Transcript: #6 Elizabeth Peterson – Social Emotional Artistic Learning, Art in Distance Learning and Teacher Self Care

Ti-Fen: Hello everyone. Welcome to compass teacher show. I’m your host Ti-Fen. Today my guest is Elizabeth Peterson. Elizabeth is an arts integration experts. She founded The Inspired Classroom which provides inspiration to other educators for art integration through informative articles, workshops and professional development opportunities. She’s also the author of two books, Inspired by Listening and Studio Days. Inspired by Listening is a teacher resource book that includes method of music integration she has developed and implemented into her own classroom. And studio days is filled with information and Common Core aligned lesson plans for bringing creativity into the classroom. Elizabeth prides herself in teaching workshops and courses on the integration of the arts into the curriculum and is the host of the annual summer and winter Teacher Art Retreats. She believes there’s a love of acting integrating learning all children and from their enthusiasm, teachers can shape great opportunities to learn.


Ti-Fen: Welcome to our show, Elizabeth. I’m so excited with our conversation today since I am very interested in SEL and it is very important part in education. You have developed SEAL which is an acronym for Social and Emotional Artistic Learning. Before we dive into the topic, I wonder how this music and art come to your life and how does it influence the way you see this world?

Elizabeth: Excellent. Yeah. I’m so excited to have this conversation with you I think it’s so so important and so for me music played a part in my life since I was a little girl. I started piano lessons <noise> and I continued all the way through college and majored in music and it just the entire time whether it was me playing on the piano or learning the or again or you know just listening to the latest pop or rock songs it just always affected me and it really played to my emotions so much throughout my life. I mean. There were times in my life that I would turn to songs and turned to music to you know kind of get my emotions out or to kind of just heighten and emotion of some sort like. You know if I was dating a boy or you know having a good part of my life you know to celebrate so different music has had played a part in different parts of my life. And it was when I was in college that where I decided to not only major in education but also major in music that I started to see how much I could integrate music into what I was doing ultimately doing with my students in the classroom. And so even though I didn’t set out to necessarily be a music teacher, I could see all the great ways that music could play a part in my teaching of all the students. And as I continued my education I kept taking I got my masters in arts in learning and that’s when I started to learn about visual art and poetry and drama and dance and it kind of started to understand how all the arts can really play a part in student learning. And so it just started to you know right from when I started teaching twenty something years ago, I was automatically integrating the arts because they were just so effective for my students.

Ti-Fen: Right. So from my understanding you started to develop social emotional artiste learning SEAL because your district sees a real need for social emotional learning. Your schools. And it’s from my research so correct me if I’m wrong.

Elizabeth: Yes. Yes.

Ti-Fen: Could you tell us why your district started to see the need in our social emotional learning and what do you think it was seen as important now but not like fifty years ago?

Elizabeth: Yeah. I think in the I would say about the last five to seven years. We’ve been seeing a lot more anxiety in students and mental health needs that have been rising that we didn’t see ten fifteen years ago and my district was just one of the hundreds or thousands even across the country that knowing that this was such a something that students who really needed to develop. Started to implement what was coming out and that was the SEL social emotional learning and they started to bring us together for professional development in learning about what that really means. You know. How to teach students to be more self-aware and manage themselves and make good decisions and be a little bit more socially aware and develop relationships with others and for me when they were giving us this professional development every time that they would start a new sentence or start a new topic. It was like obvious to me that everything they’re talking about we can teach and we can learn and develop through the arts and what I love about arts integration and SEAL specifically is that it’s not something that is forced. It’s not contrived. You know. We’re not trying to make things up so that students are developing these skills they actually just naturally develop these skills through the arts. So if a student is creating a piece of artwork they’re developing their self-awareness and they are doing it in a way that is just so natural for them and what our job then becomes with something like SEAL is that as the teacher we can help them to understand that a little bit more with reflection and some guided experiences so that they can start to really understand that the important part that the arts can play and they’re developing a social emotional skills.

Ti-Fen: Yeah. Right. So it seems that SEAL is framed around casel’s SEL wheel which includes five competencies. Like you just mentioned self-awareness, self management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. Could you give us some examples about how to nurture these competencies through arts? Especially social awareness and responsible decision making. Because it is just hard for me to imagine how to teach these things.

