UEN Homeroom

Holly Todd - Real Life with Social and Emotional Learning

Episode Summary

This week Holly Todd, the Project Aware Coordinator for Jordan School District, comes by the Homeroom to share ideas on social and emotional learning in schools. We discuss the need to help students understand their emotions, how to provide self-care for teachers, and the need to teach kids "soft skills" that can prepare them for real life.

Episode Notes

This week Holly Todd, the Project Aware Coordinator for Jordan School District, comes by the Homeroom to share ideas on social and emotional learning in schools. We discuss the need to help students understand their emotions, how to provide self-care for teachers, and the need to teach kids "soft skills" that can prepare them for real life.

Episode Transcription

So Dani, I'm really hoping that there are plenty of May flowers out there right now. 

Why? Because we've been having so many April showers? 

I am telling you right now, I don't think I've gone one day without wearing some kind of watertight sneaker or shoe. 

It is so rainy. There is so much mud in my life, so much mud. 

Have you been able to do all the yard work you've been trying to do? 

I mean, I've been getting at it, but I've been going through shoes left and right because there's so much mud. But my grass looks really green. 

That's the best part of spring. 

There's going to be a lot of water this year. There's no way there can be a drought this year, right? 

I am planning on being able to water my yard whenever I please. 


Yes, other than the fact I don't want to pay for it. But still. But with that, we're ready for another episode of UEN Homeroom. 

Yes we are. Welcome to the homeroom. 


All right, Jared, it just got warm and fuzzy in here. 

I'm feeling very warm and fuzzy. 

You're always warm and fuzzy. 

Well, I'm always fuzzy. 

Today we're going to be talking about social and emotional learning. And we have a special guest. Would you like to introduce our special guest? 

I'm excited to do it. Holly Todd has been in education for the past 20 years, earning educational degrees from Westminster College, the University of Utah, and another school down south. 


During this time-- oh, she was about to comment on that. 

I don't actually claim that one very often either. 


So we're all on the same page. During this time, she worked as a classroom teacher and an educational specialist. Most of her years were spent in Wasatch School District as an elementary school counselor. She recently left a position at the Utah State Board of Education as school counseling program specialist to pursue work in Jordan School District. 

Her current role is through the Project AWARE Grant, awarded through SAMHSA to support the development of mental health awareness in all schools in the district. She is passionate about her work regarding prevention, trauma-responsive programs, social-emotional learning for each student, and self-care for the professional. We're glad to welcome Holly to our podcast. 

Thanks. I'm excited to be here. 

Yeah, we love to have you on here. I'm excited to see what you have to say about self-care for the professional. I feel like maybe-- 

We need some self-care. 

Yeah, right? We always ask Justin, our manager, for new and ridiculous things in our office. And so maybe you can provide us some guidance-- 

Yes, definitely. 

--on that? 

You need those. 

OK, before we get to that, we've got to put you through the wringer with our questions from kindergartners from around the state of Utah. Are you up for the challenge? 

Those are actually harder than senior questions, but I'll try it. 

Are you terrified? 

I am. I spent three years as a kindergarten teacher, so-- 


Then I am not worried, not even a little bit. As the mom of a kindergartner, bless you. 


OK, here is our first question. 

What is your favorite holiday? 

Christmas, of course. 

Yeah, why Christmas? 

Because you get together with family. You get to be out of school. I mean, doesn't everybody love that? 

Yeah, a little break is nice. 

The music, the snow, just the decorations, all of it. 

All right, fabulous. 

Anything special you guys do at Christmas time? 

We share ornaments. So every year, my parents find something that's happened during that year, and give us an ornament that represents that. So I have a tree full of ornaments from when I was in high school, playing sports. When I hated riding a bike, they gave me a little bicycle one, just kind of fun things. 

That's so special. 

Those are my favorite kind of ornaments. 


Because we have one tree that has to be color-coordinated. 


That's the one that everybody gets to see. 

No one gets to touch it. 

No one touches that tree. And then the tree that most of the rest of us share, just as a family, and all the picture ones, and the fun, little, cutesy ones-- 

The ones that the kids have made. 

The ones that everyone's made. Ones that even I made as a kid are on that tree. 

Oh my gosh. 

Yes, they had ornaments back then. 

