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CDE Ed Talks Podcast Episode 3

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Priority X — Social and Emotional Learning and School Climate

Published: May 23, 2019, Duration: 00:41:28

Priority X host Jacquelyn Ollison speaks with educator and researcher Dr. Laura Hallberg (University of the Pacific) about Social and Emotional Learning. This includes talking about Dr. Hallberg’s career working to address school climate issues for disproportionately affected students as well as work that addresses ways to help students feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe.



[Intro music plays]

You're listening to Priority X on CDE Ed Talks


Jacquelyn Ollison: Welcome to Priority X, a podcast that focuses on supports, strategies, and resources for Local Control Funding Formula priorities. My name is Jacqueline Ollison and I'm an Education Administrator here at the CDE. When we last met, we talked about Priority Six: School Climate. Today we are continuing this conversation with a very special guest whose background and career includes working to address school climate issues for disproportionately affected students as well as work that addresses ways to help students feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe.

As a reminder, here is a definition of school climate that the CDE School Conditions and Climate Workgroup came up with a few years back: “School conditions and climate’ refers to the character and quality of school life—this includes the values, expectations interpersonal relationships, materials and resources, supports, physical environment, and practices that foster a welcoming, inclusive, and academically challenging environment. Positive school conditions and climate ensure people in the school community, students, staff, family, feels socially, emotionally and physically safe, supported, connected to the school, and engaged in learning and teaching.”

You can see the workgroup’s recommendations in the full report available on the California Department of Education website.

Here is CDE’s take on Social Emotional Learning: “Social and Emotional Learning, or SEL, reflects the critical role of positive relationships and emotional connections in the learning process, and it helps students develop a range of skills they need for school and life. SEL skills include the ability to set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and understand and manage emotions.”

With that, I'd like to introduce Dr. Laura Hallberg. She spent almost 25 years in education, beginning as a high school German and history teacher. In 2001, she became the founder and program coordinator of the California Partnership Academy, the Careers in Education Academy, recognized statewide as both a Distinguished Academy and a Lighthouse Academy for success with students. Dr. Hallberg has also been a school district administrator, school site administrator, and is currently a professor at the University of the Pacific in their School of Education. So welcome.

Dr. Hallberg: Thank you. Thank you very much.

Jacquelyn: Thank you for coming today, we really appreciate you coming today. So just to kind of help everyone get familiar with who you are and what you do, tell us a little bit about yourself and about your background.

Dr. Hallberg: Sure, so I've always want to be a teacher. I wanted to be a teacher since I was five, so that was the only thing that I ever really had on my mind, about what I was going to do with my life in my career. And like you said I started as a German teacher. I wanted to be a language teacher, and realized that I wasn't a very good German teacher. It's one of those things where it came naturally. I was fascinated with the language and the culture, the history. But I just wasn't really good at like teaching it. So I thought well maybe I shouldn’t even be a teacher. Maybe this is just the wrong career choice.

And the opportunity to start this California Partnership Academy came along and they said what we really want the academy the focus is on introducing the teaching profession to students. And I jumped at the chance and I thought this this might be it. This might be really where my heart is and so I worked on that and I put together the curriculum, and the team of teachers, and learned how to be sort of a mini administrator and create partnerships and budgets and things like that. And it flourished and I realized this is where I'm supposed to be. This is what I'm supposed to be doing.

And it wasn't so much about the content because most of the students in the program weren't like saying “Yes, I want to be a teacher.” It was they were really looking for something different—a different way to be engaged in this very large comprehensive high school. You know our program was only 150 students. And as the success of the academy grew, strangely enough I’d get criticism for the Academy, sort of a little bit of backlash about it, despite the success that it was having in the community.

Jacquelyn: What kind of backlash?

Dr. Hallberg: A lot of comments like you know, if you know anything about California Partnership Academies, they're required by you know Ed Code to have 50% of the students considered to be “at risk,” disengaged with the regular school program—test scores, grades, attendance, things like that. So we had students who were really struggling in school, and yet we would get comments like well “You get to handpick your students, you have the cream of the crop. Of course things are going well.”

And it was sort of those kinds of comments that led me to realize there's a whole lot more to this teaching thing than content—particularly in high school. And really understanding, because we had sort of as a team made this decision, well we're not gonna focus so much on academic achievement. These students need something else. We're gonna focus on our relationships with these kids. We're gonna focus on the relationships with each other, and that really led to the success of the program. We realized when we put the academics aside, built on the student strengths and emotional and social needs, the academics sort of came along.

