Strategies to Enhance Life Satisfaction for Students and Educators
Welcome to our session on Strategies to Enhance Life Satisfaction. This webinar is presented by the California Center for School Climate. That is a California Department of Education initiative operated by WestEd that provides free support and trainings on school climate and data use to local education agencies in California. This session also draws on data from the California School Climate Health and Learning Surveys, or CalSCHLs, and features research- and evidence-based strategies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. So, we’re really thrilled to have a really collaborative group presenting today.
So, if we go to the next slide, I just want to share that earlier this year, this California Center for School Climate hosted a webinar on life satisfaction data from the California Healthy Kids Survey. And during this webinar, we explored the relationship between life satisfaction and distress, and we discussed metrics and measures of life satisfaction. And really, the message was that we know that student mental health is not just addressing emotional distress, but also improving the life satisfaction of students. This webinar examined the data related to life satisfaction and emotional distress, the relationship between the two, to really deepen our understanding of student mental health. It examined new life satisfaction and emotional distress items from the California Healthy Kids Survey, and it guided participants in how to interpret some of these data that they might be seeing.
And part of the feedback from that session was that participants really wanted to learn more about practical strategies for life satisfaction. And so, that is why we’re here today, to talk about those strategies. And if you’re interested in reviewing the recording of that previous webinar, it is available on the Linktree, which will take you to the event archive page on the CCSC website.
So, today’s plan, on our next slide, we will be discussing life satisfaction. We’ll be reviewing the definition and dimensions of it. We’ll take a look at the CalSCHLs life satisfaction indicators, and then we’ll spend a lot of time-sharing the resources for enhancing life satisfaction among both students and school staff. And as I mentioned, we will have time for questions and answers towards the end.
So, I’d like to introduce our presenters today, if we go to the next slide. We have first Dr. Erin Dowdy. She is a professor in the Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She’s a licensed psychologist and a nationally certified school psychologist, and her research career and scholarly publications have focused on universal assessment for social and emotional health and risk, and is focused on equitable screening practices.
We also have Dr. Michael Furlong. He’s a Research Professor and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of School Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He received the 2022 School Mental Health Research Award and provides consultation and support to the California Department of Education and WestEd related to the California Healthy Kids Survey. He’s the co-editor of the Handbook of Positive Psychology in Schools and collaborates with colleagues on Project Covitality, which supports schools’ efforts to give support to foster all students social and emotional development.
I am Laura Buckner. I’m a Technical Assistance Specialist with WestEd’s Resilient and Healthy Schools and Communities team. I do my very best to translate research to practice to help educators implement evidence-based practices, particularly around mental health, social and emotional learning, and wellness. And I create learning opportunities to help practitioners align their goals with what they’re doing.
And finally, we have Tom Hanson, who serves as a Senior Advisor for the California Center for School Climate and is a Senior Managing Director at WestEd. He’s got extensive experience in developing and validating survey instruments to measure school climate and other outcomes. He’s the Director of the California School Climate Health and Learning Survey, the CalSCHLs that I mentioned, which is a comprehensive youth risk behavior and resilience data collection survey available to all California LEAs.
And thanks for the great introduction. So, before having Mike and Erin describe the importance of life satisfaction for student and educator wellbeing, as well as the strategies for fostering subjective wellbeing, we thought it would be good to show you how to access California Healthy Kids data on life satisfaction.
Generally, access to student-reported life satisfaction data is provided in several ways. There are detailed tabular PDF reports that are produced and available to the public as well as to the districts. Also, participating districts receive short graphical mental health reports that show results for all the mental wellness outcomes assessed on the survey. And most importantly, there’s a CalSCHLs data dashboard. So, what I’m going to do is…I would like to show you how to access data on the data dashboard. So, to access the dashboard, one needs to go to the website, the California School Climate. . . let me do it this way. . . California School Climate Health and Learning Surveys. Go to the website, and there’s two ways to access the dashboard. One can click this dashboard button here or go up here in the upper panel. And here’s the dashboard page.
