Blog series: Spotlighting SEL in the Hāpara-supported classroom
This blog series is designed to provide educators with examples from the classroom of how the Hāpara Instructional Suite can be used to support social and emotional learning (SEL). We will explore themes from Supporting Child and Student Social, Emotional, Behavioral, and Mental Health Needs as well as the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) framework for applying evidence-based SEL strategies to your classroom.
Like many of you, I have used Hāpara Highlights to send group messages for reminders, advance conversations and help keep learners on task when they are in breakout rooms. I have displayed the Highlights Browser Tabs live in a digital space or physical classroom, depending on the environment that I am teaching or leading in as a way of creating collective accountability. While these are great strategies for focusing learners to be on task, they don’t support a social and emotional learning (SEL) culture shift in your classroom. You can, though, develop a classroom culture of resilience with this tool.
You can leverage Highlights to create a culture where CASEL competencies live in your students, classroom and the structure of how learning happens. To help you consider how you might do this, I want to share a story of how my learners and I used this powerful tool in our work together.
A learner asks for help building resilience
In a high school science class a few years ago, I had a group of 34 learners who were in training to be scientists. That was my vision for them—I can’t say that they all embraced or acknowledged the challenge. Still we pressed on each day to wonder, experiment and learn more about the world.
Early in the school year, I noticed that when learners worked online, a few of them struggled to stay on task. One of their distractions was concerning me. I pulled him aside after class to talk to him about my concern that he was spending time on gambling sites during science.
He was embarrassed about being on the sites and promised to avoid them during my class. I asked him to consider talking to our school counselor if staying off gambling sites was a problem for him. He assured me that it wasn’t a problem and he knew he had support if it was.
During the next month, we had a few more interactions about his distraction. I sent him notes and had to shut down his screen a few times. I decided to block all of the gambling sites during our class time one day. I perhaps should have done it earlier, as I reflect back. As you all know, when you are in the swing of things and building relationships with learners, the benefit of the doubt can sometimes get in the way of setting narrow boundaries.
After class, my student asked to speak to me. He started the conversation with, “Did you do something to my computer today?”
I responded with, “Why do you ask?” This was mainly to buy time as in the moment I wasn’t thinking about Highlights and its Focused Browsing tool.
He looked at me and said, “I couldn’t gamble in your class today.”
“How was that for you?” I asked.
“It was a relief.”
That began a hours-long conversation about his gambling and work to overcome the addiction. He asked me if I could arrange for him to be blocked from about a dozen sites during the school day. I let him know that I would and wanted us to check in regularly to see if it was helping and when we might not need to keep the support in place. He agreed.
As he worked through treatment, he kept in touch. Other students in the class learned about the support I was providing and asked for other sites to be blocked for them on some days. This started our path to developing a classroom culture of resilience.
A class plan for developing resilience
The busiest shopping day of the year changed the conversation and culture in my classroom. As it approached, some students started to worry about spending too much money and if the sales were really sales.
One of my learners said to them, “Ask Ms. Penner if the sites you most want to spend money on can be blocked for you.”
This sparked one of the many class conversations that I will never forget. Learners shared struggles and celebrations and talked about how they wanted to use their self-awareness to self-manage and make better decisions.
As they started to think about how we could work together and create a structure for success, one of my learners asked how easy it was for me to block them from websites. I let them know that I could do it in the moment with Highlights.
The learner walked to the white board and carved off a section with a marker and wrote at the top: SITES I WANT BLOCKED TODAY. She asked the class to write on the board each day the sites they needed support to stay away from. She then asked if I was okay with the plan, too. We were all in agreement.
I wondered if the plan would work and if we could really trust each other to be honest. It did.
Each day they would ebb and flow with letting me know which sites were a temptation for them and would impede their learning. Some learners who felt uncomfortable with having it written clearly for all to see would send me a direct message.
Shifting the classroom conversation
The plan really shifted the conversation and started developing a classroom culture of resilience. It also shifted the conversation in other classes as learners in those classes started to use the board for the same purpose.
As their teacher, I really appreciated that we could use this powerful tool as a way to support SEL and student achievement. Having students direct their own browsing and know when they needed some extra support in Highlights was empowering to them and to me. Relationships were strengthened through this practice. Trust was built. Self-awareness, self-management and decision-making were celebrated. Students also learned about building the capacity to own their choices and know why they are making them. Overall, they developed the classroom culture of resilience through their own practice.
I encourage all teachers to consider ways to build student agency and awareness through their use of devices and provide support through Highlights. Put your learners in the driver’s seat so they can own their own SEL.