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Why I Started Using SEL in the Classroom, by Paige Bell

Hey, I’m Paige and I’m half of Narwhals & Waterfalls. I live with my husband Matt & my blue-heeler dog, Luna. We’re due to have a baby boy in late August, so I’m excited to explore the beauties and challenges of mom-life. I love songwriting, journaling, being outside and reading books about self-growth and business. I am a K-5 Music Teacher at a Title I public school in Dallas, TX. I just finished my 6th year teaching and it’s been a wild and eye-opening ride.

 

I can still remember the first day I stepped into my elementary school campus. As a baby-faced 23 year old who was fresh out of student teaching, I was scared and unsure of how I was going to manage 700 students coming in and out of my classroom each week. Although I enjoyed being a teacher, I was in complete survival mode. I don’t know if you can relate with this, but the biggest challenge I had was classroom management. Because I was a young, baby-faced woman, I felt like I had to be super strict with my students to gain their respect. I had my bag of tricks which seemed to work such as Discipline Referrals, list of parent contacts to call home, rewards for good behavior, detailed seating arrangements, a Classroom Management sticker chart, and so on.

 

Eventually I felt like I had quite a handle on my classroom management skills. Kids did not mess with me and I was proud of it! But there was something missing: the relationship component. I knew I needed to build stronger relationships with my students. Being the “tough teacher” was wearing on me because it’s definitely not my personality and I started to feel burnt out. I felt like I could be helping my students so much more if I approached classroom management differently. I knew there had to be a better way. During the summer of my 3rd year teaching, I attended a Professional Development workshop that was all about Social and Emotional Learning. I learned about feelings check-ins, mindfulness, restorative circles, talking pieces, morning meetings, growth mindset and more. All of a sudden I felt re-energized to incorporate these things into my classroom!

 

So the next school year, I created new routines where students did a feelings check-in immediately as they walked in and I introduced them to mindfulness meditations. With just a few changes I saw dramatic results in my relationships with the students, and with that came less need for my “strict teacher side”. BUT something was still missing. I was a music teacher and wanted to incorporate music and SEL together. I googled “SEL songs”. Crickets. I googled “Social and Emotional Learning Music”. Crickets. I went to Youtube and searched the same thing. You guessed it….CRICKETS. So I decided it was time to use my song-writing skills to create some Social Emotional Learning songs for my students. It turns out that SEL and music are a great mix. Music touches a deep part of our humanity that nothing else can.

 

Because of how impactful SEL has been with my students, it’s become a passion of mine to help teachers by creating simple and effective songs & resources to use with their students. Introducing Social and Emotional Learning has transformed the way I teach, relate with students and see education as a whole. Eventually Adrien and I started writing SEL songs together and the rest is history.

Paige’s Quick SEL Tip:

Create a beginning-of-the-class routine by adding a Feelings Check-In and The Mood Song!

1) Feelings Check-In

The Feelings Check-In is so simple, but can make a huge impact! You can either print it out and have students point to their particular feeling that day, project it on your screen, or use it digitally for online learning!

2) The Mood Song:

This song is great because it sets the tone for a positive and safe classroom environment. There’s an interactive part where the song asks them to raise their hand if they’re feeling a particular emotion.

 

We also have a coloring sheet FREEBIE for “The Mood Song” that you can access HERE!

As always, we appreciate your support and would absolutely love to connect through Facebook, Instagram, E-mail, or our SEL Community Chat Facebook group.

Also, what is your SEL story? We’d love to hear it!

Creative Songs for Creative Kids,

-Paige-

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