And then of course then there was also the criticism, well you know “This is important this is high school, they have to have the grades, they have to do this, or they're never going to get to college, if you don't do these things.” And so a lot of people just didn't take the time to see what we were doing and why we were doing it.

Jacquelyn: They registered judgment before they actually had tried to really understand it.

Dr. Hallberg: Right, and it was sort of seen as this elite place like, “Oh the special teachers get to be in the Academy.” That you know everybody is hand-picked for this— whether you're a teacher or a student.

Jacquelyn: That's something that I think is pretty interesting because I don't typically think of someone saying you can hand pick at-risk students. It’s sort of like an oxymoron or something like that.

Dr. Hallberg: Right it is. Absolutely. And again it was just they saw, you know happy teachers, they saw students who were doing well, they saw you know low discipline problems in our classes, and just thought well, there they must be just cherry picking the perfect student and not realizing the amount of energy and time we were putting into just their well-being. And that was creating those you know that success for us.

Jacquelyn: That's amazing. I mean I think it's interesting like people kind of from the outside they just see you know what's on the surface. They don't see all that goes on behind the scenes. But to have a school where you have over 50%, I'm imagining, at-risk students, who are thriving academically, socially, and behavior-wise—I think that's an amazing thing and it should be celebrated, right? And so that must have been pretty tough for you.

Dr. Hallberg: It was. It was very difficult and that sort of is what led me to pursue the master's and then my doctorate. It was this idea you know, I know how to do this with students. Like that part came, after a while, came naturally to me. It was just sort of the way that I behaved as a teacher. I sort of think well maybe I need to start having these conversations with adults. Maybe they need to feel the way that I feel and maybe they don't know how to get there. Maybe we don't know what's missing. And so I really started to think well maybe you know as much as the academy and the work I was doing there, I thought maybe moving into higher ed might be the way to start giving adults the experience and the opportunities that I was experiencing in the classroom.

Jacquelyn: We’ve got a change agent here.


So you mentioned you know that you got your doctorate and your masters so obviously you have some research and research-focused areas. And I know that it's focused on identifying ways teachers can use social-emotional learning to support students in the transition from middle school to high school. Interesting age. Can you talk a little bit about how you came to this research topic? Just so you know, I guess—you know I'm inquisitive—and so what I understand about research is that you don't just pick a topic to pick it. There's a personal story. And if you don't mind, can you tell us the juicy tidbits?

Dr. Hallberg: The juicy tidbits, yes.


So I mean it sort of goes along the lines of really feeling the need to reach out to the adults and seeing what needed to be changed there. The topic came about when I moved to the district and I became a member of the equity and disproportionality team. And we were working with six pilot schools at the time really looking at their PBIS [Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports]—you know strategies and plans and things like that. And we had one pilot high school and two pilot middle schools and the pilot high school had the highest dropout rate in the district. Out of six high schools in the district they had the highest dropout rate. And then one of the middle schools was the feeder school, and we were looking at grades and we were looking at all of these disproportionate statistics and factors and things like that.

And all along I thought well, my dissertation topic was going to be something totally different, it's gonna be about teacher recruitment and retention. And my supervisor said we really need to figure out what's going on at this high school. Why does it have such a high dropout rate and what can we do differently? And is there something that's happening as students are moving from the middle school to the high school? So he said work on that. I thought okay I can do that. So you know I did the sort of the typical thing—like gathered all the reports, looked at all the discipline. Got all the data, and was analyzing all this data and looking at what grades are and attendance that they have in the eighth grade. What's happening in the ninth grade? What are all these statistics telling me? And I thought.

And then my dissertation chair said “that seems like a really good topic and it seems like if you're embedded in this work and you're passionate about this work. Why not turn this into your dissertation?”

I thought, well if I already have to do the work. I mean that was all I was focused on. I wanted to just figure out what the heck is going on. And so much of the research and this came out sort of in this process. We looked at the transition from elementary school to middle school because it's such a shift from one teacher to six teachers, right? We look at the shift from high school to college—this you know, becoming an adult now kind of thing. And we don't really pay attention to what happens to students when they move from middle school to high school. And we say, well the structure is the same. They have you know six, seven classes in middle school. It’s the same in high school. They're used to moving around. They're used to all these things. Why do we even have to talk about this?

