Integrating SEL - KIPP Chicago Public Schools

The Whole Child Review Issue No. 8, January 2022

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Integrating SEL

RULER anime after school club

A KIPP Bloom College Prep student approached Susie Johnson, School Social Worker, and asked her to create an anime after-school club. Without knowing much about anime, but knowing a lot about RULER, Ms. Johnson, KIPP Bloom social worker and SEL Chair, combined anime and RULER to create Anime & Me club. This club is for everyone, anime experts and those who are still trying to figure out the craze around Japanese storytelling. The goal of Anime & Me club is to focus on how students’ favorite characters rise or fall in the face of hardships and challenges. It focuses on the strategies these characters use to stand in the best version of themselves.

Anime & Me club has 3 goals: celebrating students’ love for Manga and Anime, creating a safe space for students to explore their own version of their best self, and having fun. The main tenets of RULER used in this club are: creating a class charter, using the mood meter, and engaging in best self activities and discussions, all while using Anime as the guiding subject matter. We can’t wait to see the final art pieces that come from this incredible club!

“Anime club is a cool place because it makes me feel more relaxed and less stressed. It is a place where I have a lot of friends which helps me feel better.” 6th grade student

“I like talking about our feelings because if someone is sad, we always find ways to cheer each other up” 6th grade student

“Feelings and anime go together because we relate to the characters and what they go through. Helps me feel better about what I go through” 6th grade student.

SEL Chair Features: KIPP One Primary’s Colin Sallee and KIPP Ascend Primary’s April Hudson

We’re so excited to highlight the SEL leaders who are transforming school culture. We’re grateful for Colin and April’s dedication to helping students learn emotional awareness and expression!

Colin Sallee has been with KIPP One Primary for 4 years and he is a bright light, steady, full of positivity and joy. Students and teachers both love working with Mr. Sallee.

Colin Sallee

Tell us a bit about yourself

I really struggle to write about myself. Seriously. I started writing this on Friday afternoon with full intentions of completing it. It’s now Monday morning, the writer’s block is very real. I guess I can tell you that I’ve always been a part of a team. Growing up, in all sorts of sports, clubs, family dynamics, etc. – I always felt like I had a role on a team. That foundation sort of translates across all facets of my life. The dynamic of the school naturally meshes with who I am. I played college baseball, and coached throughout most of it when I found the time. The ages ranged from 8-18, and I dealt with all sorts of people and parents. I’ve had the same friends since high school, and we treat each other like teammates. I love music, our students, my wife, golf, our pets, literature, leggos, challenges – in no particular order. I’m not a traditionally trained teacher, as I earned my degree from DePaul University in the School of Journalism.

Tell us about your KIPP journey (when did you start, what position, your kids in KIPP, where you are now with KIPP, etc.…)

I started with KIPP as a co-teacher in kinder, after serving as an in-house sub for a year at a school in Winnetka, IL. I was a novice (still am to a large degree). After 3 months in kindergarten, and some needs at the second grade level, I shifted upstairs and began pulling small group work using our MTSS Programming – both 1st and 2nd graders. The following year, I would assume the role of lead teacher at the first grade level. In 2020-21, I would loop with that cohort and become a lead 2nd grade teacher. When the role of SEL chair became an option for me as I entered year 4, it was a no-brainer.

As SEL chair for KIPP One Primary (lower and upper school), what ideas, programs, teaching are you most excited to bring students?

I think about these things a lot – and honestly my ideas and experiences are very fluid. I adjust to what it feels like we need. Mainly, the ideas I operate with are surrounding consistent emphasis on communication skills and emotional awareness. I want students to understand the power of relationship building and trust. That’s really where the cornerstone of our work lives. From there, ideas of empathy, curiosity, and self-esteem are what we try to foster and encourage. Using circle work, consistent team building, and authentic communication, we do our best to achieve/live out these ideas.

What do you believe is needed for a student to thrive in a KIPP school, from an SEL perspective?

A student will thrive if they understand that they are seen and heard by adults. Students who know that an educator will empathise with them and walk in their shoes are the ones we see thrive and grow into powerful members of their respective families/communities. If a student trusts that their teacher can meet them halfway and then some, they will be more inclined to find success.

Tell us a bit about your own journey and how that informs your work as an SEL chair?

As an athlete, you just become comfortable with failure and you start to realize that you have to be realistic with yourself, while also striving for more. This is a constant learning process. It will exist my entire time on this earth. I operate in a space of the present. I rely largely on instincts. I try not to think too much as I move throughout the school. That is not to say I just operate randomly – I reflect a lot on experiences and information. I actively listen, ask questions, and process. I prepare myself while I’m away from school, so that I can be prepared for all scenarios within the school. I’m ok with taking risks, remaining true, and failing.

April Hudson is a KIPP teacher and a KIPP parent who has also been with us for 4 years. Ms. Hudson has been a leader at KAP from day one, ensuring there are opportunities for students to be “exposed to the rich culture in which they have come from and live in daily.”

April Hudson

Tell us a bit about yourself

Hello, I am April Hudson. I was born and raised on the West Side of Chicago. I am a mother of 2 beautiful girls. Not only am I a KIPP teacher, I am a KIPP parent.
I have a not-for-profit organization, Devine and Conquer. Our goal is to assist Chicago youth and their families with resources, teach financial literacy, and coping skills. Teaching is my passion.

Tell us about your KIPP journey

I began my work at KIPP in Fall of 2017 as a Kindergarten co-teacher. Since then, I have become lead teacher in Kindergarten, acted as festival coordinator for the grade level, and chair of Black History committee. It is important for me to ensure that the children in our building are exposed to the rich culture in which they have come from and live in daily. I am now the SEL chair for KAP Lower School.

As SEL chair for KIPP Ascend Primary, Lower School, what ideas, programs, teaching are you most excited to bring students?

I am so excited about our RULER curriculum. We are giving students the language and platform for labeling and expressing their feelings. In just a short time, we have seen students use the RULER lessons in tough situations, where they need to express their emotions. We want to continue to explore the Mood Meter, Classroom Charter and Blue Print Conferences as students grow and develop.

What do you believe is needed for a student to thrive in a KIPP school, from an SEL perspective?

Students need to know that they are entitled to their feelings and should be able to express themselves in an appropriate setting. Students should feel comfortable expressing themselves. It is important for me to create an environment where students are respected for who they are and how they feel. Students need to be exposed to healing practices and be in a trauma-informed environment. Some students have experienced so much trauma in their community. We want our school to be a safe and joyful place for our KIPPsters.

Tell us a bit about your own journey and how that informs your work as an SEL chair?

Being raised by strong African American parents, we were often taught to persevere through hardships and deal with our emotions later. Now that I know better, I want to teach others that we should deal with our emotions head on, in an appropriate manner. We know that research shows that being in touch with our feelings allows us to manage our feelings and be in control. This is what I want to teach children so that they can teach others, even their grown ups.

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