So, there’s two types of dashboards. There’s the public dashboard that provides data at the state level, the county level, and for every district in the state. The public dashboard is updated every December with the data from the previous year. Currently, the public dashboard does not have the life satisfaction data. So, those data will be populated from the 2022/2023year in late November or December. There’s also the private dashboard. And the private dashboard allows… It’s a password-protected dashboard available to LEAs, including county offices of education, and that allows data to be disaggregated to the school level. And it has several features. . . but this is data also…The private dashboard is updated either immediately when students take a survey for the item level. Let me sign in, so this makes more sense. If you sign in, you see these two sets of dashboards. There’s the public dashboard over here, and then there’s the private dashboards over here. I’m just going to point to the item-level dashboards. We’ve got elementary, parent, and secondary.
The item-level dashboards are updated simultaneously, as students take the survey during the school year. The key indicators— after October, they’re updated twice a week with data. So, to look at the life satisfaction data, you simply go to the secondary key indicators, and by default, we’re seeing academic motivation results.
Over here on the left side, this tells you what district we’re in. And all of the measures are structured by domain. So, this current domain is school engagement and supports. To access life satisfaction, that would be under social and emotional health. Here you see the social and emotional health items. This one is life satisfaction.
If you’re looking, if you scroll over the selected measure, you get a description of what the life satisfaction measure is. So, this is based on five items. Please describe your level of satisfaction below. I would describe my satisfaction with my family life as, my friendships, school experiences, myself, where I live. Students reports serve their level of agreement.
What we do is we create a scale score that is the average percentage of students who report that they’re satisfied or very satisfied across the five items of the survey. So, the results are over here. We can see for the sample district for grade seven on average, 67 percent of seventh graders report that they are satisfied or very satisfied across the five items that constitute the scale. If we go down to ninth graders, we see there’s a general decline with grade. If you put your little pointer on there, you can actually see that the school level results and the counts and such, and how many responses this is based on. So, what if we want to look at these results for different groups of students? That’s perfectly doable.
We’ve got a list of groups that we can disaggregate the data by. Let’s choose gender. So, here we see that we show the results separately for females, males, and if there’s sufficient sample size, those who indicate that they’re non-binary. In general, like we see with most mental health or psychological wellbeing measures, males exhibit higher levels of satisfaction, life satisfaction, than females, particularly in the earlier grades.
You can also disaggregate by other characteristics. One that’s important that we can disaggregate by the level of student-reported caring adult relationships with adults in the school. So, what we’ve done is we’ve created categories of caring relationships for those who have high levels of caring relationships versus low or medium levels of caring relationships. This is based on… the caring relationships is. . . if students average pretty much true or more across the three items that measure caring relationships, they’re categorized as pretty much true or more on this.
So, as you see, caring relationships is strongly related to life satisfaction for seventh graders. Among those with high levels of caring relationships, 76% report that they’re satisfied or very satisfied compared to 55% among those who have lower levels of caring relationships. That’s generally. . . that was all that I was going to go over with regards to the life satisfaction dashboard.
But let me just do one other thing. With this dashboard, you can also look at differences across schools. And here you can see this red line represents the district average. And we can see that there are differences in life satisfaction among students across these schools. Now, these are real schools, but they’re randomly chosen. They don’t represent a particular district.
Okay, so that’s the dashboard. If you have any questions, please save them to the end. I’m going to pass it back to Mike now to continue.
Very good. We’re on now? Okay. Thank you, Tom. I think it’s a point of great pride for California that we’re really the first state that has taken the effort to actually try to include in our statewide survey information about assessing students’ positive wellbeing, and the resource that you have there on the dashboard is pretty incredible. I hope you all follow up on that.
I want to just start off here at the beginning just to contextualize the discussion about life satisfaction a bit. So, before we share information about resources that you might consider for boosting students’ overall life satisfaction. I wanted to comment briefly and situate this conversation within a broader perspective of thinking about efforts to boost students’ social-emotional learning, social-emotional health in schools, and as it relates to positive psychology interventions, focused interventions.