I was going to say. 

They were in black and white. 

And it takes three times as long to put that tree up than it does any other tree. 

No question. 

You have to reminisce every ornament. 

Aw, that's precious. 

Well, now we're all ready for Christmas, and we're not even to the end of April yet. 

Hey, but it was snowing this morning. 

Was it? It wasn't where I was, thank goodness. I can't take that anymore. All right, here's our second question. 

What's your all-time favorite movie? 

Hm, all-time favorite movie-- well, I don't know that I've ever watched it all the way through, but the movie that has the most memory for me is E.T. I was so devastated when E.T. died. 

I'm sorry, what? 

E.T. You don't know E.T.? 

I know who E.T. is. I didn't know he died. 

Spoiler alert from 1982. 

I didn't make it through either. 

But see, that was the thing, is he really doesn't die. But I was devastated when I thought he died. And so I was screaming in the theater, just pure desperation. And finally my parents yelled, he lives, he lives. 


And so it was a spoiler alert for the whole theater. 

Oh my gosh, this is amazing. Because I don't know if you know this, but Jared Cavili is a walking spoiler alert. So-- 

This is fake news. 

--maybe he was in the theater at the time, and he just thought that that was appropriate behavior. 

There is no way I could have spoiled E.T., because I was way too busy eating Reese's Pieces. 

That's right. 


And phoning home. 

OK, so all I got do do is get you Reese's Pieces in the office? 

And then I'll-- 


(IMITATING E.T.) Phone home. Yep. 

I love it. My favorite meme right now is actually on E.T. And it says, like, don't worry about how you're doing as a parent. The mom in E.T. had an alien living with her for a week and didn't notice. You're fine. 


Yeah, E.T. went all over town. 

Right? I'm doing OK. 

He just had a sheet over his head. He was doing everything. 

No one noticed. No big deal. All right, third and final question-- 

What is your favorite ice cream? 

Oh, that one's an easy one-- chocolate. Anything with chocolate-- chocolate brownie, chocolate cookie, chocolate swirl. 

How do you feel about chocolate and peanut butter mixed together? 

Oh, that is awesome. 

OK, good. We could be friends too. 

Do you know what chocolate and peanut butter mixed together is? 


Reese's Pieces. 

Yeah, heaven. 

Everything just comes back into one. 

Always comes back around. 

I think E.T. liked chocolate and peanut butter ice cream. 

Oh, there was ice cream in the movie? I got to go-- we got to add this to my list. 

Have you actually seen this movie? 

I've seen it. I mean, I was little. 

Or you're like Holly. You've seen parts of this movie. 

I've probably seen parts of it. I don't think I was even alive when it came out. 

The answer to that is yes, you were not alive when that movie came out. 


But I have the VHS somewhere at the house. 

Do you have a way to play? 

No, definitely not. 

I was going to say. 

But I bet it's on YouTube or something. I could find it. 

I don't know. Maybe Netflix. 

Yeah, I have Netflix. Hulu? I don't know. Something. 


It's a Spielberg movie, isn't it? 

I'm sure they'll have a remake soon. They're remaking everything. 

My gosh, you're right. 

There will be a new E.T. that's computer generated instead of warm and fuzzy. 

Which is why we're here today, to be warm and fuzzy. 

I know. Wasn't that a good segue? 

You did a really good job. 

I knew that we could get into that. 

All right. 

So today, Holly, we're really excited to be able to talk about social and emotional learning. This is a topic that so many teachers deal with on a daily basis, but it's also kind of one of those things that, because we can't measure with an end-of-year test, or it's not part of the curriculum, that teachers sometimes just don't know what to do about some of this. So we thought maybe, just as we kind of get started, maybe you could give us a little bit of background. What are some of your definitions of social and emotional learning, and what are some of the key aspects that educators need to be aware of? 

Perfect. I think what you just shared reminded me of this quote that I read just this morning. It says, social and emotional learning is both a new and a very old idea. It's not something that's just come around. It's been labeled since 1994. But it's been around even longer than that. 

And the quote goes on to say, in all cultures and in every generation, educators and parents have been concerned with children's sense of well-being and ability to get along with others. Certainly in today's social environment, teachers have no choice but to attend to their students personal and social development, even when their first priorities are academic knowledge and skills. 

