Time for Teachership

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48. SEL is Not the Destination; It’s the Vehicle with Dr. Lorea Martinez

by Lindsay Lyons
September 21st 2021

Today, I am talking with Dr. Lorea Martinez. Dr. Martinez started her career as a special education teacher and administrator, is the founder of HEART in Mind Consulting, author of Teaching with th... More

today, I'm talking with Dr Loria Martinez, she is the award winning founder of Heart and Mind consulting a company dedicated to helping schools and organizations integrate social emotional learning in their practices, products and learning communities. She has worked with schools, districts and organizations to guide SCL implementation efforts including training teachers and leadership teams and provided guidance to educational technology and media companies to help them integrate SCL in their products. An educator who has worked with Children and adults internationally. Dr Martinez is currently a faculty member at Columbia University Teachers College educating aspiring principals and emotional intelligence. She has conducted extensive research in the SCL field with a focus on SCL implementation principles, emotional intelligence, teacher preparation and school climate. She frequently blogs about how to incorporate SCL and teaching practices, leadership and parenting. She received her doctor to Philosophy magna cum laude in quality and Innovation in education from Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona in 2014 she was awarded the American Education Research Association Graduate Student Award for excellence in SCL research from the SCL special interest group.

Dr Martinez started her career as a special education teacher and administrator native of the Costa brava in Spain, she currently lives in the san Francisco Bay area with her husband and two daughters. I'm so excited for you to hear from dr Loria Martinez. Hi, I'm lindsey Lyons and I love helping school communities envision bold possibilities take brave action to make those dreams a reality and sustain an inclusive anti racist culture where all students thrive, I'm a former teacher leader turned instructional coach, educational consultant and leadership scholar. If you're a leader in the education world, whether you're a pro principal Superintendent instructional coach or a classroom teacher excited about school wide change like I was, you are a leader and if you enjoy nerd ng out about the latest educational books and podcasts, if you're committed to a lifelong journey of learning and growth and being the best version of yourself, you're going to love the time for Teacher Ship podcast, let's dive in dr laura Martinez.

Welcome to the Time for Teacher Ship podcasts. Thank you for having me. I'm excited about this conversation. Me too, and I just read your professional bio, but is there anything you want to add to that introduction to kind of lead us into our conversation today? What else could I add? I would say that I'm a mom. I have two Children that I love dearly and they provide me with many opportunities to practice my social and emotional skills. Um so that's a full time job that I have in addition to everything else. Amazing, thank you for sharing that. And one of the first questions I like to start with is in line with the idea of freedom dreaming, which dr Patino love describes as dreams grounded in the critique of injustice. What is the big dream that you hold for the field of education? Well, that that is a big question. My dream is for schools and learning spaces in general to acknowledge the holistic needs of students and also adults.

There is such a big emphasis on academic skills and productivity and being successful and we forget that there's another set of skills that we have have social and emotional needs that are as important in order to be healthy and productive and really find our purpose in life that goes beyond that framework of just pure productivity. So my my big dream is that through the work of social emotional learning and through the work of SCL grounded in equity, that we can really create those spaces for students where they can feel seen, they can feel hurt, um they can see that they are loved in that community, and that's the way that students can bring their best selves forward. I love that, and it makes me think too of this idea of productivity being tied to, you know, people's worth and this capitalist system that we we all live in.

It makes me think that that is a huge leap for some educators to start to think about and to think about prioritizing the whole child and not thinking about a child in relationship to productivity. So I'm curious to know, what are the mindset shifts or what ways can educators and leaders in education change their minds to embrace this new approach. Yes, the first thing that I would say is that the the there's a false dichotomy that we perceive, and many educators say, oh, I don't have time to teach SCL because I'm focused on academics. So that's a false dichotomy because actually, in order for students to be able to access academic content to remember new information, to make connections um, from what they know to the content that is presented in class, they need their social and emotional skills, right? So the research, the recent research, the recent research that has been done around effective neuroscience and the science of learning and development shows that the emotional system works in combination with our cognitive system in order to be effective learners.