So, positive psychology first focused on how we might boost people’s happiness. And this was true for about the first 10 years or so. There’s nothing wrong with helping people pursue and experience happiness, of course. Still, it started to take on a sense of needing to be more centrally important when we think about the development of competent human beings. The focus on happiness then started to move towards people’s subjective wellbeing or developing life satisfaction, and helping people to have life experiences that lead them towards flourishing mental health and wellbeing. So, if we go to the next slide.
So, now, it’s true that happier people tend to say they experience and have higher levels of life satisfaction and vice versa, but they’re not the same. One can be happier on one day than another. So, we can imagine ourselves or students on a Monday or Tuesday reporting feeling happy, but because of experiences that happened on Thursday or Friday, they might not be as happy. Life satisfaction is a little different. It is more enduring and less reactive to day-to-day life experiences. So, if you ask the student on Monday or Tuesday about their life satisfaction when they reported being happier, even though they were less happy on Thursday or Friday, the tendency would be for their life satisfaction not to change as much.
Some research shows that all of us tend to have a set point concerning our overall judgments and evaluations of the quality of our life that represents a more enduring, overall appraisal of our life quality or life satisfaction. The graph here shows you one district we work with. They do universal screening of their students, and they actually ask the students if they’re happy and very satisfied at school. This shows that students’ optimism and belongingness at school is strongly related to their number of life satisfaction.
So, Tom told you about those five different areas of life satisfaction, family, school, community. So, the students— where it shows five there, 75%— those students in this district answered all of the life satisfaction items, satisfied or very satisfied. And you can see 75% of them reported having high optimism and high belonging. So, this is just to emphasize the importance of helping build life satisfaction in students.
So, notably though, the resources we’ll share with you today are not meant to boost happiness or life satisfaction per se, but to motivate the development of student’s social and emotional related skills and competencies. They’d help them to live happier and more satisfying lives. And to make the link for you, in education, many educators, as educators, we have embraced the growth mindset ideas that Carol Dweck and others at Stanford have informed us about. And of course, these focus on the idea that cognitive abilities and their capacity to learn is not a set trait, but are incremental and can be improved and grow with appropriate stimulation and opportunities. And of course, in schools, we want all students to learn many things. But concerning their growth mindset, our ultimate aspiration is to help them become learners, not just to learn. And ideally, students will develop a mindset that sees themselves as self-motivated, lifelong learners.
So, turning the page to social emotional learning, the same incremental growth ideas apply to student’s social emotional learning and skills. Like growth mindset, students also develop mindsets about who they are and whether they see their behavior and character as open to growth and potential change, as in, “I am becoming a better person,” or “I am not the person I want to be, yet.”
The goal is not for students, for example, to just be kind or express gratitude or empathy. Our efforts are focused on helping them to develop mindsets that they can always become kinder, more grateful, and more empathetic. And in doing so, they will have more positive life satisfaction, and they will develop into the high-quality human beings that our world urgently needs. And I will now pass it on to Laura, I believe. Thank you.
Thanks Dr. Furlong. I don’t know about all of you, but that gives me a sense of hope in thinking about we can all continue to grow in our own pursuit of whether or not it’s happiness or life satisfaction or beginning to learn skills that we can further develop, and also teach with the students that we’re working with.
So, I don’t have a lot of time today, but we wanted to provide just a few resources and things that we think may be helpful for your use in schools and working with students. This first one here is a book by Dr. Suldo [Promoting Student Happiness: Positive Psychology Interventions in Schools]. You can also see this in the Linktree. And I’ll walk through a little bit to talk about just highlights to see if this is something that you might want to use. And it’s really built on this assumption that evoking these positive emotions, thinking about things in the past, thinking about things in the present, and in the future, can really work to enhance life satisfaction, maybe not directly, but helping to promote these things such as student happiness and how we actually begin to develop our humans that we’re working with.