That's a great quote. 

And that was done in 1999. And it really comes down to, no matter whether we're worried about their academics and the skills that they're learning for school, we cannot ignore the social components of that, and that emotional learning. 

So when we think about social and emotional learning and what that entails, CASEL, which is the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, they have five competencies. They say the first one is self-awareness, second one is self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. And really I look at that as three different categories, the first one being social or self-management skills, and then the other one being relationship management skills, and then the third being decision-making. If we can-- and those actually overlap. If we can manage our own emotions and manage our relationships, that is done through decision-making processes. So they really do overlap. 

And so I think that we can talk about how teachers can implement social and emotional learning, but it becomes very overwhelming. I've got to teach math, I've got to teach reading. How do I do something else? But every day, teachers are helping kids learn how to navigate the world around them. And that's social and emotional learning. The component that has been missing sometimes is the intentionality of it. We need to be intentional in teaching kids how to recognize their emotions. 

I think sometimes about adults. And we say, work in a group. But have they ever been taught how to work in a group? When we say that with kids, go and work on this project together, do they know how to work on a project together? We really need to teach that with students. OK, how do you take turns? They don't just show up to school and know how to take turns. They don't show up on the first day of kindergarten and know how to handle those emotions that they're feeling of when they become frustrated. And so it's really teaching and taking those pure opportunities to help kids do that. 

Absolutely. I think one thing you said really hit home with me-- teachers are modeling this all the time, whether it be through classroom rules, and how they're playing at recess, and having students work in groups, and that kind of thing. But that intentionality, direct instruction, calling it what it is, meaning it, and going from there, I think that's sometimes the piece that we miss, even though it is pretty easy to integrate every day into everything that we're doing. And so it's just kind of taking that time to do that. 

Yeah, think about it at their homes. Mom and dad aren't telling you to self-regulate, right? 


Or they're using some of these terms. Like maybe they say you need a timeout because you need to gather yourself. But mom and dad are rarely going to do it in instructive terms. 


It's kind of the notion-- when you were reading off your quote at the beginning, it reminds me, when I've heard this topic before, a lot of times I hear it said, you're either going to invest the time into teaching social and emotional learning preemptively or reactively to what's going on. You're going to do it either way. 

Right. Oh, yes. 

But in one environment, you're going to have control over how you do it, and in the other environment, the environment will take control, and you'll have to react to it. And when kids learn the best is when it's that prevention, the proactive. When they're in the heightened state of frustration or anger, they're not going to learn. And that's when we try to teach them. 

When you think about a parent saying time-out or a teacher saying timeout, they're now just stewing on, why am I in timeout? 

So here's an example of what teachers can do. Take two minutes at the beginning of the day and do a mindful moment. Have the kids become present in where they're at. Let go of all of the frustration that happened in the morning. I couldn't find my shoes that I wanted to wear. My mom kept telling me to hurry or I was going to miss the bus. 

If we take two minutes at the beginning of the day, that could decrease all of the discipline issues that follow because of frustration and kids not knowing how to manage that emotion. 

Well, and I like that, because we're taking a moment in school to recognize that there are feelings, and that I came to this building with however I'm feeling. As an adult, we have bad days, we have good days, we have sick days, but we expect our kids not to, or maybe we expect that they don't because they are kids. You don't have a mortgage. Buck up. 


But that's not realistic. And to them, not being able to find their favorite shoes in the morning, that is a crisis. 


It was this morning for me. 

Oh my gosh, every day I can't find two matching shoes. 

Well, and you think about-- let's take a situation of death, for example. If a student has a goldfish that dies, to the adult, it's a goldfish. We put it down the drain, and we move on with the day. But that might be the first death that that student has experienced. And that will shape their whole day. And if we don't recognize that and give them the opportunity to express that, then we're discrediting their emotions, and telling them it's not OK to have emotions. And that's where we have kids who are turning to suicide, and drugs, and substance abuse, because they're trying to hide the real world. They're trying to hide the emotions that are natural. Yet we haven't given them opportunities to actually own those. 

