PALS Press

September 2020

Welcome Back!

Are you ready for this school year to start, or what?! No matter how you answer that question, you're not alone. We're about to embark on an experiment, and there are lots of variables. Remember that it's OK to go slow, ask for help, and to take your time. There's so much out of our control, but we can control how we care for ourselves and how we show up with and for our school communities.

I'm sharing some resources with you today that I hope you'll find helpful. Please let me know if anything resonates with you, if there's something you want more of, or if you never want to see a resource ever again!

As always, your PALS fam is here for you, 100%. Don't hesitate to reach out, even if it's just to brain dump or vent. We're all in this together.



P.S. A special thank you and shout-out to the TBRI team--particularly MTSS Coach Chris Brodie--for offering up the first graphic you see, and for introducing me to Dr. Lauri DeSautels' work. Thank you, also, to Jane Howk for sharing the Happiness Chemicals graphic. All of this information is evidence-based and so timely. We are lucky to work in a district that values the research that produces these resources, and that empowers staff to pursue training and learning about the learning and teaching brain!

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Who are your PALS People?

Dr. Jane Ross - Director, Child Study Systems: Advocates for PALS on a District level, ultimately ensures PALS are well-trained and able to meet safely with the students they mentor.

Stacia Bowley - MTSS/PALS Coach: In tandem with Elementary and Secondary PALS leads, counseling coordinators, and TBRI goddess Teri Wood, plans trainings, provides resources and materials, and facilitates connections among PALS teachers and relevant AISD staff.

Fritz Fitzpatrick - YouthLaunch Executive Director and PALS Champion: Facilitates the public/private partnership that provides PALS material resources that AISD can't always cover, and brings the WOOOOO! to any party.

Lisa Schmitz - Elementary PALS Leader, counselor at Menchaca Elementary: Lisa provides support for elementary PALS counselors with a specifically elementary lens. As a former AISD Counselor of the Year, longstanding facilitator of PALS programs at Williams and Menchaca, Lisa can help with logisics and more at the elementary level.

Jane Howk - Secondary PALS Leader, counselor at Ann Richards: Jane offers practical support to secondary and middle school PALS teachers. Jane has taught PALS, has a fantastic array of resources for social and emotional supports, and can help PALS teachers figure out interpersonal dynamics in a class, meaningful service projects, and other logistics.

Teri Wood - AISD TBRI Coordinator: Teri brings research- and evidence-based practices that address student trauma to our teachers and our school communities. She and a cohort of TBRI facilitators can provide feedback, training, and strategies for teachers working with students coming from difficult places. Teri's work also informs the PALS curriculum and training each year.

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Dr. Lauri DeSautels on COVID Teaching

COVID Teaching and Educator Brain and Body Wellness

An Idea for Friday PALS Classes

  1. Ask students to share a song that really relates to how their week is going with you by Thursday at noon.
  2. Assemble those songs in a playlist.
  3. Start your PALS class with a circle where each student shares the name of the song they chose and why.
  4. Play the playlist while students journal.

What should they journal about?!

Let them reflect on the week, and ask them to think about events that triggered emotional reactions--either positive or negative. What was happening before? What happened after? Do they wish something happened differently? Will there be lasting consequences? Will it happen again? What kinds of support will make it easier next time?

You can let this be your ritual, let students connect with their own emotional landscape (preparing them to interact with their PALees' emotional landscapes) and, as your PALS eventually get to know their PALees, you can shift the prompt to include a reflection on their PALS meetings.

In Other News!

  • PALS teacher and counselor check-in/social time week of 9/13. More info to come next week.
  • Please send me first day pics of your PALS! I'd love to see those sweet faces in your Brady Bunch Zoom windows, and I'll feature them in the next PALS Press.
  • Have you discovered a hack for any particular aspect of remote teaching and learning? Feel free to share it here--even if it's specific to your content area.

About Austin ISD PALS

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.