And then as I continued to explore it, I was like there's this huge gap. Like teachers for middle school don't talk to the teachers of the high school. There's not this you know, in Special Ed, we do these transition meetings right when we move one case to the next school. But we don't do that for just students in general, and really get the sense of who are they? And who's coming to us? And so I was like okay well we've got these programs and you know we've got these things. And my boss said think of some programs we can do. What can we really do? And I said well what about a summer bridge? What if we built the Summer Bridge Program and what if that Summer Bridge Program wasn't about academics, but it was really about connecting students to teachers and the campus.

He said, “Interesting idea. Work on that and get back to me.”

So I created this this program where students would come in and we took sort of, we looked at like the eighth grade class, and said anybody who's below a 2.5, we’re inviting into this camp for this for Summer Bridge. And we're gonna ask teachers from the high school to be the teachers. And we're gonna get high school students who want to be paid have a job and be mentors in the classroom.

So this wonderful Summer Bridge was like 75 students and they took a math class, an English class and then what we called an elective class. And for three weeks they were there and I told the teachers you do whatever you want. If you want to focus on writing poetry—great. If you want to focus on grammar—great. In math class, whatever it is you want. But your job number one is to build these relationships with students and really make them feel connected to you and the campus and each other. And we held it on the high school campus. And then the elective, we did like a sports week, and we did a week of leadership.

We brought a leadership teacher in to do leadership. And typically these aren't the students that would ever think of being in leadership. But she said, “I got this.”

We had a week of arts. We did ceramics and then we took them to you know, on field trips every Friday. And it was this amazing experience for the students and then for the teachers. And as I'm like putting this all together for my dissertation, my chair came back and said “What if you didn't focus on the students’ achievement and the students’ social emotional supports? What if you looked at the teachers? Because nobody is talking about what it is about those teachers that make these students feel connected, and feel worthy, and feel valued.”

And we created this, like you're invited to this to this experience, you know? And we're gonna do all these wonderful things for you. And she said “Nobody's ever talking about what the adults need. Why don't you focus on that?”

And it was sort of like there was this this lightning moment for me and I was like, you're right, we don't—particularly in schools. I think you know, and we say this all the time and I was thinking about this earlier: When we're in a job, we leave if we don't feel valued, right? We leave if we don't feel like our voices are heard. But that same sort of feeling isn't the same in a school. It's always sort of like a sacrifice for the students. And administration even treats teachers like: “Your job is just to get the students through this. Your job is, if you need to work 14 hours a day, that's what needs to happen. If you need to focus on tests, that needs to happen.”

Jacquelyn: Kind of like, almost like, I hear what you're saying. It's like teaching is you know, it's not a very high-pay profession, although I think people should be paid much, much more money than they have or are receiving. But, it's you know it's like a calling—something that you come to do because you want to support and you want to give back. And I do find that is in almost every teacher’s nature to just want to go above and beyond, right? And I think that because we're willing to do that even without all the financial backing, you do it anyway because you care. Sometimes that caring can you know eventually, I don't know if taken advantage of is the right word, but it just becomes expected that we're going to do that. And it takes a toll on the adults, right? And you know how they feel and I think it's interesting that you're talking about: What if we look at the growth of the adults? And so if you're talking about social-emotional learning a little then you're also talking about adult social emotional learning. And I'm curious to know: What were some of your findings? Like what did you find out when you started focusing on the adults?

Dr. Hallberg: It was interesting and I got this question a lot because I chose for the Summer Bridge, I chose the teachers that I knew put students’ relationships at a priority. And so I really, it was an instinctual thing, this is just the way that they operated as educators. And so I really wanted them to identify what made them different? And they just started to see that you know, I got them to I think eventually, articulate this idea that if they don't know their students, why in the world are they going to learn from them? If they don't have those relationships, what difference does it make if you teach math or English or science or whatever it is? I had teachers tell me you know that they have students who come to class every day despite overwhelming odds and not because they were so excited to learn math, but because they knew that a teacher wanted to see them. And so you know these teachers kept those kinds of things in their head that this is what matters. This is what it means.

And they really saw the importance of that. And then you know the other thing that I sort of realized is that these were also teachers that made their relationships with each other a priority. These were teachers who realized it was important to be colleagues in every sense of the word, friends—to socialize together, to you know, to do things outside of school together. And so this group that happened to be in the in the Summer Bridge Program were my friends as well. They were my colleagues as well. And they were friends amongst each other.