Well, and I'm curious about something. Because as you're describing this, I mean, there are some families that are really good about talking about their issues, and kind of working through them, and other families where the patterns they're seeing at home are the very behaviors you just described, where mom and dad are hiding their feelings, and doing different behaviors that would be kind of counterproductive. And so as schools, man, that's so much that we have to deal with to try and not only teach curriculum but also help regulate some of these behaviors that have been ingrained in these kids for years. 

One way that I have seen schools doing this is through class meetings, morning meetings, where the whole class comes together and they have the opportunity to share their feelings and share what's going on in their mind for that day. It doesn't necessarily get into the personal pieces of what's happening at home, but it gives the student the opportunity to express that. 

Because you're right, they're not getting that opportunity sometimes at home. And it's not being modeled. But a teacher can take that 5 minutes, 10 minutes, to do a class meeting. And that really does support the modeling of appropriate expression of those emotions. 

Well, and then the school, the classroom, becomes the safe space for them. They look forward because they know that their emotions are going validated, that they are real, and how to deal with them. 

Right. And that becomes that overlap and when we talk about self-regulation or self-management and relationship management, the decision-making overlap of, oh, you know what, it's OK to have that feeling. Let me help you process that. The peers can then start to help each other and manage those feelings. And then they build a community. 

When we're talking about social and emotional learning, it cannot be taught once and then discarded. We don't teach math and say, OK, we're only going to teach addition on Tuesday, and then walk away from it. We teach addition on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, in September, October, November, December, and January. We teach it all the time. 

I don't teach math on Fridays either, Holly. 

You noticed I skipped that. 


But we need to do the same thing with social and emotional learning. We need to give kids the opportunity to learn it and practice it, not just expect mastery of it when they walk in the door. 

Sure I feel like, as teachers, we do a lot of that kind of learning, the community building, in the first two weeks of school. But then where does it go? And really that can be helping with a lot of your behavior problems that you're having with your class. 

One of the benefits that we have seen through research on social and emotional learning is that classroom discipline issues decrease, office referrals decrease, when there is a strong-- we call it tier-1 delivery of social emotional learning. So every student is getting the opportunity to learn social and emotional skills. 

You know, it's so interesting, Dani and I have both been in a lot of schools this year, working on admin degrees, and kind of going through and shadowing different schools, and kind of seeing how they do things. And it's amazing to me what you just said. They're seeing it in practice. There are a few teachers that are getting most of the office reforms. 

Oh, definitely. And I think this is a topic that they really struggle with. They don't know they struggle with it. You know, they think, well, I'm really good at my content, and these kids just aren't willing to listen to my content. But there is a social and emotional component here that they're just missing. Nobody feels like that class is a safe place and it's a place where they can communicate. And so the office referrals, they just go up. 

Right. And teachers-- every teacher in the building knows where most of those office referrals are coming from. And the admin know, oh, here comes so-and-so's student. They don't even have to know what period it is or what class. They know where the student's coming from. 

The number one protective factor for students is a relationship with a caring adult, which goes right to the heart of social and emotional learning. If we have those positive relationships with our students, we're not going to need to refer them to the office because we've created the safe environment. We've created the opportunity for them to say, you know what, I'm really frustrated. I want to act out, but you've taught me how to respond to my frustration, and I know I can do it here in a safe place. 

So powerful right there. And the things that you're talking about, I mean, it seems like most of the strategies you're giving us so far-- an open circle where people can talk for a few minutes, a couple minutes of mindfulness-- this doesn't sound like you're spending hours on these different strategies throughout the day. Maybe tell us a little bit about how you can really get a lot of effective use of this in a short period of time. 

So it depends on what level you're at obviously. At one elementary school that I visited-- so as my previous role at the State Board of Education, I had the opportunity to go out to schools. So I'm taking and sharing some of things that I've seen in those schools. One elementary that I went to Redwood Elementary School in the Granite School District-- 

I taught there. 

Did you? 

That was my first teaching job. 

Woot woo. 

Shout out to Redwood. 

So they have developed a whole trauma-sensitive and trauma-responsive approach. Every student goes for a 30-minute lesson once a week where they actually talk about their amygdala, they talk about what their brain is doing when they're having these emotions. And then they learn strategies for coping with them. So that's one way that it's been done, is 30 minutes once a week. 

