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SEL for All with Haley O’Connor, Ep. 91 Buzzing with Ms. B: The Coaching Podcast

Children laying in grass learning with books and papers, the words "SEL for All with Haley O'Connor"

This month’s episodes have all been about matters of the heart. We’ve explored self-care, boundaries, and all the feelings that come up when working with teachers. 

On this episode of The Coaching Podcast, I’m joined by Haley O’Connor of Teaching with Haley. We talk about SEL for all and how a school-wide approach can support students, teachers, and coaches. She helps us think through and understand SEL from a teacher’s perspective so we can be more supportive coaches. During the show, we define social-emotional learning and how to use it in coaching.

SEL for All

When I was a teacher, I dedicated time at the beginning of the year to teach social-emotional skills. After a few months, I would sometimes falter and could see the difference in my students’ behavior. 

During the episode, Haley explains that there are big benefits to implementing SEL in the classroom and research confirms it. Students benefit from social-emotional learning but so do teachers, coaches, and administration. 

Haley recommends as we offer safe spaces for kids, we also offer them to the staff. She says that this is how you get teacher buy-in.

What is social-emotional learning?

Haley defines SEL as “being a good person and helping our kids be good people.” She explains that it is “anything that we are doing, to help them [students] be competent, kind, cooperative, able to manage their emotions”.

She uses Casel’s framework around social-emotional learning. Casel breaks SEL down into five pieces that are aligned with most experts.

1. Responsible decision making 

How are we teaching students to be responsible? Haley recommends having a consistent task management system to help kids know what’s expected of them. This can start in the early grade with something simple and get more complex as they get into higher grades.

2. Relationship skills

Relationships are so important. Haley explains that relationship skills include conflict resolution, apologizing, forgiving, and helping kids learn to compromise. She recommends using sentence frames and language like “what can we do to make it better” to help students master these skills.

3. Social awareness

As educators, we need to help kids develop empathy and understand compassion. Haley says that we can do this by helping students identify their big feelings. We can also teach them to notice how other people are feeling when they make certain decisions. She recommends having a school-wide read-aloud so that students have those shared experiences that help build empathy.

4. Self-awareness

Helping students understand their strengths and weaknesses leads to more self-awareness. When students understand who they are as a person, they can be their best selves and ask for help when needed.

5. Self-management

Learning self-control is an important skill. Haley says her biggest tip is not expecting kids to regulate on their own. Instead, meet them where they’re at. When students are having big feelings and meltdowns in the classroom, don’t ignore them. Meet them in that moment and use language that validates and empathizes with their feelings. 

A School-Wide Approach to SEL for All

When schools implement SEL, staff and students feel safe to express themselves. On the episode, Haley shares research showing that social-emotional learning leads to long-term positive outcomes. Some of the benefits include students being more likely to graduate high school and have a job.

Haley recommends having a common language and teaching students to label their emotions when implementing SEL school-wide. She says that many schools have also found success with zones of regulation.

In addition, she believes to teach social-emotional skills, educators need to be doing anti-racist and anti-biased work. They must actively seek to find their own biases and how they impact teaching.

Coaching and SEL

Teachers are often treated very differently than students when it comes to social-emotional support. Educators are people and have emotions. They need to feel comfortable expressing themselves and asking for help when they need it. 

She advises instructional coaches to spend time building relationships with teachers. Check-in with them and validate their feelings (even if you don’t agree with them). It’s important to be genuine and not condescending when working with teachers.

Haley cautions against asking teachers to share their feelings or trauma if they’re not ready. Instead, just be there for them. If they bring it up, then you can talk about it. 

She recommends framing SEL around whether your actions make someone feel closer to you. Does it strengthen the relationship or hurt it? 

One practice that Haley recommends is writing a kind note to teachers about something they’re doing well. This will build your relationship, improve their confidence, and create trust. 

Coaches can also help teachers by documenting student behavior that impacts learning. Once there’s data, you can look to see what skills need to be taught and reinforced in the classroom. She says this is effective because you’re not there to “watch” the teacher but rather to see how the kids respond to certain things. You can then use the data to figure out how to best meet the students’ needs. It takes the pressure off the teacher and allows you to find collaborative solutions.

If you’re looking for additional resources to support teachers’ social-emotional learning, check out my TpT resource SEL Tools for Instructional Coaches & Admin. It’s full of ideas and strategies that coaches can use to help teachers process and communicate how they are feeling. 

Ready to listen? You can listen below with the media player, or search for Buzzing with MS. B: The Coaching Podcast anywhere you listen to podcasts!

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Learn more
Email: haleymoconnor@gmail.com

Thank you for listening to Buzzing with Ms. B: the Coaching Podcast. Want more coaching ideas?

Check me out at buzzingwithmsb.com and on Instagram @buzzingwithmsb.

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Podcast produced by Fernie Ceniceros

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