So that dichotomy and that understanding has been, it's obsolete today. So to say that I don't have time for SCL is almost the equivalent to say, I don't want my students to be effective learners. So that is the first part. The other thing is I'm packing some of those messages that we have received either growing up and also in our schools of education. I remember when I was studying to be a teacher, I started my, my professional career as a special education teacher. I was taught, well, don't share your emotions in the classroom because that's gonna get you in trouble with your classroom management. Well, today, we know that relationships with our students are so important for their development and for learning, they actually have can change a child's genetic makeup when they have that adult that has that consistent and positive relationship.

So with all of that we we have to say no to some of those messages that we are receiving and find ways to engage ourselves in new practices in new behaviors that are actually granted in, in in science that are gonna be empowered us to really create the learning environments that educators really want to create for the students. I've been, you know, working in the field of SCL for many years, and one of the things that continues to break my heart is finding educators that feel so depleted and and defeated because they cannot bring their best work forward because of the systems where they work. And I kind of want to encourage people to have that civil disobedience and say, just do it right? Just really look at that whole child and create that environment where students want to be in the classroom with you and they developed that love for learning.

I love that you say that to that, that civil disobedience is sometimes required for that and that it's good to bring our whole selves to class. I think with a lot of the questions that I've been getting from educators given the recent focused attention on racial injustice in in the country of the United States and even on a global scale. Um, you know, I think the question for a lot of educators and even leader is where's where's the line between the personal, in the classroom and I think that is a false dichotomy as well, right? We need to be able to bring our full selves into the class, we need to be able to say, I'm a person who believes in justice and I believe in justice in the classroom and outside of the classroom. And so I just appreciate you naming that civil disobedience is sometimes part of the job, and I think that's really a transformative idea. Thank you for sharing that. Yes, and I would love to share a little story. So when I was in college I took a class on peace education and 11 day the professor told us to stand up, right?

We were sitting on, on chairs to stand up and face the wall. So we were all kind of like forming the semicircle facing the wall and we just stood there facing the wall and in the meantime, the professor was counting how long it took us for one of us to turn around and see what was happening. And it was such an impactful experience, because at the core of the exercise was to kind of question, when you are told to do something, do you just do it right. Like we were there standing looking at the wall and how long does it take you to think, oh wait a minute, Does this make sense? Is this something that that should be engaging doing? And that's the part where critical thinking and SCL meet each other, right? To to be able to question what we are asked to do. And I think that's something that we have to bring into our schools because some of those, some of those social and cultural messages that we receive from society are actually not supporting our growth as human beings.

And and that's especially true for for black people of color. Indigenous. Right. So I think that questioning that messaging should be part of our cycle of inquiry in our schools, not only for adults, but also for what we teach students. That is so powerful. Thank you for sharing not only the example, but those questions to be able to get ourselves to put those into our cycles of inquiry and to be able to put those into the hands of our students as tools for interrogating systems and practices. So that is beautiful. Um I'd love to transition to talking about your book because you have a whole lot of ideas for practice and and conversation that I think this would make a wonderful book for like a PLC conversation at the school level. But the book is called Teaching with the Heart and Mind. Could you tell us a little bit more just about the book before we dive into some specifics. Yes. So the book is a complete guide for SCL implementation in classrooms and what I wanted was to provide a resource that teachers could go in purchase the book and be able to do something with it.

So, what I had found in the literature of SCL um was that many books target one aspect of SCL implementation, but I wanted to provide a resource that would address all the main components of SCL implementation. So, for example, one of the misconceptions that I have found working in the field and supporting schools and teachers is this understanding that SCL is only for the students and not for the adults. Right? So that's one of the misconceptions that I am packing the book and I provide resources. Um and a whole section of the book is called the wholehearted educator because I truly believe that we cannot teach what we don't practice. Right? So when we are asking students to share about their emotions in the classroom to use self management tools to apply empathy to others. The question that I would ask is is the educator doing that and it's the educator intentionally modeling those skills for the child.