Another school that I've seen, they do an advisory period. So at a secondary school, they have advisory four days a week. And they take 15 minutes of that advisory and do a social and emotional learning lesson. So they're teaching teens how to deal with peer pressure, how to deal with the emotions that they're feeling. Some of it's built into that self-- the mindfulness, giving them a chance to put their phone down, to actually be in the moment, and learn how to feel what they're feeling in their body. 

A lot of kids will say, I'm mad. Well, what does that really mean? Helping them learn how to express what they really mean with that. 

Can you tell us just a little bit about as kids get a little bit older. Because I can see, like you mentioned, maybe when they're little, having the circle works really well. As kids get older, how do you see the mindfulness minute affecting junior-high-age kids or high-school-age kids as teachers try and implement some of these strategies? 

So I visited Valley High School in Jordan School District, which is their alternative program. So these are all kids who are higher at risk for various things. And they have a mindful minute right at the very beginning of the day. They play music, or it goes over the intercom. But because the kids know that's part of the routine, if you're in the hall when the mindful moment comes on their intercom, they stop. 


They actually know that this is a chance for me to get into the groove of school. I'm leaving the world behind for a few minutes. And they know that they're not on their phones. They put their phone in their pocket or in their backpack during that mindful minute. Because it's become the norm, it's acceptable. Once you have it become the norm, it's no longer this weird thing that you're doing. And kids will respond to it it's not taken for advantage at that point. 

Yeah, I'd like to kind of go along with what Holly is saying. Because in one of the classes I'm taking-- I'm in a doctoral program here at the U-- one of my professors has a mindful minute at the beginning of class. But I think it serves a different purpose for us as adults. Because there aren't those cell phone rules, where it's like, you won't be on your cell phone in this class. Because we're all professionals. And so it's somehow accepted, right? But we don't get that chance. We don't give that to ourselves, the gift of taking a pause. 

And she just gives us a minute, reminds us to breathe, close our eyes if we want to, not be on a device. And I think, the first week, I think people thought it was kind of cheesy, and everyone is too cool for it. And now I can tell you, everyone looks forward to it, because it might be the only quiet minute of your whole day. 

Right. Well, and I was thinking, when you were talking about that, I was watching a video on the impacts of technology on the brain. And they were talking about how kids multitask. So they're doing their homework on the computer. They have music playing. They're also playing a video game. Plus they have their phone, and they've got their-- chatting on social media. 

And I looked at what I was doing at the moment while I was watching this video. I had my notebook open. I had my phone on my Facebook. I was receiving a text. And I thought, I'm just as bad as the kids are. I need to have that moment, to be able to put it down, to say, hey, it's OK to take time. 

When we think about taking time-- this kind of goes into the self-care piece-- we are so worried about getting everything done that we think multitasking is productive. But are we really that productive when we multitask? 


And is it OK for us to say, hey, you know what? I need to take care of myself. I need to put down my phone. I need to take the three minutes to just be in the zone, just to breathe and feel myself breathe. 

One activity that I did when I was doing some mindful training was it took us five minutes to eat one raisin. Have you ever felt a raisin-- have you ever like squished it in your hand, and then put a different one-- obviously, because clean hands-- 


But put a raisin in your mouth, and feel the wrinkles, feel the taste, the juices come out, really take time to be present with a raisin. I had never done that before. I don't have time to have lunch, let alone five minutes to eat a raisin. One raisin is kind of-- but that's what we need to give yourself permission to do, is to take that time. 

UEN is housed at the University of Utah. And they have a wellness program here. And over the holidays they sent everyone a dark chocolate with kind of the same instructions. Like, stop, don't just eat this chocolate. First, take a pause. Look at the chocolate. Smell the chocolate. Enjoy the chocolate. And it was all about mindfulness, giving yourself a chance to really pause. 

So kind of since we are talking about that self-care, as a teacher who maybe has a crazy class where they feel like they're always yelling-- how do we feel after we yell? Does it make you feel better? Do you feel like you're just the best teacher in the world after you've yelled at your class? 

No, because then the guilt comes in. 

Right? Exactly. So how can this help teachers? How can it help professionals? 