And so they despite you know anything that—you know it wasn't the administration saying “we’re going to do team building, we’re going to do community [developing].” It was this decision that they made amongst themselves. And so they really saw value in in those social emotional connections with one another, which helped them also realize the importance of that with their students. That it you it wasn't they weren't teaching math, they were teaching students about math, right?

And so it was this amazing thing. And the other thing I realized is that the more they focused on the relationships, the better they saw themselves as educators. The more that they saw their effectiveness as a teacher. And their self-efficacy really grew. So when they don't focus on academics, the academics happens.

Jacquelyn: Which is counterintuitive, right? t I think in all the training that I know I've ever had when I was a new teacher, and you I'm sure the same. You know you really focus on a lot of pedagogy and instructional delivery and methodologies. Which I think it's good, we need to know that. But you're right. There are students. We’re teaching students right? Not a subject, necessarily.  But you said you picked teachers right, that you know, who already kind of had that kind of competency or skill set that lent themselves to be able to better connect. But I don't think that it comes natural to other people, or to everyone, and that's is totally fine. But I think when we're talking about things like this, one of the things that people always want to know are, “Well I want to do that, but I don't know how to do that.”

Do you have any concrete strategies, tips, techniques, that you can think about that will help teachers be able to connect in that way?

Dr. Hallberg: You know that I think the biggest thing is to simply relax and be yourself. You know, when I first started teaching I thought well, I have to be a certain way. I have to be rigid. I have to be assertive. I have to hold the rules you know? Be strict for these students, otherwise they're never gonna learn. And I thought this makes me really uncomfortable. And I don't like that about myself. And I don't like feeling forced to be that way.

And you hear that from administrators all the time. That they’ve got to follow the rules and you know, you've got to take the cell phone as soon as you see it. They've got to be in classes you know, in their seat when the bell rings. And I thought well, they're human beings you know. And I tried all that, and it just didn't sit well with me. And I relaxed and I just started to talk to kids and that's often what I tell new teachers is: Just talk to them. Just find out who they are. Care about what happened over the weekend. If you know they like soccer, ask about the soccer game. If you know that they're on the football team, ask about the game, you know?

It's really easy just to have those conversations. And then you know, the other side of it is teachers often say, “I don’t have time for that. I don’t have time for all that stuff.”

But if you have time to stop and discipline a student, if you have time to stop and you know send a student out, you have time to have a conversation. You have time to say “hello” and to ask how they're doing. And there were times that I had to simply let go of lesson plans some days because they just needed to talk, because they just needed me to be there. And I'm a big fan of Brené Brown and you know and her idea about vulnerability, which is you know, show up and be seen. And if we want students to show up, well then we have to do the same for them. We have be vulnerable for them. We have to let them see that we're humans. We're not math teachers. We're not English teachers. We are people who teach students about math and English, and whatever it might be, and put them first. And it's very simple. Like I say all the time, it's really simple to have a conversation, to enjoy who they are, you know?

Jacquelyn: Yeah I think so. I do know. I mean I think um one of the reasons why I became an educator, besides you know just loving to learn, was because of the teachers that I had. And I just loved them. I would stay after school, I'd help them, anything I could. And I just wanted to do that, because it gave me such a great start for my life. I don't think that I would be anywhere near where I am without right without the teachers. And you know I think about, you mentioned quite a bit about certain stances and certain feelings that we have about teaching, teachers or administrators. But what I find about school climate, and even in my own research, what I found is that school climate encompasses everyone. You know you have your teachers, your students, you have your parents, but it also includes administrators. And that maybe your research was specifically focused on teachers, but I figure the strategies—it would be just as applicable for administrators and that administrators should connect. Which I imagine you were, because you said you were at the district, which means you were a district administrator working on this, that it's still applicable there.

Dr. Hallberg. Absolutely, yeah and I say often and I don't mean this in any sort of bragging way, but I pride myself on the ability to build relationships and to connect with people. And to want to know who they are. And I think that serves me well as an educator and in every decision I've made about my career. And again it goes back to it's really not that hard. It's not that hard to ask how your day is going. It's not that hard to you know take a staff meeting and say we're just we're just gonna chat. We're just gonna have you know, some snacks, and we're gonna chat about your day. And yes we have things to do, but it's more important to do this piece also. And it's, I don't mean to make this flippant, but it's really easy just to make people feel like you care about their well-being.