So, in that context, I was hoping that the book would address those issues that I didn't see happening in the field. Yeah, I think that is such a powerful frame for for educators who I think are starting that conversation a little bit more, especially with the pandemic, like, oh we need SCL as well, but I love the way that you framed it. It's not just we need a break or we need to, you know, recover from the pandemic emotionally or anything like that. It's we have to do these practices that we're asking of students every day. We have to model them. We have to make sure that we're kind of practicing what we preach, so to speak. And so I think that's really critical that the way you frame that is, I think unique from how it's starting to be discussed and it's so important to just latch onto that distinction. And so some of the things that you talk about are the elements of curiosity and creativity and and these being really critical to student success, not just while they're in school, but really for their whole lives. And so I'm curious what suggestions do you have for educators or leaders of schools to be able to enable students to have that spark of curiosity or to enable the creativity of our students.

And I want to start by saying that curiosity is an emotion. So part of the work of bringing SCL into the classroom is looking at what are the emotions that students experience when they are in a learning space. And there are certain emotions that are more conducive to learning than others. Although we want to embrace all of our emotions, emotions, our information. So we try to approach them without judging just with curiosity and say, okay, I'm feeling frustrated and that's okay? What do I need to do to get myself in a place where I can focus even if I am experiencing that frustration, but I think it changes that paradigm to think about as an educator, What are those emotions that we would like students to experience in our classroom? And I'm sure that if we ask, you know, uh big number of educators, most of them would say, you know, engage and loved and safe care for right, all those feelings.

But when we look at teaching practices, are we aligning those emotions with what we do in the classroom? Right? So, I think that is looking at those teaching practices from that perspective and then making that decision. So, back to your question, curiosity is an emotion that really opens the brain for learning. So when you are feeling curious, that means that really you you are open for information for experiences, whatever is coming your way you are ready for it. So, some ways that you can do that in the classroom is by providing students choice. So, the brain doesn't pay attention to things that we don't care about and that is not students being difficult, that is just neuroscience. Right? So, our brain tries to be um efficient and we don't waste energy with things that are boring from our perspective. So, a way to counteract that as a teacher is to really connecting what you are teaching with students, interest with students, passion to the things that they want to do if they have some goals in terms of what they were want to do later later, when they, when they are older or even the things that are interesting to them to them at that time that is away and and then providing that choice that is a way in which we are engaging students emotions in that learning process and creating the space for students to have more ownership over their learning and also to be more focused and engaged because there's something that they want to get out of that.

I appreciate that you frame that too in terms of like the neuro aspects of it, the neurological aspects because I often I'm like yes voice choice. These are things that we want and just intellectually and like yeah of course these are great things. But the fact that that curious state enables us to learn more I think is huge and will win over some educators perhaps who have been like, oh I want to do that, but I'm not quite sure if I want to let go of the rain, so to speak, right and and gives them more choice because it might be chaotic. But I think the potential that's there that you named for being able to learn more is a great kind of call in for teachers to be able to do that and take that leap. So thank you for that framing. And one of the things that I was just so excited we were talking about this before I pressed record. But one of the things I was so excited about that your book does and that you do is not only talking about S. E. L. The way that it's talked about in a lot of spaces, but really centering equity and justice in your discussion of SCL. So, you know, not asking students to take responsibility for processing really in an adult like way all of the oppression that's that's heaped upon them um from educational environments and all these systems that have been perpetuated.