So I think that the first thing is you have to stop. You have to give yourself permission. We don't do that very often, and so we need to. Second of all, we need to set boundaries. It's OK to say I'm leaving work at 4 o'clock when my contract time is up, and I'm going to go home and I'm not going to look at my email. I'm not going to answer extra messages. If a text message comes through, it's OK if I don't answer it. 

I was doing a study of the change in use of cell phone, and how that's changed the workplace environment. And it went from being only available while we're at work to being available 24 hours a day. And that impact on staff members, on faculty, is huge. So we need to give ourselves permission. 

And all of my bosses have always said, you know what, if I send you something, it's OK that you don't answer it right away. I'm sending it to you because I don't want to forget. But the message that I always heard when the ding came through was, I need to answer. 

This is important. 

This is important. And so I needed to retrain myself to say, it's OK to take a minute. And I'm still working on it. I'm not very good at it. 

Sure, I know. I think we all are. 

But giving yourself permission, and then setting boundaries, and sticking to those boundaries. If I answer a text off hours, I have broken my own boundary, and I have said it's OK to reach out to me. If I don't answer that, then I'm holding the boundary. And then it's OK. I am willing to say, it's OK if I don't get that done before Tuesday morning. 

And then know it's still going to be there. A student doesn't necessarily care whether you teach the lesson on Monday or Wednesday. They want to know that you're there for them. And so am I emotionally there for them if I am so burned out that I can't do what I'm supposed to be doing? 

So one of the things that you're talking about, the teachers now, and having this constantly-connected world that they live in, it's also a challenge for our students. Some of the problems that used to be left at school are now going into 24/7 problems when we especially talk about kids being connected to each other through social media platforms, or through text messaging and different things like that. What advice might you give maybe to parents who have children that are kind of struggling with issues at school a little bit, and how to kind of disconnect from that world when they're at home? 

So the first thing I think about are what rules do you have regarding the devices? Where are the devices located in your house? Are your kids able to take their phones/their computers into their bedrooms? If that's the case, then there's probably things happening, whether it's reaching out on social media, or cyberbullying, whatever you want to call it, that's probably happening when they're behind closed doors. So do you see what's happening? 

Second of all, do you set time limits on your students' or your child's phones for certain things? I had to start doing this for myself. I found I was spending a huge amount of hours in social media. And now Apple phones will give you that report. And I'm like, oh, man. So I set limits. And I set those so that I do not go over that. I just adjusted them down again this last weekend to decrease that even more. 

But don't take it away right to start with. Don't go from, oh, my student's been on their phone 20 hours a day-- and there are kids who are on their phones 20 hours a day-- to zero. But let's start weaning that down so they can become active in other activities. What other activities do you have your kids involved in? We don't want to over-schedule those activities, but are their actual face-to-face communication? 

Having 1,200 friends on Facebook, or Snapchat, or Instagram, or whatever the newest phase is, that's not real interactions. Are we helping our kids have real interactions? Because they can't regulate their emotions, they can't regulate their relationships if they're not real. So we need to help kids see the difference between virtual friends and real friends. And then decreasing the amount of time that they're on their devices can help them with that. 

You know, what an interesting concept. Because you mentioned earlier that school is a place where we have to teach kids how to play, what the norms are of some of this stuff. And I find that even my own children sometimes really struggle with just interacting with their peers when they come over sometimes if they're not using some kind of a device or some kind of a very organized activity. The idea of unorganized play is a little bit of an endangered species in our culture now. 

Oh, yeah. 

They almost want the parents to come in and tell them what to do. 

Oh, OK, so we were talking about E.T. earlier. I mean, how inventive was that, that they were out riding bikes, they were playing with all of their stuffed animals. We don't see that anymore. And you're right-- if they don't have a device, they don't know what to do. And even recess has become, in elementary schools, structured recess. We have to have games available for kids so they know what to play. That's sad. So how do we teach kids to become inventive again? How do we teach kids to dig into that creativity and say, you know what, I'm going to play in the dirt, and I'm going to create a world within the dirt, not a world on my phone or a world on my computer. But let's create the world right here in the dirt. 

Well, and I think we need to blend both, right? 

Oh, yeah. 

Because I think one of the challenges for people of our generation is that we remember the way it was when we were kids. And sometimes we forget that we might have sat in front of the TV for hours on end, or played some of our video games. But I think, at the same time, just that emotional piece-- how do we help our kids understand what they're doing, and the need to have both parts. 