And I would tell administrators—and particularly when I was doing this work—I would tell administrators well: What if you have a staff meeting where you know they just get to talk about their day? They don't have to talk about you know test scores and benchmarks and PLCs and all that. What if they just came into this space and said “What we need is, we’re going to decompress.”

And you know of course the response is “well there's so many things to do.” Yes, but in order to do those things you have to feel like they're valued.

Jacquelyn: Right, not only just feeling valued but I typically find—you mentioned Brené Brown and you know vulnerability. But to be vulnerable it means you're seeing someone. And when you're an educator, administrator, or a teacher, there's so many things that you're responsible for and sometimes students have experiences that are trying—you know heartbreaking. Sometimes you've gone through a day that's just, you know, nobody should experience. And typically those days happen every single day. And so what you're talking about is prior to any kind of meeting where we're engaging in work, if you give people a chance to kind of show you where they're at—you know what's happening with them—maybe they can let that go, and can set that aside after they got it out. They could focus on the work. It does seem simple and all of the things that you're saying all the reasons that people give about why they don't do it—whether it makes sense to them. Perception—if that's a perception to them, then it's real. And we have to honor that.

But I also think about what it is bringing up for me is that when you first start teaching the classroom, you spend the first few weeks kind of putting your systems in place, right? People who don't do that just kind of jump right in, and you regret it a little bit later on because now the students don't have a better understanding of how the structure of the class works and how it flows I figure what you're saying, it seems to me like it's a little bit like that. If you take the time to do this now, then what you're looking for and what you will see will come. Does that make sense?

Dr. Hallberg: Absolutely. Yeah you have this sort of, this front-loading idea of, you know, build that piece in first. I would spend the first week or so of classes saying, we're not we're not even going to touch the syllabus, not going to talk about content, nothing. We’re going to get to know each other. We're gonna do these activities to really get to know each other. And in the Academy it was a priority. We would do team-building days. We would do these different activities throughout the year and come back to it. We would give students leadership opportunities to really put them in the forefront of this. This is yours. You get to build this. And I think teachers need the same thing. I think administrators need to say to teachers: I'm not in charge of the school. I'm not the one making all the decisions. This is us. This is deciding how we want to behave, and how we want to interact.

The high school that I taught at for a very long time instituted what they called the Week of Welcome. And so the first week for the whole school was nothing but team-building. Getting to know the school, motivational speakers, and those kinds of things. And different opportunities for students to really just feel like this was their space. And it worked. It really did work for many years, you know. Things happened and I don't think that they do it anymore, just because of circumstances, but the years where—and it’s sort of a vicious cycle. The teachers who were putting this on felt like the administration really valued this, so the teachers were motivated to carry this out for the school. When the teachers stopped feeling like the administration really wanted this to happen and be successful, the teachers sort of said, well then I don’t want to do this anymore. So you can see you know, that very clear cycle of needing to be valued and needing to be heard and needing to feel like this is more than just running a school. This is about being here for each other.

And I even try to do that even now in my in my own classes. And you know teaching adults and working at the doctoral level you know. I'm like this is about you and I, doing learning. This is not about me being Dr. Hallberg and telling you all that the things you need to know.

Jacquelyn: You make me think of Paulo Freire and the banking transaction. This is not just depositing information. This is a two-way conversation and you're involved together. I mean it's just beautiful and I'm actually getting the chills as you’re talking. Because I think one of the things that really excites me about education, and what I've always loved, are the things that you're talking about: These are people with really big hearts, doing really amazing things for our most needy population, kids. And whatever we can do to support them, or value them, then we need to do that. So I just think that’s really great.

But you said, I have to say this is the other side of me, that’s saying, “okay?” Well you said it worked. Okay, alright. Well I need you to tell me how you know. What evidence, what data do you have that showed that it worked? What would be some examples, like maybe you can talk about your academy or your bridge program?

Dr. Hallberg: I think, I mean for me personally seeing this academy that I started back in 2001 is still going strong. And to see the students who continue to flourish because of those experiences. Not all of them chose a career in education and that doesn't matter to me. These are students who still, you know are 30 years old, 35 years old, who are saying: “I still look back and that mattered to me. The best thing about high school was being in the Academy. The best thing about high school were those teachers in the Academy.”