But really you're speaking to, you know how the connection of SCL and equity as you see, it can be lived out in educational spaces. And I would love to just get your take on on that if you want to summarize that for us. Yes. So one of the things is the fact that if you want to truly engage with equity work, that work is gonna be full of emotions. And that's something that Elena Gillard talks about or has been talking about for many years. So when you know that equity work is gonna be full of those emotions, you need the tools as an adult in order to acknowledge those feelings and have the tools to process them. So, educators know well, educators that are engaged in equity work, that there is a lot of resistance and there is the perception that, well, maybe this work is just for students of color and of course we want this work to support students of color to have the same kind of rich learning opportunities that other students have.

But I see this liberation as impacting everybody because when my brothers and sisters and I'm a white hispanic woman, when they are not well, I cannot be well either, right? This is a collective, a shared responsibility that we have. So, so there's one part of equity that I I perceive SCL can be a support because it allows us to engage with those social and emotional competencies, which means that we will be able to navigate the challenges that come with this work. So that's one aspect. The other part is that SCL is not a destination, right? The goal of STL is not just to teach the social emotional skills to students and then we are done with our checklist. Actually, SCL is a vehicle to get us somewhere, right? And that somewhere is where each learning community has to define. So for some communities that are working with maybe students that are in disadvantaged conditions, they really want to focus on academics because that's the way that those students are gonna move out in the in the social ranks, right?

For students that maybe our first generation to graduate from college, right? They need that academic rigor in order to be able to compete. Right? So, so there there is another part around seeing a CLS that vehicle to something and I believe that that place should be infused with equity and social justice, because that's the place where we are creating opportunities for everybody to have to bring their best self forward, right to, to self actualize and and find their voice and do what they they are here to do, right and SCL so, so okay, so I said two things and now I'm gonna add a third leg to that, which is when we implement SCL effectively in schools. We are really looking also and what are the conditions for learning that we are establishing in the classroom and how our systems supporting those conditions? So in a way we are unpacking it and dismantling and examining some of those systems and how they are supporting students because we are taking the time to slow down and see while are these things really supporting student success or no, so I think that there are many connections between SCL and equity and I describe some of them here.

I hope that that that answers your question. Absolutely thank you so much for that framing and I love the three, the three legs of that, that they're also critically important. Um one of the things I also loved in your book and I am a little bit of a curriculum design nerd. So I loved the, the way that you infuse the heart model into backwards planning style lesson plan and so I I just, I think it was really cool how you broke down the different components and you talked about them in the frame of a lesson that uses like an aim, a hook mobilization and then consolidation kind of phase for a part or four phases to the lesson. Do you mind saying a little bit more about how you see the heart model showing up in in a lesson plan like that? Yes. So for those listeners who might not be familiar, heart is actually an acronym for five essential social and emotional skills. So the way in which we bring a scale into the classroom has three legs.

So one is the explicit instruction of the social emotional skills. The second is the integration with teaching practices and then the third one is the integration with academic content. So in my view the lesson plan is kind of the low hanging fruit because educators, we all need to do lesson plans right? And I do similar when I prepare for my professional development in my workshops I still have to do a similar to a lesson plan right to create an outline for what I want to to teach. So when you integrate a cl into that lesson design it's important to think about those opportunities where you can enhance student social emotional skills at the same time that you are teaching academic content. So in in that lesson design I start with the aim and sometimes this is called dual purpose instruction and that refers to adding a social emotional standard or an objective to your academic goals.

So many times we say okay well the goal is gonna be for students to be able to solve um multi step problems for example. So my recommendation is that teachers add an SCL skill to that academic goal to make it more explicit. So for example in the common core um finding multiple ways to solve problems is one of the standards, right? So there are SCL skills that you can, that students are gonna need to develop in order to master that standard um to gain mastery of that standard. So by infusing the that by having that aim, that means that we are making sure that that we bring that to the forefront of what we do in our teaching then in the hook and this is again this is based on neuroscience is how we are helping students brings to be ready for learning.

