By Michael Piccirillo, Ed.D, CASDA Executive Director
Happy Spring! March is known for many things, the arrival of Spring signifies a rebirth of sorts. March is also known for the NCAA Basketball Tournaments, also known as March Madness. Educators are all too familiar with March Madness as it applies to their school. Budgets are being approved and readied for presentation to the public, teachers and students in grades 3-8 are gearing up for state assessments, while high school students are preparing for AP and Regents Exams. These are just a few of the many activities that are associated with the work occurring in schools this time of year.
At CASDA this month, we placed a special focus on social-emotional learning. Perhaps the most important workshop CASDA offered in March was titled Self-Care and Stress Management for Educators. We need to take care of the people who take care of our students each day. I don’t need to tell you that stress is a killer; the emotional and physical toll can be devastating. Today, educators are attempting to cope with endless on the job stressors on top of the normal life stress we all experience in our family and personal lives. From a leadership perspective, the result is evident in shrinking pools of teacher and administrator candidates.
When I was an active school district administrator, I participated on panels addressing classes of graduate school students aspiring to earn their administrative certification. The most common question asked was about how I addressed work/life balance as a busy administrator. Thinking I was being honest, I would say I didn’t do a very good job. Upon reflection, I wish had provided greater insight on the difficulties, and also some strategies I used to destress like running on a regular basis. Yes, the reality is, work-life balance is difficult, but as role models it is our responsibility to encourage our colleagues to find ways to find the delicate balance between personal and professional life.
So, what I wish I had imparted to those students is what I want to emphasize in this newsletter. We need to take care of ourselves, or we won’t be at our best when our students, colleagues and families need us. As individuals we need to place more emphasis on our own mental and physical health. As organizational systems, we need to encourage, support and provide opportunities for educators to engage in positive physical and mental health practices. I learned a long time ago as a new teacher the upfront work of establishing a positive classroom environment sets the tone for a productive school year for me and my students. Schools and individuals need to be just as proactive about mental and physical health. It will pay huge positive dividends in the long run.
In keeping with our SEL theme, earlier this month we presented a webinar called Social Media and the Increase in Student Anxiety. Additionally, we released two podcasts through the CASDA Superintendent Virtual Collaborative and on Twitter emphasizing the need to consider the emotional health of adults. Workshops on Hope Theory for Educators and Building Resilient Teachers were also offered during a Superintendent’s Conference Day at East Greenbush Central School District.
To further assist members with their work regarding social-emotional learning, CASDA’s corporate partner Hanover Research is providing the research brief, “Best Practices for Measuring Social Emotional Learning,” which includes a research-based Checklist for Developing SEL Assessments. NYSED also recently released their Social Emotional Learning: A Guide to Systemic Whole School Implementation resource and guidelines.
Keep March Madness where it belongs, on television sets. Be proactive and seek opportunities for emotional well-being for your students and yourself. And remember, CASDA can help your district develop a social-emotional learning curriculum, provide training in trauma informed and restorative practices and meet the self-care needs of educators.