This week Ali and JoDee sit down with Elizabeth Peterson, a veteran educator who empowers teachers with creative social-emotional strategies while easing teacher burnout through SEAL: Social-Emotional, Artistic Learning. Together, they will discuss what Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and SEAL are, how to effectively use these concepts within the classroom, and the role of the teacher in today's classroom.
Connect with Elizabeth:
Connect with Ali and JoDee:
Ali’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alisimon/
JoDee’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jodeescissors/
For episode transcriptions visit: https://thegreatteacherresignation.buzzsprout.com
All teachers are natural innovators, entertainers and problem solvers. They dream of growing old into the profession, teaching their kids kids. But sometimes career goals shift or change, and that makes opportunities outside of the classroom seem intangible questioning who am I, if I'm not a teacher? I'm your host, Alexandra Simon.
And I'm your co host, JoDee Scissors.
This is The Great Teacher Resignation.
Today, we're joined by Elizabeth Peterson. Elizabeth is a veteran educator who helps to empower caring teachers with creative, social, emotional strategies that proactively address these behaviors, and ease teacher burnout through SEAL: social-emotional, artistic learning. Elizabeth hosts the inspired classroom.com. Welcome today.
Oh, thank you so much for having me here. It's good to see your faces Ali and Jodi and to be able to talk to you guys.
I'm especially excited to see you on Zoom, because I've been taking your SEAL foundations course, which has been very fruitful. It's been a really great learning experience for me. And it's very related to the work that I'm doing with the arts organizations that I collaborate with, as well as I think that your courses are extremely relatable and needed for the current state of education and all the things that students and teachers are going through right now.
Oh, JoDee that just made my whole day, my whole week. Thank you so much for saying that. Because I really do believe in teacher centered professional development. And I think that the more we teachers do professional development that truly feeds what we need. It's just makes us better people, better teachers all the way around. And so that's like the best compliment ever. Thank you.
Yeah, we want to start off with just talking about the role of the teacher and the needs of the teacher now. Because we are in a reality where teachers aren't going back to the classroom. We're seeing less and less teachers in teacher programs. And we want to know, you know, what is the role of the teacher right now? What can an educator do, in the environment that we're in right now, that's not only just good for students, but good for educators as well?
Yeah, well, I mean, over the last decades of education, teachers have really worn so many hats right in the classroom. We're entertainer, we're coach, we're activities director, and even therapists. And nowadays, if you mentioned that hat of therapists, teachers can get a little nervous because we actually have more and more students who truly need that social and emotional support more than ever. And so, that brings us, you know, what is our new role? Right? Well, of course, we're teachers. Our job is to teach our content, if you're in the classroom, if you're at the schools. However, it's first and foremost, to really create that safe learning environment for all of our students, a place where students can feel valued and welcomed into the classroom. But here's the thing, you know, teachers have been doing that for decades, right? Teachers always want their classrooms to be a place of learning, making mistakes, exploring new things, being open to new ideas, but it's just, it's different now. And we have to put a bit more effort to make sure that our students really feel safe and valued and accepted inside the classroom, so that they are ready to learn. Because even though some naturally will come to the classroom ready to learn, so many won't. And that number is just seems to be growing every single year. And it's part of our new role as a teacher or an educator to just bridge that gap for students. And that's where SEL, in my case SEAL, the social, emotional, artistic learning can really start to come into play and help our students make that transition into the classroom so that they are ready to learn.
Yeah, and what I'm really hearing from you, Elizabeth, as you describe that, was a key part of an educators role is building relationships and setting the tone in their classroom, creating a welcoming community for their students. I think setting the tone at the beginning of the year, which is the beginning of the year, right now as we're doing this interview for some school districts, is so important. I love what you talk about in SEAL, and I haven't taken the course yet, but now i i want to. But I think it also allows, from what I understand, the teacher and the students to have a mutual understanding of build healthy relationships, and create a classroom where the teacher is also a person, right?
I think that most teachers desire solid relationships and building rapport with their students. But the restrictions and limitations and expectations sometimes deter us from that number one mission, which is to establish a relationship. And I'm going to give one example, in a former district I used to work in administration would say, by day two, you need to be doing guided reading. And so for many years, I would go and I would follow strictly what I was being asked to do. And then I thought, well, I'm going to do that, but I'm going to do it in the way that I believe is best for my students, which is, I'm going to do guided reading, which is what they're asking of me to do. But I'm going to select a book that is going to increase discourse. That I get to learn more about my students. That we get to have deep conversations about topics where we learn about one another. And you know, what I might introduce a visual art piece that we talk about that's related to that book, or I might have some music that is related to the topic, or we might be drawing something that we wouldn't perhaps normally do in guided reading. And it took me to really think outside the box to say, this is what they're asking me to do. This is what I believe is best, and how can I bridge those to achieve what I am asked to do, and what I morally think is the right thing to do when it comes to student relationships?
