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EMPOWER Moves for Social-Emotional Learning
Help Students Live Fulfilling Lives by Bringing Their Values to Their Actions

EMPOWER is an approach to social-emotional learning that—as the name implies—empowers students to do meaningful work, build meaningful relationships, and live meaningful lives by clarifying and committing to their own values.

Learn more about this approach to SEL through any of these workshops:

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Emotional Equity: Empowering All Students to Honor and Learn from Their Feelings

Audience: ADVISORS, teachers, deans, counselors, psychologists, learning specialists, and student life program administrators

“Cheer up.” “Chill out.” “Calm down.” Everyday language is full of expressions that tell us we should control or change how we feel. Even when we say “it’s OK to be sad” or “you have every right to be angry,” we imply that these emotions are allowed but not ideal. Meanwhile, those with marginalized identifiers are often the ones most quickly and frequently told to regulate their emotions so that those with power can stay comfortable.

Emotional equity is when all members of a group  are empowered to notice, name, honor, and learn from their feelings. In this workshop, we’ll explore some of the messages we receive about emotions—and how those messages relate to sociocultural identifiers such as race and gender. Then, we’ll learn a protocol called the Emotions & Values Audit that helps students notice their own emotions, name the values those emotions are connected to, and choose actions in accordance with those values. We’ll explore how to use the protocol in academic classes, advisory groups, parent conferences, and disciplinary incidents, so that all students are empowered to connect their actions to their values, in and out of the classroom.

(90 minutes)

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Visual SEL: ​Image-Making Activities that Help Students Clarify and Commit to Their Values

Audience: ADVISORS, teachers, deans, counselors, psychologists, service providers, and administrators in middle and high school

Social-emotional learning often involves discussion and sometimes writing, but what happens when students visually represent their thoughts, emotions, identities, relationships, and actions? Bring​ing​ images from our minds into the physical world ​helps us more fully understand them and communicate about them with others. ​In making pictures, we can step back from labels and get closer to the ​thing itself, or we can depict our own psychological experience of the thing. When we ​are the ones who create visual images of events in our lives, we have agency over what those events will mean to us. Image-making strategies such as drawing, coloring, graphing, and photographing ​help us relate in new ways to the events in our lives so we can make values-based choices in how we proceed.

In this workshop, discover several ​visual SEL ​​​protocols that ​empower students to​ ​​bring their values to their actions. After learning the protocols by trying them yourself, we will discuss how to use them with students to help clarify and commit to their values​ so they can live more satisfying lives.

(3 hours)

Designing an SEL Curriculum

Audience: anyone involved in SEL, including advisors, teachers, deans, counselors, psychologists, and administrators

The L in SEL is for learning, and that learning happens wherever students have emotional responses and wherever they interact with one another—which is to say, everywhere. An SEL curriculum ensures students learn the habits and skills they need to develop healthy relationships with themselves, others, and their surroundings. But what should that curriculum look like, and how can we create it?

In this workshop, participants will learn how to design a meaningful SEL curriculum. Learn to:

  • Distinguish between responsive SEL that addresses students’ emergent interests and needs, and a planned SEL scope and sequence that proactively determines the most important topics for students to learn

  • Plan an SEL scope and sequence based on essential questions about values

  • Plan an SEL scope and sequence keyed to perennial events and issues

  • Use identity-affirming SEL activities that help students explore their own values and choose how to bring those values to their actions

(90 minutes)​

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Values-Based Relationships with Devices

Audience: ADVISORS, teachers, deans, counselors, psychologists, learning specialists, and student life program administrators

Students often hear that they should limit the time they spend on screens. At school and at home, they might encounter rules about where, when, and how they should use devices—but they don’t always learn how to assess and regulate their own usage based on what’s important to them.

During this workshop, participants will learn how to lead activities that help students discover how using a smartphone, tablet, or other electronic device can both support and interfere with values-consistent living. The activities are useful as part of a health or advisory curriculum, during a technology awareness campaign, or as part of a unit that explores the role of technology in society.

After learning the activities by trying them ourselves, we will reflect on the process and discuss how to use it with students.

(2 hours)

Playing with Values: ​Gamifying SEL

Audience: ADVISORS, teachers, deans, counselors, psychologists, and administrators in middle and high school

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Living in accordance with personal values is an important part of wellbeing. In this workshop, participants will learn to use the “Values and Questions” card decks, which invite students into conversations about the values they want to enact in school and beyond. The cards create a playful context in which students can notice new possibilities for how to approach their learning, work, and relationships. The games also help students open up, connect with peers and adults, and move past conflict.

We’ll spend most of our time exploring the cards themselves as well as the psychological science behind how they work. We’ll also discuss how we might use game-like activities in advisory, counseling, family conferences, and disciplinary settings to encourage values exploration and social connection.

(1 hour)

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Teaching Students to Lead and Co-Lead with Their Values

Audience: teachers, coaches, directors, advisors, and administrators who work with student-leaders

Many schools strive to cultivate students’ leadership potential. How can we guide students to grow into the leaders they want to be, find vitality in leading, and benefit their communities through their leadership? 

This highly practical workshop introduces activities educators can use with student-leaders to help them clarify and commit to the values they want to bring to their leadership roles. Through the activities, students learn how to:

  • use their emotions to help them identify actions they want to take as leaders

  • work past defining leadership as control; redefine leadership as inspiring positive action and supporting people who strive to become their best selves

  • overcome mental barriers to taking on a leadership role or responsibility

  • bring their deepest values and greatest strengths to their leadership roles

  • appreciate how their strengths complement a co-leader’s to benefit the group or work they’re leading together

After learning the activities by trying them ourselves, we will reflect on the process and discuss how to use it with students.

(3 hours)

SEL as Pedagogy

Audience: TEACHERS of all subjects and grade levels, department chairs, academic administrators 

Most SEL programs offer a curriculum: a course of study through which students learn habits and skills they need to achieve social and emotional wellness. The program might script the curriculum, or it might provide guidelines teachers can use to develop a curriculum themselves. The curriculum might be planned in advance, or it might be responsive to student needs as they emerge. The curriculum might be delivered during a dedicated SEL block, or it might occur in brief interludes throughout the school day.

Schools need an SEL curriculum to ensure students understand how to maintain their own wellbeing. However, if we only deliver SEL as its own curriculum, we provide few opportunities for real-world application. We also send the implicit message that social-emotional learning is unrelated to other endeavors at school—when in fact, everything students do is an opportunity for them to learn about who they are and how they want to live.

This workshop is about how, in addition to being a curriculum, SEL can be a pedagogy: a way of designing academic instruction such that every lesson and assignment becomes an opportunity for students to discover and develop the values they want to live by. Participants will explore tools and strategies that empower students to:

  • understand their own values—the qualities they want to bring to their own actions and to the relationships and systems in which they participate

  • bring those values to their academic learning, work, and relationships

  • accept the discomfort inherent in choosing to live by their values at school

(90 minutes)​

Related Resources:

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