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!