Yep. And I think that that plays a huge part in the new role of the teacher. Because I think teachers are craving that ability to do what they know is right for students. So you know, one of my things that I keep coming back to in the Facebook groups, in the course, in the q&a's that we have, it's, you know, what's best for your kids. You know, that's what that whole first wave of SEAL is. And it's about that SEAL teacher mindset. And just really knowing, A) what's good for your students and B) what's good for you. And bringing that mindset to the classroom is just so important for, well survival right now. And it's what's going to prevent, or at least ease the burnout of teachers right now, because that is a huge reality. And if administration and people don't start really seeing that, for what it is, we're going to be in a lot of trouble. So it's time for us to take the reins and understand this for ourselves. Understand what we do and don't have control over and just focus on the things that we do. And one of those things is tweaking our lessons to make it so that it's the best lesson for the students in front of us just like what you said.
So, Elizabeth, I'm really interested in taking a step back, for some of our listeners who might not be educators, could you share with them really what social-emotional learning is? And then specifically, social, emotional, artistic learning in your SEAL course that you've developed. Just so that they have a better understanding of what that means.
Yeah, so there's a lot of talk about what it is and what it isn't even, you know, the letters SEL. Some people have a misguided idea of what social emotional learning is. At its core. It's dealing with the five competencies of self awareness, self management, social awareness, responsible decision making, and relationship skills. And understanding what is involved in those and how we can develop those in our students to make them better learners and be accessible to learning and have them be ready to learn. And with social, emotional, artistic learning, it's taking the best of what SEL is and the best of what arts integration is, and putting those together. And utilizing some of the innate natural powers that the arts really do have to develop those skills in the students. And to embed different practices and strategies throughout your day, so that your students social and emotional well being is being supported. Their skills are being developed. So it can be as simple as you know, helping students to work together in a good way. It can be having a student understand what their reaction is to a situation and being able to express themselves in a safe way. And the important thing I think, that we need to make sure people understand is that, we're not shoving this stuff down kids throats. We're not shoving things down kids throats. We're helping them to be good learners and good people inside the classroom, and have them be able to be ready to learn.
I wanted to say that like in conjunction with taking your course, I've been deep into some of the CASEL trainings and built a relationship with one of the directors at CASEL who focuses on the arts. And then I've also recently finished Amy Cranston's book on creating social and emotional learning environments. And one thing that she mentions in there is that happy schools need happy teachers. And so something I would really like to see is, we do these trainings for teachers on social and emotional learning, what it is. And one of the questions I have is, how does a teacher practice social and emotional learning during the work day? So if there's a trigger, or there's a certain emotion, or when it comes to any task during the day that causes something to put them in a place that's not their best self? And what does it look like, in the middle of your workday to practice those skills and strategies explicitly? You know what I'm saying? Like, if you're having that moment, what does that look like, as a teacher? And how does that look like to your audience of students who watch you practice what you preach?
Oh, because they notice everything. Great. And to continue, you're happy schools need happy teachers. I like saying happy teachers means happy students. And so if we want our students to be happy, and in an environment where they're learning and thriving, we need to make sure that teachers are also thriving. And you mentioned something about, like, professional development for teachers, for heaven's sakes, will they let teachers pick the professional development that's gonna be relevant for them. Of course, there's going to be things that needs to be done for the school, or for the district, but you know, giving teachers time with one another to be able to develop what their craft and give them time to really dig into the content that they love to teach. So that they can teach it at a better, at a higher level, even. You know, those are the kinds of things that are going to be helpful for teachers. You know, treating them like professionals, to be blunt. And I think that a lot of times, the higher ups and, and the outside world think that if teachers don't have something to do every minute of their school day and beyond, they must not be doing much. And it's just, it's just crazy, because everyone thinks they know, education, because they've gone through school, but that's not the case. That's not the case at all. But in terms of like, when you're in the classroom, and something is happening, you know, you need to have those strategies for yourself, you know. And it can sometimes be as simple as giving yourself a moment. I have done this in front of my own students. You know, something's happening and I'll just stand there and take a deep breath. And they look at me, and they watch me and they go, oh, maybe we should come down. Or, yes, we agree, we also are being affected by what's happening over here in the classroom. Let's all take a collective breath together. And just kind of helping them to understand that there are certain things that we can do small and large. There have been times when I've had to step out of the classroom. And thankfully, I have a good, you know, coworker next to me that I can say, hey, go use the bathroom, can you watch them for a second, you know? And it may not have something to do with what the kids are doing. But it might be just something like, like, you get a text, you know, sometimes you get into text and it catches your eye, like, oh. Or maybe something has happened, you know, big thing in your life, but you still made it to work. But you just need that moment. And I think that it's okay for your students to see that human side of you. Because, I mean, if you shelter them from that, then they're not going to understand how to handle it when it happens to them. And it and these things undoubtably are going to happen to them. I think we can tend to shield kids from a lot of emotions, which is part of why we're here.