So, it is a 10-week session. I’ll go to the next slide please. And just to give you a little bit of confidence that this book, this Positive Psych, it’s a Tier 2 intervention, that it is built and backed by research. So, there were two initial validation studies with middle school students. Again—like I was saying, it’s a 10-week psychoeducational curriculum—and that these, what you can see from these two initial studies is that these interventions work to increase life satisfaction compared to weightless control. After the intervention, life satisfaction went up, positive affect went up, and negative affect went down. So, based on those two initial studies, Dr. Shannon Suldo and her team got a massive grant to really look at the applicability along with the research backing, looking at this validation of this actual intervention. And so, that is currently what’s ongoing. You can see that’s in 2020 to 2025. So, it’s working in schools across Florida and Massachusetts. And so, the book provides the interventions that I’ll talk through a little bit today that you can use as a resource if… I’ll give you enough information today to see if you think that it might be a resource that’s useful for you. Into the next slide.
So, this is… It’s a complete workbook. It has everything that you need. It goes through these 10 sessions. As you can see, it’s looking at positive emotions – gratitude, character, strengths – and it provides you with the actual strategies, the tip sheets, the actual what to do in each of these sessions. And it also has these follow-ups at the completion of the intervention that you can go back to. So, I’ll walk through just a few of these today, so you can get a good sense of that.
Perfect. So, this first one here is on gratitude. And as you can see, each of these… This is a lesson plan. And each of these lesson plans includes information on the goals, the definition, and the rationale for doing this. So, for example, with this gratitude, this activity was thinking about writing a letter of thanks to a person. And why might we do that? Because it does evoke these positive feelings about the past and the importance of those relationships.
There are some samples. There are additional activities. So, this additional activity was about a gratitude visit, a planning. And so, you can see that this… On the next slide, you can see that they did this planning…well, who has been really helpful to you, who might you be expressing gratitude? And this student here was completing this activity and was expressing gratitude for her sister to her sister because she hurt her right arm and you were a great sister to me. So, helping students, again, think about these positive emotions.
Also, along with each of the lesson plans, there are some parent and caregiver handouts that go along with it. These are really helpful because it helps the parents learn about the concepts that you’re teaching within the intervention. And also, to provide different activities, homework activities to further reinforce the learning. So, as you can see here, teaching the parent about what is gratitude? Why is this important? And what else might you be able to do to within the home? Asking your child right before bed, write down five things that might be helpful for them or things that they have expressed gratitude for.
Here’s another example of a lesson plan for kindness. Again, providing the goal, the rationale, the definition. This activity was to select a day of the week, plan an act of kindness, and just providing different ideas of that. So, on the next slide, you can see what this student did. They were planning what day of the week. On Thursday, they’re going to have a kindness day. What are the things that they are actually going to do, their acts of kindness. So, it can be as easy and straightforward as apologizing to a friend, helping cleaning the whole house without even asking, having a great time with my sister. These are just some examples. I also note as a part of this curriculum—and again, these are just ideas, activities, things that you can do with your students— but I recently received a fundraiser from a school that was asking for… they were having a kindness day. . .and so, how they had incorporated kindness was fundraising for each of the students to engage in acts of kindness. So, just different ways to incorporate kindness, optimism, all of these things to evoke these positive emotions.
And we can go to the next slide here. And again, along with this, along with all of them, there are these parent and caregiver handout sessions. Again, reinforcing what is actually being taught at school. And you see that these are dynamic, reciprocal things that happen, right? By helping the parents also learn about what the kids are learning in school, they might be more likely to further reinforce these activities. And also, for themselves, we have to be thinking about parent and caregiver wellbeing as well.
And then, the next one is just… I just wanted to put this back up. So, you can see, I only talked about the gratitude and the positive emotions on the act of kindness, but you can see that there is this 10-week psychoeducational curriculum, Tier 2 intervention that’s being implemented in middle schools currently and to think about if this may be helpful for you. And you have all of the resources to the text in the Linktree.