And the friendships that they continue to have, and people saying: “I would have never been friends with so-and-so had it not been for the academy but that's my best friend.”

You know, students who come back to me year after year still, who are married and have children, all these things, and say: “This really mattered to me.”

I have a student now—well I have a friend now, who was my student as a sophomore, so 15 years old. I still am in touch with her. I still, I'm trying desperately to get her enrolled in our new doctoral program, because I'm like, this is you. She texted me and she said, “I can't believe after all these years you still look out for me.”

And you know she sends me pictures of her baby and things like that. And I'm like: That's why all this matters. That's why this means something. Because graduation didn't come and that relationship was over. These are people who still want to be in my life and that I want in my life. Another student was my daughter's first boss when she got a job. So it's like, you see these cycles of relationships that happen. And I had another really good example and I couldn't remember.

So I do have one and this one is super powerful and I use this example all the time. I had a student who was just—I thought: “I'm never gonna get this kid. I'm never gonna reach him.”

He was not involved in gangs but friends with gang members. And you know he'd sit in the back of the class and just be like, “You know I don’t want to do this. This is not me.”

And I said “well maybe this isn't the program for you, you know?”

And then he said “But I want to play soccer. And I don’t have the grades to play soccer, but I want to play soccer.”

I said “Well if you redo all of your tests, and we pass, you know I'll bump you up so you can play soccer.”

Every other teacher was like “I'm not doing anything for that kid” and I did. And he was able to play soccer and that changed everything for him. And he came to class and started to participate.

And then something terrible happened. He witnessed a murder. And the principal said “I don't want this kid here.”

I said “He didn't do anything. He's the witnesses.”

And he was like “Well, but he knows these gang members, and they could come after him. And they could be here.”

And I worked very hard to keep him there and ultimately I couldn't. But you know he said to me before he left, he said: “You've always had my back and because of that I will always have your back.”

And so I hold that and I keep that story because it reminds me of why I do things. That nobody would look at him and say “Yeah, that's a kid that's going to be successful” or whatever. But that's a kid who has my back. Okay? And that matters and he knows that that I was always there for him you know, no matter what. And so that to me there, I don't think there's any other evidence than that—than somebody saying I've got your back, you know?

So, yeah those, those are the things that keep me going.

Jacquelyn: And we definitely need those things when we are working in education. So, you know, we always want to make sure that we point people to resources—things that they can use to kind of focus on the type of work that you were just describing: connections, relationship building, the social-emotional [resources], you know the, yeah, establishing those relationships that help students thrive. So, do you have any suggestions on great resources people can utilize? And I'd also like you to tell everyone the title of your dissertation because it sounds fascinating.

Dr. Hallberg: Oh my gosh, I don't even know if I can remember the title of it. You probably have it somewhere. It's a long one.

Jacquelyn: It's something around [holds up piece of paper]. That may not be the title, but that's something like it right?

Dr. Hallberg: Yes, social and emotional learning. I think it’s something like “Teachers’ Awareness of Their Social and Emotional Learning in the Transition to High School.” So, yeah I really like the work that that Wayne Hoy has done. He's out of Ohio State. And he talks a lot about the difference between academic optimism and academic rigor, and really this belief that students can do it. And not just the belief that students can be successful, but we as the adults are the ones who—who are poised to get them there.

So it's this twofold about meeting social emotional needs of the students, but also the self-efficacy of teachers. And so I really love this idea that he has: that it's not just about holding students to high standards, because we can and still meet their emotional needs. But it's really believing in them first, and the academic piece that achievement comes after that, and because of that.

So I love that and I use that a lot. You know, that it has to be, we have to be optimistic. We can't just say like “You will succeed, you will pass,” but really like “I believe in you, you know? I believe you have the skills and I believe I can help you get there.”

And the other great resource is the new CASEL—you know the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning—website, that has done a lot around developing standards for social-emotional learning. Which sort of bothers me that we have that standards for social-emotional learning, because I believe it just should be what we do and how we do it. Why should we have standards? But…

Jacquelyn: You got to give people something to help people get there.

Dr. Hallberg: Yeah absolutely. And this particular website, this collaborative, you know has tools for the district, has tools for schools. They have assessments, you know around your school climates. And even something as simple as like the PBIS assessments tool.

Jacquelyn: Can you can you just briefly explain PBIS? I know you said that a couple times but I think it will be helpful for the audience.