But the opposite of what we should be doing. I love what you said and I think this comes up for JoDee and I time and again about modeling healthy behavior and what kind of impact that can have on young people. JoDee and I have both lost parents. And you know, being in a classroom, when you're like, you get a reminder that that person is gone. Or something happens, maybe you're waiting on some news, or you're waiting on a message from a doctor. You know, there's big things that happen in our lives. And I think it's important to, to be able to acknowledge that and to do it in a healthy way. And I think what I'm hearing too, about social emotional learning is that by teaching these healthy skills and these ways to deal with different situations, and ways to build relationships, we're also teaching kids things that are applicable in the real world. Like I think about soft skills. How many jobs do you have now, they say that young people are not trained. They don't have the soft skills that maybe our generations had because of technology, or they're not interacting in the same way. And I think this type of learning can also help develop those soft skills that are really key in so many of our industries still.
Absolutely, yeah. And what better way for kids to practice those soft skills than in a classroom with a teacher who has their best intentions in mind and a roomful of peers who may be going through similar things, or, you know, it's just a great place for students to be able to practice those skills.
And I like that you specifically, your work, focuses on the arts and how the arts can open up our cognitive ability to not only perform academically but feel good emotionally. And that was the experience I had with your activity, which when we air this, I'll post the starfish to our socials, to show just this small activity where I had the choice to use whatever materials I wanted. I could meet the expectation of what you were asking me to do in the course. And I could do it, meet those requirements and feel good. I think that in two parts like one, we have SEL, but we have the arts and we know that the arts get taken out when the testing becomes a priority. When the data becomes the priority. How can we get there through the arts? And how can we get there, whilst meeting those competency areas?
There's so many natural connections. So there are three waves of SEAL. The SEAL teacher mindset, that's the first one. The SEAL teacher methods, which is the second wave of learning how to bring SEAL into your classroom. And then the third one is SEAL integrations. And there are just numerous, maybe endless ways to integrate all the different art forms with all the different competencies. And to find those particular ones that are going to work for your class. And you know, some teachers and educators may be listening and saying, okay, but you know, I don't have time for this. I have a test to prepare for. Right? And that is our reality. And we have all these pressures and paperwork and all this stuff going on. But the beauty of SEAL is that second wave where you learn, not only can you carve out when it's needed, carve out some time to do a special activity with your students that are going to work on competencies that those particular students in front of you might need. But there are numerous embedded strategies. And ones that just become part of the routine of your day. And it helps you. It helps your students. For example, even though I teach third grade, we switched for math groups, because it seems to really be beneficial for our students. And so what I do to, again, transition my students into their math brains is that we use dance, and we use movement to just ground everybody into what we're doing, get their brain set. And even if it's not 100% participation, there's participation in some degree from every student. And because it's an embedded strategy, it's become part of our routine. It's just an expectation, that's going to bring movement into our math lesson, and then get them ready to learn the concept of the day. And so I think that it's really important for any SEL, to make sure that you're seeing how it truly integrates and embeds into what you already do, because that's how you're going to find the success. And that's what I love focusing in on the SEAL.
I love that. And I think some of the things that have been most successful in my classroom when I was an educator, were things that were built into our routine. They were things that were expected,and became natural, and made our classroom better. I really loved hearing about SEL and seal, S E A L. I'm hoping that our listeners will also be inspired to take a deeper look into these options for their classrooms. If you'd like to connect with Elizabeth, you can find her on theinspiredclassroom.com, Teachseal.com or on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube at the inspired classroom. Thank you so much, Elizabeth.
Thank you, Ali. And thank you, JoDee, it was a pleasure talking with you guys about all this.
If you liked The Great Teacher Resignation, give us a five star rating and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon, Music and Audible. Today's episode was written and recorded by me Alexandra Simon, and my co host JoDee Scissors. Executive produced by Teacher Brain. Produced and edited by Emily Porter. Original Music: Emoji by Tubebackr. Special thanks to our sponsor, Paper Planes Ed.