And with that, I’m going to pass it over to highlight our next thing with Laura.
Awesome. Thank you, Erin. I’m happy to share a little bit about the California Center for School Climate’s BeWell site, which launched earlier this year. And it really is just another way to present and share some of the strategies that Erin was just talking about. These are things that can help manage stress, build the skills that we need to support that positive mindset, and promote life satisfaction. So, it feels like a lot of the strategies are the same. And maybe, they’re just different ways of presenting them and sharing them.
So, on the next slide, I’ll share just a brief overview about the BeWell Site. It was created to provide some research-based strategies for practicing emotional regulation and managing stress by applying what we know about how the brain and body work. So, it provides a very simple platform, which I’ll share in just a minute, to select an activity that will either calm or engage a dysregulated brain, depending on how that dysregulation shows up for the person. It also includes ideas for building one’s resilience to stress, so that dysregulation is less likely to occur. And I want to note that it is not intended to provide psychological intervention or a substitute for treatment. It’s simply designed to provide ideas for quick, easy practices to either calm down or re-engage in a time of acute stress, or to build up some of that muscle for managing stress that will support overall wellbeing and long-term mental health.
And I also want to acknowledge that there are many, many different versions of this site out there. There are school districts and even some youth groups at schools that created their own virtual calming spaces, particularly during the early days of the pandemic. And they’re wonderful. A lot of them are really, really excellent. And we were actually inspired by a lot of them to create something that mixes in the school climate, the California [Center for] School Climate, perspective.
First, we are looking at the homepage of the site, which provides a simple introduction and four tabs for the user to navigate to. We have calm yourself, activate yourself, increase well-being, and why this works. And I’m going to go ahead and click on the Why this works tab. And I normally would not suggest that a user goes straight to this page, but since we’re all hopefully feeling regulated and able to take in some information, I wanted to share a very brief overview of the research that informed us while we were creating this site.
It’s all based on Bruce Perry’s three Rs, which are regulate, relate, and reason. These are the three steps that one needs to take to move from being unable to access higher order thinking or being able to take in and process information effectively, and unable to make thoughtful decisions. So, once we go through these steps, a person can have more control of their emotions rather than letting the emotions control us. And so, according to the three Rs, we need to start with emotional regulation to access the learning and processing brain. And what we know is that when stress or other stimuli take somebody outside of their window of tolerance, it results in emotional dysregulation. The person is no longer able to relate or connect with others, and also cannot reason or engage in that higher level thought or learning. And we know that dysregulation can show up in different ways for different people. We’ve all heard of fight, flight, or freeze. And so, we created the site to help somebody be able to pause, recognize how they’re feeling, and then select an appropriate activity to help them move back into their zone of regulation.
And as I mentioned, all of the strategies that we’ve included on this site do have an evidence base. And so, there’s an area way down here that you can click on and somebody could click into there and learn more about the actual research that informs our selections.
So, I’m going to scroll back up to the top, and I’ll click on our first tab, which is Calm yourself. And so, this is the Calm yourself page, and you can see there’s icons with little descriptions underneath them for some of the ideas for calming the brain and body. These activities are appropriate for someone whose dysregulation shows up as hyperarousal or an increase in activation or energy. The breathing might become more rapid. You could feel your heart beating. A person might just be feeling agitated like you maybe want to fight or engage in a negative way, or you’re ready just to take off and run in the opposite direction. So, we selected the activities on this page to calm an overagitated nervous system, and they include things like meditation, calming, audio or visual experiences, gentle movement, deep breathing.
We included the Monterey Bay Jelly Cam, which is down here, which you all got to experience at the beginning of this webinar. And I also want to share that we added some filters, which I’m circling with my mouse up here at the top, so that a user can click on a few different boxes and receive a more personalized recommendation. So, maybe they know that they only need five or 10 minutes, or they’ve had a good experience with engaging in art. You can click on more options. And there’s also things like nature, or if they know that they respond to visual calming, they can make those selections and it’ll narrow down the selection of boxes that are available.
