Wednesday, March 28, 2018

HEARTSET: Transforming Teaching & Learning

By Guest Blogger, Stu Semigran, President and Co-Founder of EduCare Foundation

Stu Semigran
Have you ever thought that the challenges that educators face today are different from any in modern time?  With political and social unrest creating a stressful environment, how can we best uplift ourselves and assist our young people deal with life and learning? 

Here’s an idea for you to consider: If we deeply intend to give the best to our students and teach them so they are prepared for going out into the world, what if the first ones to give to and teach is ourselves?  What if, in order to take care of others, we must first take care of ourselves? And in taking care of ourselves, we automatically promote and influence positive change around us.

This is not necessarily a new idea. I’m sure you’ve heard, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me." How many people do you know whose email signature includes, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”?

But how do we take care of ourselves such that we and our young people benefit? I suggest that we develop a positive, Growth HEARTSET in ourselves so that we can support those we teach in developing theirs.

EduCare's Growth Heartset Professional Development

What is a HEARTSET? 
Most people are familiar with the idea of a mindset- a frame of mind that has a significant correlation to one’s motivation, effort, and approach to life’s challenges.

HEARTSET is a frame of heart. 

Have you ever walked into a room or a group, where listening to different points of view is the norm? Where mistakes are tolerated and understood as part of a learning process? Where support and encouragement is common among people? Where there's joy, acceptance, consideration, and kindness? Where love is felt and shared—it's in the air? It is these foundational elements of a Growth HEARTSET—that lay the nurturing soil from which the seeds of vibrant curriculum and impassioned teaching and learning sprout. 

A Growth HEARTSET is a kindness of heart. It establishes an energy field of self-awareness, non-judgment (acceptance), peace, caring, positivity, giving, forgiving, and compassion that allows us to more freely and proactively be a force of good. A Growth HEARTSET creates an emotional environment in which we and the young people we teach can flourish in spite of the uncertainties and challenges that are so prevalent today.

EduCare's ACE Program

Recently, after one of EduCare’s ACE (Achievement and Commitment to Excellence) students success programs that promote Growth HEARTSET, a high school principal shared, "Well, you've opened my students’ hearts and now we can capture their minds." He recognized that when the heart is “set” in a healthy and compassionate place, the mind is more open and prepared to learn.  

How do we create a Growth HEARTSET? 

We can set or reset the "heart" through self-awareness, a clear intention, and practicing habits of a Growth HEARTSET. There are many effective teaching approaches and ways to assist you in moving along that trajectory that will be the subject of subsequent blogs and articles. 

By creating a Growth HEARTSET—first in yourselves so it infuses your relationships and teaching—a greater “field” or culture of caring and loving can be known, felt, and shared. This Growth HEARTSET then serves as the foundation for effective teaching and social-emotional learning (SEL) that not only enriches your teaching experience but also captures and expands the hearts, minds, and imagination of your students. 

View EduCare's Program Impact infographic here.

Stu will be leading a Speaker's Forum on Growth Heartsets in Fresno, CA (April 18, 2018) and Modesto, CA (April 19, 2018).

Stu Semigran is the co-founder and president of EduCare Foundation and the executive director of EduCare’s ACE (Achievement and Commitment to Excellence) Student Success Program. Currently serving more than 45 high schools and middle schools in Southern California, EduCare also is the grant manager for the ASSETs after school programs at 17 LAUSD Beyond the Bell high schools and 1 middle school. Over 30,000 students are served each year through EduCare afterschool and youth development programs.

Stu’s book, Making the Best of Me: A Handbook for Student Excellence and Self-Esteem is used in schools worldwide. He currently serves on the CA Department of Education Expanded Learning Division’s SEL Planning Team and LAUSD’s Beyond the Bell’s “Take Action Campaign” Steering Committee. In 2012, Stu was recognized as a David Chow Humanitarian Award Foundation recipient for his service to youth. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

In the Aftermath of Parkland: What is the Role of Expanded Learning Programs?

By Sam Piha

We were shocked and dismayed by another mass shooting, this one at  Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. As a field that promotes safety, youth voice, and youth civic engagement, we commend the students that have spoken up about gun violence. 

Photo Credit: Rolling Stone

Since the shooting, we have heard a lot about school safety, but little about the role of expanded learning program providers. To gather perspective on this, we created a survey and distributed to our stakeholders. Below is what we learned. 

We received 29 responses from leaders representing state and national expanded learning intermediaries, educational organizations (principals, county offices of education, school districts, and higher education), expanded learning program providers, program trainers, and expanded learning advocates. We asked the respondents what age level of youth they focus on. They reported Elementary age children (75%); Middle school age children (54%); and High school age youth (36%). (Note: The percentages cited in this report exceed 100% as many respondents selected more than one option.) 

We asked respondents to identify what actions expanded learning programs should take. Of the options we provided, respondents selected:
  • Review safety plans with larger school or organization (93%)
  • Develop/review safety plans and train adult staff (89%)
  • Develop/review safety plans with youth participants (85%)
  • Facilitate discussions with youth regarding any feelings about the recent school shooting (78%)
  • Assist program participants in becoming civically engaged to voice their thoughts on school safety (78%)
  • Assist program participants (if they desire) in communicating directly with school shooting survivors (56%)
Photo Credit:

Additional Write In Action Items (33%) included:

Continue to develop our professional skill set for connecting with students and providing them with the opportunities to build deeper, authentic connections with one another.

Create a Youth Voice Advocacy team for Peer to Peer Support through school day and provide safe place for youth to share.

Engage families and community organizations in all of the above! 

