It's the PALS Press!

January 2021

Dates to Save:

Friday, January 22: All secondary PALS and PALS teachers, and elementary PALS counselors are invited to join the incredible Dr. Teri Wood and Anne Muller from 10:30-11:30 a.m. to learn how to use experiential learning techniques and virtual nature walks as a way to build connections between mentors and mentees. Please RSVP here.

Thursday, February 18: All PALS teachers and counselors are welcome to join Jen Stanchfield of Experiential Tools for a morning of discovery and practice as we think about how to maintain momentum in our relationships with students, when we've all been meeting through screens for so, so long. Please RSVP here.

Friday, February 19: All secondary PALS and PALS teachers, and elementary PALS counselors are invited to join James Butler for a mindfulness tune-up. How are we able to care for ourselves and stay present when we've been stuck inside for a year? How are we able to keep up connections with our peers, friends, and colleagues when we haven't been able to meet in person for so long? Our SEL Mindfulness Specialist, James Butler will give us some tools and tips to keep grounded. Please RSVP here.

It's Time to Recruit and Plan Your Class for SY 2021-22! Let's Make Our Processes Equitable!

Our last PALS teacher social hour looked at building equitable PALS classes at each of our schools. Below is a list of considerations you may make before you publish your final list of PALS candidates.

  • Do your campus leaders know much about PALS? Have they had an update on your activities this year/in years past to help them see the importance in admitting students (versus just placing them)? How does your PALS program benefit your vertical team?
  • Secondary: Do you know your registrar and/or data processor? Who is responsible for the master schedule at your campus? What is their timeline, and how can you make sure they have the names and student information they need to place PALS in the right sections?
  • How are you reaching out to all qualified students to encourage them to apply? Are you placing announcements in Blend?
  • Are you reaching out to other adults on your campus? Remember that great leaders don't always come from obvious places. Consider checking with coaches, ESL, AVID, SCORES, Special Ed., and Learning Support Center teachers; librarians; club sponsors; and administrators to get a look at who they feel may be a good fit for PALS. The students who have done things the hard way are also valuable role models!
  • Are you surveying students? PALS support folks from Richardson ISD survey all 10th and 11th grade students and ask them to name two students who they know they could turn to in a time of need. They use that list as a starting point for recruiting.
  • How long is your application? What kinds of questions or products are you asking for from applicants?
  • Are there supports/help sessions offered so that all students can put their best foot forward? If so, who is facilitating them? What do those help sessions look like, and when are they held?
  • Do you remove identifying information from applications before you/your current PALS review them?
  • Do you have other adults who can help you review applications and vet applicants? You may find it helpful to get together an equity-minded panel that includes a counselor, administrator, and support staff or a librarian so that you are not the sole bottom line on decisions.
  • Have you checked your PALS demographics against your school's demographics? is there any group that's underrepresented/overlooked? Who can help you reach them?

Finally, the more you can build equity into the way that you talk about your program, the more confidently you can move toward building an equitable class. Explicitly equitable practices also make it easier for your administrators to support you and your work.

If you have any questions or would like to bounce around ideas, please feel free to reach out. All movement toward more representative PALS programs are good moves!

Teaching in These Difficult Times

I want to pass along some curricular resources that the fantastic Shakira Hamilton-Adams sent to principals this week. Teaching students who come from diverse families, political ideologies, and home cultures--and those who have distinct opinions, themselves--can make addressing the news a unique challenge. When the news is laced with political violence, the challenge increases.

Below, please see Ms. Hamilton-Adams' words framing these tools and resources.


In the wake of recent events across our country The Office of SEL and the Office of Counseling wanted to provide information that would be useful to support the students on your campus. Please find linked below resources that can be used to support students who are experiencing anxiety about recent news events. Please consider sharing the following tips and resources with your campus community:

SEL & Counseling Resources for News Events

7 Tips for Supporting Students With Anxiety About News Events:

1. First recognize and name your own feelings. (Self-reflection - remember emotions are contagious.)

2. Co-construct agreements for how to have conversations about the news event.

3. Provide regular opportunities for students to share how they are feeling. Acknowledge their feelings. This may sound like, “ I hear that you’re worried about...”

4. Help students manage anxiety by encouraging students to focus on their locus of control. “What are all of the little things we can do to help ourselves and others?”

5. Cultivate hope. Ask, “What is one hope you have for yourself? Your family? Your community?”

6. Practice and teach active listening: listen, acknowledge, offer support.

7. Utilize the 4 Speak Up strategies from Teaching Tolerance: Interrupt, Question, Educate, Echo.

Resources for Optional Lessons and Activities:


· Speak Up Resources from Teaching Tolerance

· Let’s Talk: Facilitating Critical Conversations with Students

· Ida B Wells Education Project: 5 Tips for Teaching in Times of Civil Unrest

· Anti-Defamation League: The Election is Over...Now What?