And so, now I’m going to scroll back up to the top, and I’ll click on the Activate yourself tab. And you’ll see it looks very similar with icons for each of the suggested activities and different tabs or filters that somebody could select. And these activities were selected for this page to help somebody activate their brain and body when their dysregulation shows up as a shutting down or being withdrawn, that freeze response. A person might feel so overwhelmed that they lose energy and can’t even engage. They might experience disassociation or just tuning out. And so, the activities on this page include things like brain exercises for focus-guided meditations that encourage a positive outlook and other things that wake up the brain, like interactive art activities, so that it can shift to a more energized state.
And so, now I’m going to scroll back up to the top and click on our last tab, which is Increase wellbeing. And again, it looks very similar to the previous two pages, but the difference is that the Calm yourself and Activate yourself sections are designed to provide strategies in the moment when someone is experiencing dysregulation. And this section focuses more on long-term wellness strategies that research says over time can increase a person’s window of tolerance, so that they’re less likely to become dysregulated. And you’ll notice they’re very similar to the strategies that Erin discussed. There are things like practicing gratitude, connecting with people, engaging in positive self-talk. And there are also things like getting outside. And there’s even more on the next page around setting healthy boundaries with technology, making sure that you are eating and drinking throughout the day, so that you can continue to stay within your zone of regulation.
And so, we really encourage folks, if you have the time today, later today, or at any point to come back to this site, pick a strategy and really just notice how you might feel afterwards. Hopefully, it’s an improvement in any kind of stress that you’re feeling or an ability to stay again in that zone of regulation a little bit longer when you are experiencing stress. So, I’m going to stop sharing my screen now and pass things back to the team at UCSB.
Okay, isn’t that fabulous? I’m really impressed by that resource that they’ve developed. And I’m just continually amazed when people like Laura and her team have the creativity to actually, as she says, bridge across research to applied practice. It’s a fabulous resource and there are various ones out there.
I want to just end today by showing you just another resource. I noticed in the comments someone asked about resources that might be available for high school students, and I think Laura’s resource could fit that partly…17- and 18-year-olds are almost adults.
The other one is just here. Dr. Greif Green is at Boston University and works with school districts in the Boston area, and she’s developed this course on, it’s a mini course that could be used. You could use it in a counseling session. You could incorporate it into a health or self-development class. It has a different content, some very similar to what Laura was talking about. So, the overview is like coping with stress, but it includes activities and information resources related to practice, relaxation, making time for pleasant activities, reaching out and making social connections, being a thoughtful user of technology, which gives a source of stress for our young people, practicing mindfulness as Laura is talking about. And also, then, helping others engaging in kindness. But it also includes things like helping students think about how to create a schedule, how to evaluate their sleep patterns. Laura had one link there talking about nutrition, so that’s included in this. And also, exercise.
So, this is a wellness…not to focus on students’ distress per se, but a way to help them be well. And in doing so, that might help them boost their life satisfaction. We can go to the next slide. This just shows one of the pages in there, which is, “Tip #2: Make Time for Pleasant Activities.” So, this is a complete mini course online that you can access. The link to it is in the Linktree at the end, and it’s just available to you. You can access it and use it as you would feel would be appropriate for you and your students. We can go to the next slide.
And just to cover the age span, here’s another resource, very innovative. This is for the younger students, even in grades one, two, and three [Strength Safari]. Dr. Lauren Naples developed this strategy based on positive psychology principles related to zest and gratitude and optimism and persistence. And she developed a, if you will, student strength safari. You can go to the next page. And basically, she has these characters who are in the safari and she takes the students through learning about gratitude and gratitude-related activities in a very engaging way for the young students. And this is also evidence-based…is actually. . . there was an evaluation study that developed this and did evaluation of it to evaluate its impact on young students. And it’s not commercially available, but you can contact Dr. Lauren Naples. I asked her, and she said she’s welcome to have you contact her if you have an interest in finding out more about… This is a possible resource for your younger students. You can go to the next slide. And you can see there’s, for example, optimism.
