One Teacher’s Journey to SEL

By September 19, 2017July 23rd, 20202 Comments

Shea Quraishi, Social and Emotional Learning Director

It’s not that I was a bad teacher. I’d been trained on a bevy of classroom management strategies—behavior systems, transition routines, questioning techniques—and had, as a result, a pretty full toolbox. Full enough to get me through my first year of teaching with 28 kindergartners. Full enough to help most of them achieve more than a year’s worth of academic growth. But something was missing.

I didn’t know what to call it… after all, the term “social and emotional learning” (SEL) was in its nascence… but I knew it had to have something to do with teaching kids how to be, well, human. How to manage their emotions, navigate their relationships, and make productive decisions. Easy, right?

Finding Social and Emotional Learning

So, I did what any sane person would do: I dragged my husband cross-country to California. I was sure that there would be answers waiting for me at Stanford, the land of Carol Dweck and growth mindset research. Learning about the pedagogy of SEL was a revelation in itself, but even more transformative was seeing it in action. My program placed me at a school that implemented an SEL curriculum with fidelity, assessed students’ growth, and constantly adapted. Most of all, the school had an almost palpable agreement on the norm that I come to hold highest: SEL should not be a thing we do as teachers for, say, 20 minutes a day, but rather a way of looking at teaching. A lens. An art, even.

The SEL Impact

It made so much sense. After this pivotal experience, my teaching changed. Despite being at schools where SEL was, at best, a training twice a year and, at worst, something administrators felt we didn’t have time for, I trudged forward, often clumsily and by my own devices, and always by trial and error. Sure enough, as it became clear that my students not only weren’t getting behavior referrals, but also exuded a true joy of learning and acted in ways that showed respect for themselves and each other, principals started to ask me what was in the proverbial secret sauce. The answer was simple: “SEL.”

Being Part of the Framework for Success

Confident in the power of SEL, I took every opportunity I could to train other teachers and to serve as a mentor and coach, all with the hope of making the path to SEL clearer for other teachers than it had been for me. Now, in my role at Frameworks, I have the privilege of doing this work on a larger scale and with methods that are systematic and grounded in research. The work that our stellar team is doing in schools every day not only gives students exposure to SEL concepts through explicit instruction and modeling, but also equips teachers to carry the work forward for years to come. The students we serve and the teachers we empower will give back to our Tampa Bay community—and beyond—in ways we can’t yet even imagine yet!