Oh, definitely. 

There's certainly a need for you to-- I get it. Emotionally, this is going to help you to have this device, and do this for a little while. But it can't be the only way that you can regulate emotion and do these different things. 

And the only way you can do the in-person piece is in person. I was doing a training on social and emotional learning through a webinar. And it was really ironic to me that we were talking about personal interactions through computer screens. But you have to do personal interactions in person. And because it is lost-- and I think some of our adults have lost that skill-- we need to coach along the way. If we have coaches for pro athletes, why can't we have coaches for social and emotional learning? It's a skill that our students, our society, needs to have. And so it's that interaction, that in-person interaction. 

And then not being afraid to make a mistake, and not having everything be our feelings are hurt because something happened. It's a learning opportunity for all of us. So also teaching our kids, whether that's in the classroom or at home, that you know what, here's how you deal with it when your feelings do get hurt. How do you advocate for yourself, but also let the other person express what they are feeling too. 

So oftentimes, when we're talking about social and emotional learning, we're talking about soft skills. But these are definitely some skills that make people a lot more hireable and employable once they are hired. So how can we better teach those kinds of skills in classrooms? So it's one thing if we're talking the online world versus the in-person world, the power of play. But what about when it comes to being a working member of society? 

So it's interesting, because just recently the State Board of Education did a project where they were asking defining the portrait of a graduate is what they called it. And they asked different stakeholders, what do you want from a high school graduate? What would that look like? 

And of course there was some content areas. But most of the skills that they listed were what you're classifying as the soft skills-- the 21st century skills, the employability skills. They wanted their individuals to be able to communicate, they wanted them to be able to problem-solve, to have empathy, to react to others in appropriate ways. Those are skills that people who are hiring want. Those are skills that colleges want as kids are coming from high school into colleges. Those are the skills that we need to teach. 

And so we need to build that into our curriculums. We can't have it be, like I mentioned earlier, we're going to teach how to interact on day two of the school year, and never see it again. We need to be providing kids the opportunity-- talk time during class. It can't be, let me talk at you for 90 minutes. It's, let me give you some information, and then you guys talk about it, you guys problem-solve it. 

We need to be posing questions to our students so they can start to problem-solve and they can formulate. And when they communicate, it needs to be in writing, in verbal, in all the different forms of communication. They need to learn what their body is saying without words. And a lot of times they don't even understand that part of it, that I could be saying all the right things, but my body is saying all the wrong things. 

And so it's really building those opportunities into the content. Because the content can be taught. You can go to a computer programmer, and even though I may not have all of the skills, they can teach me how to program. But can they really teach me how to interact? That's what we need to be focusing on in schools. 

And that starts in our kindergarten classrooms, and goes all the way through. It goes into our college classes. A lot of times we have students who go into college, and the professors think, OK, you're now an adult. But they're still just learning a lot of those skills. They haven't been exposed to the real world. We need to help them with that, and give them a safe place to do it. 

Oh, totally. One of the words that you said that stuck out-- and I think Jared and I have heard it a lot lately in some of the trainings that we're going to-- is empathy, teaching kids empathy, what it looks like. And what do you have to say on empathy? 

I think in the world that we live in right now, we do not see a lot of empathy. We do not see people understanding that others coming into the situations have their own stories. And I have a co-worker who has a saying that every individual has a story, and it's hard to hate somebody when you know their story. And that's empathy. 

When we understand their story, it doesn't mean that we have to understand all of the details of it, but we understand that that story, the situations they're experiencing, impact the way they interact. And that's what we need to be helping our students understand, is that somebody isn't taking your pink crayon because they were trying to be mean. They just needed a pink crayon, and they didn't know how to ask. It's OK. Let's share how we respond with that. 

I love that. 

That's so great. Because that's something that we need not only in the classroom, but in our world. 


You know, so much of what we're talking about here, these are life skills. 


Right? I mean, I can tell you right now, I may not remember every formula from my junior chemistry class, but I learned how to be a good person, and to try and be nice to other people. And those are skills that go with you everywhere. 

