Social Emotional Learning Conference

December 10, 2018

If you ask 10 people to define social-emotional learning, you will get 10 different answers.

So said Linda Lantieri, keynote speaker at the Social Emotional Learning Regional Conference at Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES in Yorktown. Lantieri addressed more than 100 educators from 26 school districts Friday, setting the tone for a day of networking and sharing best practices in the field.
Emotional intelligence isn’t something we are born with, Lantieri said. For that reason, she said, it is important for school districts to explicitly teach it, for teachers to model it, and for all adults in a school district to be invested in it.

“It is important to teach social emotional learning at a separate time in the schedule like any other subject area, with concepts, skills and vocabulary. All these things need to be taught,” Lantieri said, adding that it is important to weave these concepts into other academic areas as well.

A veteran educator of more than 40 years and a Fulbright Scholar, Lantieri co-founded the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and serves as its senior program advisor. She is also an adjunct assistant professor in the psychology department at Columbia University, Teachers College.

Lantieri said the social emotional learning begins with adults and must include all adults in a school district – bus drivers, lunch monitors, and secretaries. “We all need to be speaking the same language,” she said.

Educators from across the region presented on a wide range of social emotional topics including: Community Building through Student Voice; Excellence in a Culturally Responsive Classroom; ESTEAM: Adding Empathy to STEAM Education; Mindfulness in Education; Zones of Regulation; and the Choose Love Program: Teaching Courage, Gratitude, and Compassion.

Presenting districts included: Byram Hills, Carmel, Hendrick Hudson, Mamaroneck, Ossining, Peekskill, Putnam Valley, Rye, Tarrytown, Valhalla and Yorktown.

Peekskill teachers Therese Wood-Chang and Bridget Holloman talked about developing multiculturalism in the classroom by reading about multicultural holidays and traditions of different countries, holding views that affirm the value of all students and celebrating heroes from different cultures.

“We should be teaching our African American boys that they were born for greatness,” Holloman said. “If we aren’t supporting our kids in their behavior, we’re not supporting their achievement.”

Yorktown Superintendent Dr. Ronald Hattar said his district’s social emotional learning is supported by its ESTEAM initiative, an interdisciplinary, empathy-based approach to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education. ESTEAM focuses on finding solutions to problems that will help others.

Byram Hills’ H.C. Crittenden Middle School Principal Kim Lapple and Assistant Principal Angelo Ancona spoke about giving students a voice in how the school is run. “Student voice matters and when they feel it matters, they are more interested and engaged,” said Ancona.

Through a group known as SAIL, students acting in leadership, H.C. Crittenden has seen students successfully tackle issues like making the cafeteria a more inclusive, welcoming place for all students.

Dr. Gail Duffy, director of curriculum and instruction, and Tawn Turnesa, department chair of physical education and health, both from the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns, presented a hands-on session, with participants taking part in mindfulness exercises. One exercise focused on the five senses, while another helped participants to focus on here and now.

By the day’s end, participants appeared ready to take back what they had learned and dive even deeper into the social emotional learning world.

“I love that the word is getting out there and spread around,” said Ana Bueno, a school social worker in Peekskill. “I also really liked the structure of this event, giving us the ability to get a little bit of everything by attending different sessions.”

Janet Warden, assistant superintendent for instruction and personnel at Carmel Central School District, said she planned to go back to her district and take a careful look at culturally responsive books that serve “not only as a mirror, but as a window.”

Joseph Mannozzi, coordinator, School Library System & Professional Library at PNW BOCES, who organized the event, said “I hope that we moved the conversation around social emotional learning forward across the region and allowed people to think more deeply about the subject and get practical next steps to use in their districts.”

Other topics covered at the conference included: Cultivating Social and Emotional Learning Through the Three SEL Signature Practices; Using Mindfulness to Reduce Stress and Enhance Your Teaching Environment; Alternative Instruction Rooms; Equity and Our Sphere of Influence; Implementing a Dialectical Behavior Therapy Program at the Secondary Level; SEL at Yorktown HS: A Journey from DBT to Husker Discovery; Weaving Mindfulness Into the Busy Classroom Day; Three Lenses on Student Wellbeing K-12: Kids of Character, RULER, Community Lunch.