· Angela Vera - Kocurek Counselor - Safety and Respect (English)

· Angela Vera - Kocurek Counselor - Safety and Respect (Spanish)

· Parent Resource - 10 ways to talk about what is happening in the news


· I-Civics (Upper Elementary and Secondary)

· Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility: What Matters to You? Engaging Students in the 2020 Election (Secondary)


Ed Week had this to say on SEL in this moment

From Deena Simmons

For Educators:

From Facing History Responding to the Insurrection at the US Capitol

Active Listening Must be the Norm (Teaching Tolerance)

When Bad Things Are Happening (Teaching Tolerance)

Caring for Students in the Wake of a Traumatic News Event (Education Week)

Presentation found here titled Teaching on Days After: Post-Election Pedagogy for Equity & Justice)

Talking to children about the events at the US Capitol (NPR)

Courageous Conversations Toolkit (National Park Service)

Additional Courageous Conversations Resources

University of Iowa - Continuing Courageous Conversations

For Caregivers:

Helping Children Cope with Frightening News (Child Mind Institute)

A Note from Our Friends at Changing Lives:

Hi there, Changing Lives partners!

As with many of you, we’ve had to shift our programming online this year. But, we were invited to perform at a virtual conference this fall so we have a recorded Zoom performance of our show from last year, Showmance: When Jealousy Takes the Stage.

We are reaching out to you to see if there is interest in sharing the performance video with your students. The runtime is 40 minutes. If so, we would like to extend the opportunity for talkback discussions or a follow-up workshop to process the themes of the show, free of charge.

Please see a description of the play below.

Changing Lives 2019-2020 play Showmance: When Jealousy Takes the Stage follows best friends Esme, Ramona, and Frankie as they stumble through jealous feelings in their relationships. Esme lands the lead role in her school play and almost everyone is excited, except her boyfriend Jeremiah, who is intimidated by her onstage romance with co-star Lucas “Voice of Silk” Thigpen. As opening night of the play draws closer, Jeremiah’s jealous feelings start to spin out of control. Meanwhile, Ramona’s new girlfriend Val still has a great friendship with her ex - leaving Ramona feeling jealous and unsure about the status of their relationship. Frankie is feeling left behind with her two best friends so caught up in their dating relationships with no time to spare for her. Showmance helps teens (Grades 6-8) understand that it’s totally normal to have jealous feelings in relationships and consider how to cope when jealousy becomes overwhelming. The play explores: How do we cope with jealousy in our relationships? How can jealousy become toxic and damage our relationships beyond repair? How can we have honest conversations so that we can support ourselves and one another?

Please let us know if your school would be interested in this opportunity!


Meg & Noah

January Online Resources

Elementary PALS Train Up!

Our elementary PALS were trained by Steve Medel, former PAL and current faculty at Texas State University's School of Social Work., and his crack team of facilitators. Students learned about role modeling, confidentiality, how to keep themselves and the students they mentor safe, and who to look to for help. We are proud that so many students were able to participate this year, despite COVID and the limits that the pandemic has put on our abilities to gather together.

Thank you, PALS counselors, for making the time to attend, and for doing all the work necessary to help your students to be present to learn to be better mentors.

Here is a link to the video of the training on Tuesday.

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Austin High PALS Get Connected with Barton Hills

On Tuesday December 8th, Austin High PALS finally got to meet their Barton Hills PALees! The teacher and counselor organized a breakout room get to know you game so everyone could meet one another and learn a little more. The breakout rooms played a version of team tally to see which team of 4-6 could rack up the most points. 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers made it work with their schedules by allowing PALees to attend during specials or lunch time and parents made sure their at home learners were able to make it to the right Zoom room! The PALS are looking forward to hanging out again in January.
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The Busy Baldwin PALS

Big shout-out to Ms. Deb Alexander, the new counselor at Baldwin! This year, she's continuing Baldwin's PALS program and finding ways for her PALS to safely serve their peers. They're mentoring first-graders as reading buddies--both in-person and virtually--contributing to counseling videos, and they're participating in monthly service activities. Way to go, Ms. Alexander, and way to go, Baldwin PALS!

The PALS Press is All About You!

Please send all good news, PALS pictures, calls for volunteers, and other ideas to to make sure they're featured in next month's PALS Press!


PALS is a cross-age peer mentoring program founded at Crockett High School in Austin, Texas in 1980. PALS support K-12 students at all levels of their education, and are at work at more than 60 campuses across Austin ISD.