and students to come as who they authentically are. Appreciate difference as much as we appreciate commonalities.

Circle Time - We talk about circle time often. Its a great place to have conversations on a variety of subjects. All time during circle for students to share who they are. Ask questions, particularly when noting differences. Teach your students to be inquisitive about each other.

Be a model. Some student (and adults) tend to shy away from or even tease someone who looks or acts differently. Be a model for your students in the way that you ask questions, engage with, and appreciate differences. Do this even among adults. Your students are watching.

Expose your students to a variety of people. It is important that students see themselves in school, classroom, curriculum. But, it is also important that they see others. Use books and materials that represent diversity. This is not just diversity as it relates to race, but diversity in the ways people live, work, play, and go about their lives.

Engaging SEL Activities

Focus: 3 Signature Practices

Description: How do we go from an understanding of social and emotional learning to implementing SEL in our schools and daily work? In this activity, school staff can learn about the 3 signature practices for SEL, practice SEL skills, and identify strategies to support SEL implementation in their classrooms.

Here is the electronic version of the SEL Playbook:

Overview of the 3 Signature Practices: (should take no more than 3-4 minutes; just hit the highlights)

  • Welcoming Inclusion Activities are brief, interactive experiences that bring the voice of every participant into the room, making a connection to one another and/or to the work ahead, with each perspective-laden, culturally-rich voice being heard, respected and learned from.
  • Engaging strategies are inherently infused with SEL, vary in complexity, include reflection and processing time, and consist of sequential steps that are facilitated to support learning individually (like the use of “turn-to-your-partner”) and collectively (for example, “Socratic Seminar” and “Jigsaw”).
  • Optimistic Closures may be reflective about the learning, help identify next steps, or make connections to one’s own work.

Product: Staff will work collaboratively in small groups to examine 1 SEL strategy and create their own strategy as a team to briefly present to the staff. (10-15 minutes)

  • This template is located on pages 48-50

Staff may use the playbook to find exemplars for their group’s particular strategy. Pages 57-58 have key examples for the classroom that may also guide staff through their process.

Keys suggestions to prep for activity: Can be adapted virtually by using breakout rooms or channels.

  • Place staff members in vertical groups of 5 (6th, 7th, 8th, Encore and Support/Classified Staff)
  • Place 6 folded sticky notes or index cards in a zip lock bag for staff to randomly pull out their assigned signature practice. (2 index cards/sticky notes should have welcoming activities, another 2 engaging practices and the last 2 optimistic closure)
  • Provide staff with anchor charts and markers to create their own strategy. Have staff use pages 48-50 to create their product.
  • Provide staff with the electronic playbook via email. Encourage them to bring their devices
  • Print 2 copies of page 48, 2 copies of page 49 and 2 copies of page 50 (6 pages total) to provide to groups.
  • Page 51 can help staff identify a SEL focus. Staff not being able to identify a SEL focus should not prohibit them from completing the other components of the activity. I will help make the SEL connections where needed.

Educators Pick- Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

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Burnout. Many women in America have experienced it. What’s expected of women and what it’s really like to be a woman in today’s world are two very different things—and women exhaust themselves trying to close the gap between them. How can you “love your body” when every magazine cover has ten diet tips for becoming “your best self”? How do you “lean in” at work when you’re already operating at 110 percent and aren’t recognized for it? How can you live happily and healthily in a sexist world that is constantly telling you you’re too fat, too needy, too noisy, and too selfish?

Sisters Emily Nagoski, PhD, and Amelia Nagoski, DMA, are here to help end the cycle of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Instead of asking us to ignore the very real obstacles and societal pressures that stand between women and well-being, they explain with compassion and optimism what we’re up against—and show us how to fight back. In these pages you’ll learn

• what you can do to complete the biological stress cycle—and return your body to a state of relaxation
• how to manage the “monitor” in your brain that regulates the emotion of frustration
• how the Bikini Industrial Complex makes it difficult for women to love their bodies—and how to defend yourself against it
• why rest, human connection, and befriending your inner critic are keys to recovering and preventing burnout

With the help of eye-opening science, prescriptive advice, and helpful worksheets and exercises, all women will find something transformative in these pages—and will be empowered to create positive change. Emily and Amelia aren’t here to preach the broad platitudes of expensive self-care or insist that we strive for the impossible goal of “having it all.” Instead, they tell us that we are enough, just as we are—and that wellness, true wellness, is within our reach.

Reading Corner for Students

Positive Behavior and Bullying Prevention

Check out the following resources from our Bullying Prevention Coordinator.

The SEL Department continues to make strides in sharing and providing bullying prevention resources with all GCS to help improve student’s physical and emotional safety at school. Unfortunately, children with disabilities are disproportionately affected by bullying. Therefore, to help students achieve their full potential, PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center has shared 5 important facts to help students with disabilities.

"Although only ten U.S. studies have been conducted on the connection between bullying and developmental disabilities, all of these studies found that children with disabilities were two to three times more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers. (Disabilities: Insights from Across Fields and Around the World; Marshall, Kendall, Banks & Gover (Eds.), 2009.)"

The Media Center

Check out the following quick videos for tips and tricks that can be used in school and online.
Building Emotional Literacy in Preschoolers
5 Keys to Social and Emotional Learning Success

Quotation Station

Quotes are a great way to reflect on your practices. Review these quotes and question how do they pertain to you? How can you use these quotes with your peers? How can you use these quotes with students? Do these quotes resonate in ways that could better connect the community you work with?

GCS SEL Newsletter Feedback

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Our Team

We are always here to serve you. Please do not hesitate to reach out to a member of our team if we can provide any support. To find out which SEL Specialist is assigned to your school, click here.

LaTrayl Adams, MS
Social-Emotional Learning Specialist

Lisa Brenner, MSW
Director of Social-Emotional Learning

Cynthia Brown, M.Ed

Social-Emotional Learning Specialist

Tawanda Carpenter, MS
Positive Supports and Bullying Prevention Coordinator

Shan J. Carter, MPA
Social-Emotional Learning Specialist

Jacob Hicks, MS
Service Learning and Character Education Specialist

Sherry Rogowski, Ed.S.
Positive Culture and Climate Coordinator

Tinisha Shaw, MS
Social-Emotional Learning Specialist