So a hook is like at the beginning of our lesson we start with a powerful question, a video or something that is gonna really engage and and and pick students attention right? Like if we come into the classroom um and we just start lecturing right away, 95% of our students are gonna be disconnected right away but by using this hug, we are really kind of planting that seed for student engagement and motivation to be ready for us. Then we move into the mobilized and that's the part that will um incorporate your mini lesson and the guided practice and I use mobilized purposefully because I wanted to convey the sense that students need to be doing something right like learning so much an application of what we have in our brains right? Like how we make sense of concepts and what are some of the skills, what are some of the ways in which we can show what we know um and finally the consolidate part is where you are asking students to reflect on their learning and this is one that is almost the most important part of the learning process when you have the time to make sense So what you learn and many times educators and I'm guilty of having that this when I was in the classroom we skip it because we don't have time right, we spend so much time and I see you smiling and and I think that you can you know it resonates with you, we spend some exempted in the content that we forget to create the space for students to to reflect and that consolidation is also a place where we are connecting back to students lives, why is this important to you and how can you use this in your everyday life and we can do that for you know doing decimals and why we need to know that when we go to the grocery store to what it means to read a story where the character has similar experiences that you navigate on a regular basis for a middle school student for example.

Right, so that consolidate parties is very important to it. So I think that if we take this model and we apply it consistently uh these four parts, I think SCL like less academic lessons um it's so easy, it will come up so easy for teachers to do it on a regular basis that they won't think about it anymore. Yes, I love that because I think that's exactly why I love this, this integration that you named in your book and you just explain for us here is because it it automatically infuses that it reduces that perception of the false dichotomy that you should earlier of these are separate things, I don't have time and it just shows how everything we do we can do intentionally with SCL in mind and I love it and I love it too, even beyond a lesson level, I was even thinking of the unit level at the level of a unit, if you have like a project based unit where students are answering this amazing hook question and they have dedicated time to mobilize and there's some you know work time in there that are just maybe days, you know, whole days or even a whole week or so of the unit.

So there's so much application for this framework that I think is powerful and a curriculum design standpoint, I appreciate you, meaning that um is there anything else before we moved to kind of our closing questions that you wanted to share about the book that you didn't get a chance to? Yes, just to share that. The, in the book, one of the main chapters is the unpacking the hard model and it actually has strategies and activities that you can do in the classroom for those three legs that I mention of how you bring SQL into your classroom academic, the explicit instruction, integration with teaching practices and um integration with academic content. So I go into depth with each one of those hard skills and provide activities for that. It's not a curriculum because I I deeply believe that SCL is a lens for teaching and learning. So I did not want intentionally did not want to create a curriculum because I want teachers to look at that and think about how is this gonna work for my students and then do a little bit of the work of adapting based on the students that they have in front of them and based on also on the grade level and the and the subject that they teach.

But it is very applied and there are plenty of opportunities to for infusion something else that the book has that I I have heard from many people that has been really useful is a scope and sequence. So there is um there are objectives for from kindergarten up to an adult for each one of those hard skills. So if you are first starting and you are wondering how in the world am I gonna teach these things, you have at least that guideline from a developmental perspective, what would you could expect from students to learn and be able to do when it comes to SCL skills. So I feel like those two tools can be very helpful for teachers. I agree, as I was reading through, I I just thought this is one of the best books that I've seen that actually does, it goes through all of the, you know, the theoretical stuff, but then it does provide a ton of concrete like practical strategies that you can immediately put into practice and I love how you break it down into the different kind of legs of of that too.

So there's ways on each level to do it if you're not quite at one of the levels Yeah, I mean focus on maybe one of the earlier levels and then get to the academic content piece, it's just so practical in addition to being so thought provoking, So I really love how you framed that and I know the scope and sequence pieces for the hard skills are actually a free resource on your site as well, correct? So we can direct people to that, I'll drop a link in the show notes, um but that's something people can explore prior to purchasing the book maybe and just see kind of what that's all about. Yes, and and I also have on on that, on my website, on the resource site, Self assessment of adult Skills. So as teachers are engaging with this work and it's free for download. So I would encourage them to print it, do a self assessment and then see as part of their professional development this summer, how they can incorporate those skills and more intentionally bring them to life in their classrooms and they realize, oh yeah, some of these things come very naturally to many of us, but maybe we are very focused on one area and not so much another heart skill.