We are focused on STEM and our instructors don't have a lot of training in social-emotional learning.

Train adult staff in building strong and supportive school and program cultures and create consistent opportunities for inclusion amongst all youth.

Offer strategies to prevent and/or reduce youth violence (life skills, character education, bullying prevention, social emotional learning, etc.).

We allowed respondents to express their own recommendations. Some of these are cited below. 

I know how challenging our work may be at times, but being there when our children need a caring person makes a tremendous difference. As our society is grappling with essential issues such as gun control and caring for mentally ill persons, we need to also keep in mind our basic human connection, including between adults and kids. I am reminded to take time to connect and "see" one another — to stop and see even those students who may want to remain invisible as they dangerously slip through the cracks and have forgotten that they are valued and loved. My invitation is for us to keep "seeing" their goodness. Please acknowledge yourselves for who you are and all you do. I thank you for your dedication to young people.

Align safety plans with district/ school day; promote emotional safety by focusing on SEL and positive school climate; and collaborate with school-day to responsive solutions for at-risk youth.

Be informed of the signs of mental instability and report to proper agencies; have an emergency protocol that is rehearsed; create opportunities for youth to discuss their opinions and feelings about and experiences with gun violence.

Create safe spaces for children and foster relationships with them and their families. Additionally, we need to give students voice by teaching them how to positively express their view points as students from Parkland have been able to do. They are eloquent and their arguments are sound without being disrespectful.

Implement trauma-informed policies and practices in the programs, in coordination with school and district efforts around trauma.

Protect our youth, provide activities and lessons that promote self regulation, educate students on the effects of bullying, and watch for red flag behavior.

Raise awareness and promote safety in Expanded Learning programs. Receive any necessary training to know what to do in a crisis situation. Make sure the youth have a voice and that they feel like they are in a safe and supportive environment.

We acknowledge that the number of responses were small and that we only had one youth from an expanded learning program respond. We invite adult stakeholders and youth participants to share their views in a second round at this link.

Below are some resources that may be useful: 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

How Not to Lose Your Mind Over Every New Trend in Your Field

By Guest Blogger, Rebecca Fabiano

Rebecca Fabiano
It sometimes feels like risking whiplash to try to follow all the emerging trends in our field and the potential funding, resources and opportunities that come along with them. Every few years, sometimes more often, there are new trends that are often accompanied by or are a part of funding opportunities. Some of these trends stick around for awhile until something newer, younger and sexier gets introduced. Some trends seem to come around in cycles.

Trends that I’ve seen come, go and distract from other, previous trends include (not an exhaustive list!):

Apprenticeships (teens)
Bullying (middle schoolers)
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) (middle and teens)
Family engagement (all)
STEM (and then STEAM) (all)
Girls and sports (middle)
Trauma-informed practices (all)
Digital badges (middle/teens)
Literacy (elementary)
Expanded learning (all)
Out-of-school time (all)
Project-based learning (all)
Service learning (all)
21st-century skills (teens)

Terms like expanded learning and out-of-school time (OST) were used over the last five to seven years to refer to the time outside of typical school hours (7 a.m.-3 p.m.). OST seems to be the term that stuck and is more commonly used to describe the hours after school, on the weekends and even during the summer and school breaks.

Depending on the group you serve, some trends may be more relevant to you, but how do you know for sure if it’s worth “drinking the Kool-Aid”?  
Here are a few tips for deciding if a trend is for you:

  • What age group do you work with? If you are working with elementary school youth, the idea of redesigning your program to align with apprenticeship frameworks may not be that relevant. However you can consider how the things you do with your little ones now will better prepare them for when they are ready to have an apprenticeship.
  • Similarly, what family or parent/caregiver engagement looks like at the elementary school level looks very different at the high school level. Be very clear about why you want families to engage with your program, and adapt what you do and how you engage with them to meet their developmental needs.
  • Do you have the right staff to tackle this topic/trend? Before switching over to STEM programming, assess your staff’s ability to lead STEM activities. Do you have the appropriate space and resources to implement STEM programming?
  • What kind of partners might you need to take on this trend? Do you have the time and capacity to identify, foster and nurture those relationships?
  • Does this trend (or the money and resources that come with it) support your program mission or goals? If not, then why are you doing it? Is there another goal that it supports? Does it create an opportunity for you to shift or try something you’ve been wanting to try?

Here are tips for staying abreast of the trends:

Sign up for newsletters from local and national organizations like:
NOTE from Sam Piha, Temescal Associates: Other sources to follow: 

And, check your local professional development providers, intermediary networks, etc. Don’t underestimate the importance of reading the newspaper and staying abreast of trends in your local community. And pay attention to national trends. Is there a national shift toward clean energy? Will there need to be qualified people to work in that sector? Will there be money available to train young adults to be prepared to take on this work?

It’s easy to feel like you have to integrate every trend into your program and worry that you might miss an opportunity. But the clearer you are about what you do, for whom you do it and the capacity of your staff and partners to do that work well, the easier it will be to say “no” and stay focused on your work.

NOTE from Sam Piha, Temescal Associates: I first met Rebecca in 2004 when she was directing The (high school) After School Program in Lincoln Square. I was so impressed with her approach that I wrote a description of her program for the National Institute on Out-of-School Time. You can view it here

Rebecca Fabiano, master of science in education, is the founder and president of Fab Youth Philly, a small, woman-owned business that supports youth-serving organizations and serves as a lab to create programming for and with youth.

This column was originally published in Youth Today, the national news source for youth-service professionals, including child welfare and juvenile justice, youth development and out-of-school-time programming.

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