Fostering Social and Emotional Learning One Day at a Time

Today's blog was written by Milwaukee Public Schools psychologist Dr. Kim Gulbrandson.

Milwaukee Public Schools Violence Prevention Team

Since I have been adding a lot of posts and comments to the Community lately, I thought it might be nice to tell you a little more about my background and my team’s efforts to promote integrated, evidence-based social-emotional learning in Milwaukee Public Schools.

The Violence Prevention Program (VPP) was started in 1990. At the time, the program supported district-wide implementation of the Second Step program. We now have seven people (five full-time and two part-time) who come from a range of backgrounds, including teaching, counseling, and psychology. Our role has evolved to support SEL in a more comprehensive way.  The team also works with more programs now: Committee for Children’s Woven Word, Second Step and Steps to Respect programs, and an internally created (and researched) conflict resolution program. We help staff with schoolwide implementation of SEL programs, train staff, organize and support program evaluation by helping with data collection, and provide ongoing assistance with program implementation (this may include meeting with staff or administrators, program implementation support, offering booster trainings and “make and take sessions”, securing more materials for classrooms, and so forth).

Aside from these acitivities, the VPP also works on larger scale initiatives to promote SEL. We consulted with the state on guidelines for the anti-bullying policy, helped create the district anti-bullying policy, and offer parent and community workshops on bullying prevention. We also collaborate with district leaders from various departments to advance SEL in the district. For example, we worked with a team of people to infuse evidence-based SEL programs into the climate and wellness sections of our School Improvement Plans. The VPP also works with community organizations to support grants and connect efforts to improve resources for our 87,000 students.

We also use an evidence-based classroom management program (COMP: Classroom Organization and Management Program) to help staff create a positive learning environment. Staff often report difficulties implementing SEL programs because students are off task, unengaged, or disruptive. The COMP program helps minimize management issues and foster an environment that supports not only SEL instruction, but academic instruction as well.

Do you have structures within your district that help to support and promote district-wide SEL? If so, what do they look like?