Dr. Hallberg: Absolutely. So Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports—it’s a way to really sort of reward the students who are doing the right things, in order to encourage others. You know rather than being punitive, it's rewarding. And so there's actually an assessment to, you know when schools have implemented PBIS strategies, there's an assessment tool that you can use to talk to students and teachers and administrators about: Are we at really on the same page about what this means?

Because I think first and foremost is sharing the same language around social-emotional learning, and sharing that same language around those expectations for each other and for students.

Jacquelyn: Well I think those are, I mean those are great resources. As a matter of fact California was a partner and participated in CASEL, and some of the things that they've done. And I want you I want to point you all to the California Department of Education’s website. You can type in “social-emotional learning” and it will bring you to—we just released a learning guide to resources and supports. It's called Social and Emotional Learning in California: A Guide to Resources and Supports. The California Department of Education, you know, has provided that focus on SEL, and have all these different links and write-ups of different strategies and information. One of my favorite things that the CDE team who participated in CASEL did was to create California's Social-Emotional Learning Guiding Principles. You’ve seen them, yes?

Dr. Hallberg: Yes I have, they’re great.

Jacquelyn: I was going to ask you. Can you tell me what you think about them?

Dr: Hallberg: I think they are—they're comprehensive and they’re concise. I think they really look at all the ways that we need to meet social-emotional learning. It's not just as a teacher, what do we do for students, but really what are we doing with our community? What are we doing with our parents? And how are we empowering parents to participate? And honoring whatever it is that they bring to the table. And I think that's so important, and that's why I particularly appreciate the commitment to equity principle that is there. I mean equity is at the forefront of everything that I do and think about and believe as an educator.

And I don't think that we can really meet social emotional needs of students unless we’re authentic about who we are, and what we know, and what we want to know about our students. And express that to them. And be honest with ourselves, you know? What biases do we hold? What preconceived notions and assumptions do we sometimes make about students, or our colleagues, or our schools, or whatever it might be?

Because when we do that, we can do as Brené Brown says: Show up authentically and show up and be vulnerable when we're clear about who we are. And that's what it means you know to be committed to equity.

Jacquelyn: Wow, Dr. Hallberg, this has been amazing. And I’m just so glad that California students, young and old, have the benefit of your expertise. And yeah, I think there's maybe for all of you listening, you can join the California Department of Education social-emotional learning listserv. And you'll get updates on the different types of resources and efforts that we're engaging in. So feel free to just go to the California Department of Ed and just type in SEL and it will all pop up for you.

But um I guess the only other thing I would want to say is that you said you transitioned to higher ed. So you're training teachers to be like you, or what does that mean? What are you doing?

Dr. Hallberg: What am I doing? [Laughs ] So I am starting a new program at [University of the] Pacific called the Transformative Action in Education Doctoral Program. So the program is focused particularly on K-12 public education, charter schools, including nonprofits—people who really see the inequities in the system and want to disrupt those systems. How do we recognize what's going wrong or what's not working? And how do we reform that so that students get the best possible opportunities and that we're poised as educators to really provide those opportunities for students? So it's a little bit of a subversive kind of program where we're really trying to push the envelope and challenge.

Jacquelyn: The status quo.

Dr. Hallberg: Yeah, the status quo. And start to say like, “We know this isn't working and how do we do this differently?” So our first cohort will begin in the fall, so we’re really excited about you know hopefully making some radical change in our systems. And just really giving people voice, you know, to speak up and speak out and say “This needs to change.”

Jacquelyn: And then as a result, create some amazing research or projects or things that actually do just that.

Dr. Hallberg: Absolutely, yeah. It’s exciting.

Jacquelyn: Well, this has been an absolute joy and pleasure. Thank you so much for coming.

Dr. Hallberg: Thank you for having me.

Jacquelyn: One thing I want to ask. If people want to reach out to you, can they do that? Is there a way that we can like connect people with you or give them a way to get in contact with you?

Dr. Hallberg: Sure, you can always find me on the UOP the University of the Pacific website at Benerd's School of Education website. But anybody can email me at

Jacquelyn: You've heard it there folks, I believe it’s worth it. Reach out.

Dr. Hallberg: Thank you.

Jacquelyn: Have a wonderful day. Thank you.


Jacquelyn: You're listening to priority X on CDE Ed Talks.


[End of Podcast Episode 3]

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Last Reviewed: Friday, October 02, 2020
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