So, these are very linked to what some of the topics that were in the Dr. Suldo’s program that Erin talked about. I think we can go to the next slide. And then, there are various other resources that you might want to… These are different books and information that the links are in the Linktree that you can follow up to if you want to read some more or do some more self-learning as it relates to helping students develop their life satisfaction. And with that, I think I’ll turn it back to the next question and answers.
Yeah. So, thank you Tom, Mike, Erin for sharing such helpful information. And hopefully, everybody got some great ideas for resources, and also understand a little bit more about how to think about life satisfaction and understand it.
So, now is our time for Q&A. We invite participants to send in any questions that you have for the presenters, and we’ve got one to kick us off. So, there was a mention of caring relationships being related to life satisfaction. And also, connection and belonging. And so, the question is, “What can schools do to better support those efforts?”
I’m happy to kick off a little bit of a conversation. I mean, I think, really, we could do a whole other webinar— I’m not suggesting we are—but on strategies to enhance school belongingness, for example. I think Mike and I have talked a lot that it’s not focusing on any one thing, but that there’s a cascading, spiraling upward impact on doing any of these things.
So, thinking about the resources that were shared today. There are… by sharing positivity and gratitude and thinking about kindness, all of these different things may also work to enhance other aspects of a student’s wellbeing. There are certainly things from the educator side that we can do to enhance belongingness, and we can think about how to provide additional resources for that in particular.
I could chip in. There’s another concept I’d like to bring to the discussion, I think with belongingness… and it kind of expands it a little bit. The Healthy Kids Survey has been an innovator for years because we actually have questions asking our students how they feel that the staff at school feel about them. So, I think that’s the first step. What’s the feedback that students are giving you about staff at school and how they feel about where there are? So, I think it’s important to monitor that, but also then, follow up with the students asking them where are we at, if the school having a focus… As Bonnie Bernard used to have these discussion groups where the adults would sit around the students and the students would discuss the results of the survey. It would be really instructive to talk about school belonging and the adults in the room to listen to how the students feel they know they belong at school. But in a more practical way, what do certain people at school do to help them feel they belong and become a member of.
And the other thing I just want to add to the conversation in this regard is— it’s kind of a new related concept—it’s called mattering. Now, what that talks about is it not just that you feel that you belong at the school or a member of the school, but do you believe that the people at the school value you as a member and a person? So, it’s not just that you belong, but, for example, if you didn’t show up for school for two days, you would find two or three teachers asking you, “I didn’t see you. What was going on?” So, you would notice that you’re not invisible. And I think that’s what all human beings want, many of us want. We want to feel like we’re part of something, and not just a part of something, but the people in that part actually express value towards us and the contributions we’re making to that community.
Thank you, Mike. I just want to add on. I’m in support and I mean, there’s been a long strand of research that suggests, that shows that certain students who perceive the relationships with staff at school as caring — if there’s a trusting, caring relationship with an adult at school where it’s demonstrated that students matter. Education, it’s a relational activity that requires a safe and supported space. And I think the primary way that happens is through teachers and students having opportunities to build those trusting relationships. For teachers to check in with students, to see how they’re doing, and providing indications that they matter. And their empathy is a big part of that.
Thank you. Excellent responses all around. I really appreciate that.
We have a question that was typed into the chat. It’s from Catherine. She asks, “Do you have any thoughts about how to increase willingness to support SEL strategies for stressed out teachers lacking a growth mindset?” We know that stress is incredibly high among our education staff and it can be difficult to access the growth mindset and the empathy needed to really engage in this work.
So, if anybody would like to speak to that, we’d love to hear. I see Erin pointing possibly to Mike.