So that brings everything kind of like in this holistic way that teachers can easily do and practice and hopefully they can create a learning community within their schools or with colleagues from other schools to to come and do this work together. The other research that we didn't talk about is I created a discussion guide for the book and that's also available for free to download. And my hope is that groups of educators come together to read the book, answer questions. So each chapter has 5 to 6 questions and it has activities that you can do in order to go deeper into the content and then engage yourself in that cycle of inquiry on going to your classroom, trying strategies, going back to your book, study group, sharing the things that work the things that didn't and then build that community of support where you have people trying this SCL strategies, um and you will see that you can learn so much just from listening to each other and the experiences that different teachers have with this work.

There are amazing recommendations that that you share just now and throughout the whole episode. So I'm wondering if there's one thing that you would encourage listeners to do as they close this episode and they're they're about ready to implement something. What do you think is the most high leverage thing or or the best suggestion for them to take action to really live in alignment with all the things that you've been talking about today? I would say that it is possible to do this work. I would like them to see themselves as capable of infusing SCL in their classrooms. It's not difficult, it's not impossible. It just takes some intentional practice, like anything that we bring into our classrooms. So I'm hoping that as listeners listen to this episode, that they feel fired up, that they feel empowered to do something in their classroom with their students, to focus on those relationships and to know that there are many other teachers trying this work and there are many resource is available.

So, it's just a matter of taking that that first step in making that commitment that you do want to address the social, emotional needs of your students and I know your listeners do. So this is a matter of just getting that practical first step forward. I love it. And this question. This next question is just kind of fun. Everyone who's on the podcast has told me they are a self described learner for life. Like, you know, they're they're loving constantly learning. Um and it seems to me like you are definitely a lifelong learner as well. And so I'm curious to know just what's something that you personally have been learning about lately. Yes, So just this morning, I did a presentation for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C. They have a weeklong summer institute for educators. So, as I had to prepare for this presentation, I was asked to think about the connections between art SCL and critical thinking and I can tell you that I had a blast just presented just presenting and being in space with educators that really care about the arts and some of them are in the classroom, some of them are museum educators.

So it gave me a lot to learn. I I made so many connections, but it gave me a lot of hope too that there are so many ways to bring a cl into our lives and and in that case it was through art. So the opportunities are planning. That is so fun. I love any time we can integrate art into our practice. So that's amazing that you got to do that. Um the last question I have for you is just where can listeners learn more about you, connect with you online, get your book. Yeah. So the book is available in all major retailers is available on paperback, ebook and audiobook and the audiobook, I'm the narrator. So that's a special treat for listeners. Um my website is Loria Martinez dot com and if you look there for research, this is that's where you can find all the download, downloadable. Uh, the first chapter of the book is available for free, also on my website. So if um of course I'm hoping that people will go and buy the book, but if they are still hesitant, they can read the first chapter and see that's something that they're interested in deepening more.

And then I hang out on twitter at Loria mart facebook at Loria Martinez SCL and I'm also on linkedin and I'm not picky, I'd like to connect with people. So if your listeners want to reach out, I always, always love to hear from from educators, thank you so much. Dr Loria Martinez, I appreciate you being on the show. Thank you so much for having me. Thanks for listening. Amazing educators. If you loved this episode, you can share it on social media and tag me at lindsey Beth alliance or labor review of the show. So leaders like you will be more likely to find it until next time Leaders continue to think big act brave and be your best self

48. SEL is Not the Destination; It’s the Vehicle with Dr. Lorea Martinez
48. SEL is Not the Destination; It’s the Vehicle with Dr. Lorea Martinez
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