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Language of SEL with Molly Gosline

Molly Gosline is the Director of SEL Consulting and host of the SEL Summer Institute in Cambridge, MA. The following transcript is from a PODCAST Molly Recorded with the nonprofit organization, Good Athlete Project (Episode 133).

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Molly Gosline: I’m so fortunate. I meet teachers from all over and I work with a lot of teachers who are already expert teachers in their content areas. Those are the high quality educators which might be glossing over this work. Some of them might say, “I already do this. I’m a great teacher, I get great feedback, and I’ve been ranked high and I’m, you know, an expert teacher in my content area.”

What we really learned at Stevenson is we have a lot of expert teachers, just like many schools do. Very few of them took any courses in adolescent psychology. Right? Very few of them took any courses in human development. Very few of them know much about the teenage brain and how it’s not even formed while they work together.

And so when we started to work with teachers – and this is shown through research – the more explicit you make SEL in the classroom, the more students learn those skills. So just being a great person or a great teacher, it’s a great start but that doesn’t necessarily grow skillsets.

The language has to be explicit and the strategies have to be thoughtful, intentional, purposeful, context-specific, and very explicit. And so, when I talk with teachers, often at the high school level, teachers identify themselves by their subject area. I’m a math teacher, I’m an English teacher. I teach AP Physics, whatever is, we really turn the tables and find that it helps.

Again, common language. I teach students math. I like putting the students first. So I’m not a math teacher. I teach students. Math, the content only goes through a human being. So if we skip over the human being side and it’s all about content, there’s a lot missed. And so framing that for the group that thinks they’re great – and I would not disagree because I’ve seen it and we have it – is when you reframe it, that humans come before content.

It changes delivery. So…

Jim Davis: I’m sorry. That’s so good I just can’t let this go… It’s Friday night as we record this. It’s football season. I’m only imagining if a football coach or team of a, a group of coaches could say something like you know, you hear about life lessons taught to sport. I’m of the opinion that. Some, perhaps some kind of life lesson is taught, but it’s not the kind that’s gonna lead the lifelong success. Sport’s gone wrong as a daily headline.

There’s power in your environment, but you’ve got to be, as you say, very explicit. I wonder if a whole group of coaches get on board with the idea of saying, “I am a teacher of life lessons through football. I’m a teacher, teaching young people life lessons through football or soccer…” instead of “I’m a soccer coach”, assuming that the life lessons are an automatic byproduct of their engagement with you, which can be a coin toss [whether or not those life lessons are taught], and the research would suggest is not happening, at least not with the staying power that that one might suppose.

Your idea, that approach, is spot on.

Molly Gosline: Exactly. And our coaches, again, when they get their student voice feedback back, these are a lot of the conversations that they have.

They say that “our students should know that we’re all about teamwork”. Well, how do they know you’re all about teamwork? How does that show up explicitly? How many times do you use the words you matter? On this team, how many times does that come out of your mouth? Things like, “I’m glad you’re here today”. Right? You know, things like “these are the skill sets we’re, we’re looking at when we talk about teamwork A, B, and C.”

Coach, are those qualities talked about? Is there some sort of verbal connection between the physicality of the sport that you’re teaching so that. Is there shared reflection?

Do you explain that you’re doing is part of not only a bigger goal for the team, but a growth opportunity in yourself? And to take lessons in athletics or AP physics, you know, or any area of learning to that level.. THAT is when we’re going to see growth around social skill development and feeling that our emotional intelligences are just as important as our academic ones. It has to be fully embedded in the learning environment. There’s no other way.

Molly is the Director of the SEL Summer Institute. For more information, or to register for the conference, CLICK HERE.

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