If you’re pointing to me or I’m supposed to do it? I mean, Laura, I think the resource you developed is partly related to that, I think. I mean, all the things that you’ve included in that fabulous resource you developed are things that any one of us working in stressful circumstances like… schools can be demanding. I’m going to say stressful, demanding. They are demanding places to work in and complex organizations.
Those are the type… you’ve organized the types of information that people need to draw upon. My own sense is, it’s either up to each individual to access that information to do it for themselves or somehow, and I’m not the expert on this, but somehow then a school community, or as a school community, or the school leader in the community needs to work with their staff to figure out well and focus on. It’s important that we attend to what our needs are, and how can we do that? And then, how do we develop a plan to support one another to do that? It’s hard to do it just on your own. I don’t know. Does anyone want to add something to that? Please.
I mean, I was thinking along the same lines in the sense of it’s almost face mask first. We all are aware of this analogy. So, what are the things that we can do as school leaders to enhance the social emotional well-being, teacher well-being, staff well-being, organizational factors that impact well-being? What are the things that we can do that are under our control or that we can work together to support one another, so that we’re in a good brain state to be able to help others?
And so, I think, again, it’s taking care of yourselves as care providers in whatever capacity that is. And then, also, thinking about our leading efforts to enhance teacher staff wellbeing, so that we are able to actually deal with very challenging and difficult situations. So, perhaps looking up above in the chat and thinking about what are those strategies that you’ve done that enhance your own joy and helping other educators and staff think about that first to get their own social emotional well-being to a higher level, so that they have the capacity to enhance strategies or have an uptake of SEL curriculum within their own environments.
Thank you. I want to highlight in the chat that Rebeca [from CCSC] shared a resource that was developed by the California Center for School Climate on reframing and understanding staff resistance. That might be a great resource to look at.
And then, Alicia shared that… They pointed out in staff meetings when there may be some resistance or maybe even not resistance, but just for building awareness. That was a moment where we were using social emotional learning. I think that highlighting and unpacking those moments have a lot of value, just recognizing that what we’re doing is part of it. I think there’s a big benefit to understanding how the process works a little bit, and really giving some focus to it so that people don’t think, “Oh, it’s just the culture or it’s just how things are.” But really, noticing the moments when we’re working at it, I think can be helpful to build the awareness.
Okay. We’ve got time for about one more question. And this came in the Q&A around monitoring, and not just the annual surveys, which we discussed during this webinar, but more regular monitoring around levels of life satisfaction related to either student, and maybe the staff that we’re talking about. Are there any strategies… Michael, I see you maybe nodding already… that people could use to more regularly check in on those things?
Tom, comment on this too. But that’s exactly the purpose of adding the life satisfaction and some distress items that are in your healthy kits survey now. So, you have those information anonymously, of course. That’s good. We should have that information. Some schools… and not right here right now, but if you have an interest, I’d be happy to follow up with you if you contact me. There are school districts that administer these exact 10 items to their students. They have an annual student wellness survey. So, it’s not so much like trying to ask them about the problems they’re having, but it’s trying to assess their life satisfaction and subjective well-being. And it’s part of their school-wide screening.
So, they do set up a system where the students take a brief survey. They use these two sets of items to evaluate because now we have data for 600,000 plus students. We know how students in California are answering these questions, so there is a comparison, what you will, to say, “Well, how are students doing compared to all the students in California?” We can answer that question now. We couldn’t before, three years before.
So, schools now, some schools are administering this to students. They go through all the permissions with the parents and everything. And students will enter their ID, and then a care team at the school will follow up with them. So, there are some schools doing that. Not enough time obviously to talk about that now. But if you wanted to follow up with me, I’d be happy to share with you how that’s going. And then, the schools then get feedback. Some students are saying their life satisfaction is particularly low, for whatever reason. The team at the school, the mental health team at the school, follows up with them and tries to develop a care plan that might include Shannon Suldo’s happiness program or access to other resources that are available.
So, again, thank you so much to our presenters. Thank you to everyone who joined to spend some time with us today, and we hope that you have a wonderful rest of your week and please do take care. Thank you, everyone.