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Want to bring quality SEL to more to kids? Start with staff. We did!

Domingo Cruz

Domingo Cruz is a Program Manager at ExpandED Schools.

ExpandED Schools recently had Paul Griffin, Founder and President of The Possibility Project, come and offer a social-emotional learning (SEL) training to our staff. His company brings together vastly diverse groups of teenagers who meet 6-7 hours weekly for nine months. They engage in an SEL experience focused on social justice that uses the performing arts to examine and address the personal and social forces that shape their lives and identities. Through the creative process, they work together to write and perform an original musical from the stories of their lives and their ideas, creating a theatrical road map for change. They then design and execute community action projects that make an impact on issues that are important to them. 

The Possibility Workshop

To start the training, Paul had us participate in short SEL-infused exercises that were very interactive and were meant to nurture collaboration and trust. We later went on to discuss how to effectively implement an SEL plan using concepts and ideas from Preparing Youth to Thrive, a resource book full of promising practices around social-emotional learning that was comprised by a group of organizations that have been doing SEL long before we could define the practice.  

Paul explained that relationship building, teamwork and trust are three of the most important factors when trying to nurture social-emotional competencies in any classroom or activity. He made a particular emphasis on the unilateral relationship: “I am teacher and you are the student.” All too often, the educator carries out the role of the adult in the room and sees the student as being less experienced. The relationship should instead be cyclical. Even though the adult is the educator, both educator and student should really learn from and care for each other. With this view, students are seen as thought partners in the learning process and will invest in the learning experience, developing a sense of agency in the process. 

Overall, we really enjoyed Paul’s workshop. Not only did we get to interact with our colleagues in ways we never had before, but also the concepts and promising practices he presented will help us develop a method to social-emotional learning, which we can share with our partners. This will provide a more universal approach to SEL and allow for more effective implementation in our schools and expanded learning programs.


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