Well, and when we think about the question that every student asks in a math class or a science class, why do I need to know this, it's hard sometimes to say why they need to know the math, why they need to know the science. Because if I'm not going into those fields, I may not need that. But why do I need to know how to interact with somebody? Why do I need to know-- do I need to have empathy? It doesn't matter what you're doing in life, those are skills that you need for life. 

Well, Holly, we appreciate this conversation. So timely, not only for this point in the school year, where sometimes emotions are running a little high because there's a lot of things going on right now, but like we said, just even beyond school into our daily lives. So we really appreciate the conversation. 

Thank you. Thank you for having me. 

Yeah, it's been awesome. Thanks, Holly. 

Thank you. 


So Dani, do you want to give our audience a tech tip today? 

I mean, do we have to? 

Well, I mean, this is a podcast kind of about technology. 

I'm tired. Do you have a tech tip for today? 

I mean, I guess if I have to, I can come up with one. 

I mean-- all right, Jared, I have a lazy teacher tech tip that's going to go along with the boundaries that Holly was talking about. 

Do you have an app that can give me a hug? 




We'll talk about that later. What I do have is an extension that you can add to Gmail that can help you establish some of the boundaries that Holly was talking about with email and replying to email. So one thing that happens is when we always immediately respond to an email, what do people expect, Jared? 

That you are available 24/7. 

Yeah, that I am always going to immediately respond to an email. And that may not be the best thing for you health-wise or for everyone else to expect. 

So if you load the extension-- it's called Boomerang-- into your Gmail-- and I think it actually works with Microsoft Office now as well-- you can set things to be sent at a certain time of day. So even if you respond to an email right away so you don't forget, you can send it that so it sends at 4:00 PM. So it kind of conditions people so they don't think that you're always going to respond right away. 

It can also do really cool things. Like you can set it, if someone hasn't replied in two days, it sends it back to you so you can follow up, and check in, and all sorts of other tools. But I really like it for that boundary-setting piece. 

Yeah, I love that idea, that if I'm thinking about responding to an email at, say, 5 o'clock in the afternoon, that I could schedule it then to go out during the school hours so people don't think that I'm available at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. 

Right, exactly. Or if you're, for some reason, on your phone in the middle of the night responding to emails, you don't want people to get dinged in the middle of the night. 

Yeah, no question. And then you can have them go out at a later time. 

You know, one other fun feature about Boomerang is if there's a message that you get and it's kind of a busy time of day for you, you can actually have it re-send that message to you later in the day. 

Oh, I love that. It's almost like a snooze for email. 


Another thing that it adds to your inbox-- do you know this-- it adds a Pause button. 


So if you have a really busy time in your life happening, you just pause your Gmail, and emails just don't come in until you press Play again. But you do have to remember to press play again, although I may like to just pause emails indefinitely. 

I want a Pause button in my life. 

That would be nice too. I would like a Boomerang for text messages. Wouldn't that be amazing. That's my million dollar idea. 

OK, we just copyrighted that. 

I quit this podcast. 

Bye, guys. I'm going to be a millionaire now. 


All right, Jared, I just want to know, after that episode, how are you feeling? 

I feel like it's time for some me time. 

Yeah? What are you going to do with your me time? 

I'm going to be intentional, I'm going to be mindful, and there's probably going to be ice cream involved. 

Oh, I like that-- ice cream and silence. That sounds like a perfect evening. 

The thing I love so much about Holly's ideas on social and emotional learning is it's such a companion to the rest of the things that we're doing in our classrooms. One of the things that I think sometimes we forget is that these kids, they have so many parts of their lives. And what we see in our classrooms is just a small fraction of it. So if we can help them understand who they are and what's important to them, they're going to be so much better able to take in new information, process friendships and relationships in school, to be able to work on projects. I mean, like we said in the podcast, you're either doing this proactively or reactively. 

Yes, absolutely. I really liked her piece on teaching this directly too. Because a lot of the times I think we just assume students know how to do it, or they'll pick up these skills along the way. But that's just not how it is. Students need to be specifically taught how to play together, how to address their feelings and label their feelings, and then what to do about those things. So I loved it. I thought it was great. 

Very timely topic. We need more of this in our culture today, no question. 

All right, so this time we're not going to end with a bell. But we're going to end with you hitting the Pause button and taking a moment of mindfulness.