Elizabeth: Yes. Absolutely. So for social awareness which is something that’s just becoming more and more important for us to learn about other people and accept our peers understand that we’re all coming from different backgrounds and we all have different cultures and we all have different thoughts and ideas. So I’ll tell you two different ways one will be music and one will be visual art. I’ll start with the visual art because it’s something that teachers just absolutely love in terms of when they’re learning about SEAL. And it’s called friendly Fridays. And what it is is giving students the opportunity to learn about their classmates and appreciate them and create something for them on a consistent basis. So for example my students every week will have friendly Friday time where we are either creating little notes for one another and handing them to our classmates. Or one of my favorite projects that we’ve done is a friendly Friday a. piece of artwork so where the students created their own hands they traced to their hand they designed it the way that they wanted to and then we put it together in a nice collaborative artwork on the wall. And it just looked so amazing because you could see all the different styles and personalities of the students coming out in that so it was just a great visual way to show that we’re all a community. We are all different but we’re all together we’re all together and in the classroom. And another example like with music would be I love listening to music with my students just taking time to listen to a good piece of whether classical music or jazz music or contemporary and then allowing the students to really actively listen to it together and then give their own ideas about it and their own interpretations of it, And what that does for social awareness is it really helps students to see that we all listened to the same piece of music but our interpretations are all different. So you know if we’re listening to a piece of classical music that’s really exciting some students might think it’s a really exciting and some students might think it’s scary and they might see something you know they might be imagining something in their head that actually gives them fear where is another person maybe listening to it and it just gets them all motivated to do something. So it’s a great it’s a great conversation and reflection that have that we all heard the same exact thing and yet we all thought something that was different. And with the responsible decision making. Excuse me. As far as the creative process in general where students are thinking of something to create you know going through the process of creating and revising it and then ultimately finishing and presenting it. That whole creative process is just filled with making responsible decisions from. You know deciding on materials that they wanna use or what art form they want to use. You know if they’re working with people. You know who’s a good partner who is not a good partner what do you know what where are you going to work at that time management is part of a responsible decision making so there’s just so many pieces of that just embedded inside the creative process.

Ti-Fen: I see so that’s really that’s really awesome. So I am curious about what questions that you will usually ask in the examples you mentioned about the hands drawing to make then. Or listening to music to make them to be aware other people’s opinion and respect others perspectives for things.

Elizabeth: Yeah. That’s a good question. Because the reflection is I think one of the key components of anything that you do that has to do with SEAL. Because that’s when all the real learning is going to happen that reflection part. So with you know with the hands or even the the music you know. First of all drawing attention to things that they are so different and then asking them what differences they see. Like in their hands you know someone used markers. Someone used crayon. Why do you think they did that? Someone you know at these colors and someone just use one color and see how how different they are differently they did their hands you know. And then also seeing some similarities you know and the shapes they may have put in there or the words they may have used to describe the music for example. And to also show that not only do we have differences but we also have a lot of similarities and that helps us to you know just have a really unique and fun class of students that we can we can share together. We can have some differences but we can all be together and still be moving in the same direction. And learning from one another/

Ti-Fen: Yeah. That’s really great. So do you have a story that you see a student’s transformation in your SEAL classroom and really touches your hearts the most ? Or the moments that you know it is working.

Elizabeth: Well you know what when you said touch your heart and my mind went to this one instance that happened about five or so years ago where we were doing a a water color painting. And we I believe we had to listen to some music and we were interpreting the music with some water color and putting some emotions to it. And to this one boy he when he started painting he started painting colors and then ultimately a little scene of him and his father and he had such a .. Well, what’s the right word a tough relationship with his father and the the whole process of you know the music and then the water color and then just giving him the opportunity to sit there and really not just think about his father. But like it’s so hard to explain what he may even going through but it’s not just thinking about his father but just kind of like putting it down on paper. It was just it was beautiful to watch him just get all his emotions out on the paper and then be able to talk about it because usually when he would talk about his dad, it was just trying to be so happy about it and kind of almost like faking that their relationship was really good. But when he started talking about his art work he was really able to talk about how much he hurt inside. And how that was really part of his life that he wished he could fix but he knows he can’t. And so that was so eye opening to me to the real power that we can have, And I’m just a classroom teacher you know I’m teaching math and English and social studies during the day. But to be able to give this kid that opportunity to really open up and start to explore his emotions. And he was only ten years old I thought that was so powerful for him and for me to watch it.

Ti-Fen: Right. Right. Yeah. That’s really amazing so that leads to my another question is. so it looks like in this process the kids can express themselves even better and would be a really therapeutic process. So starting from here what would you usually do for the kids that they can take more actions to. Like you said if they have a tough relationship with their parents, what kind of other things they can do to make their relationships better

Elizabeth: Yes. So you know how so there’s two things I think about and one is you know he could take that painting home for example and just talk to his mother about it and it could be like a a bridge for him to be able to talk about it with his mom and maybe his dad too. You now but the other thing is is that it’s also a bridge to maybe getting the student in touch with the counselor at school because you know most most teachers that I train that that goes through SEAL teacher training you know their classroom teachers and arts teachers and their not counselors and they’re not art therapists but they know that their students need social emotional development. They know it’s important and they want to do something and they want to be able to provide for that and their classroom so but we can’t be the counselor or the therapist. So it’s it’s a nice way to when you find things out or when you discover things about students. It’s a great way to kind of bridge that gap that the student might actually need in order to if they need to get more assistance. And with most students it’s just good development of skills inside the classroom and you know you just kind of leave it at that and you can see them grow. But for others it can be deeper and we need to know what our resources are as teachers and educators to give those kids the help that they need that’s beyond what we can maybe get them.

Ti-Fen: Right. Yeah. So if a teacher who doesn’t know much about art but still wants to try SEAL. Any actionable advice that you give to them for a head start.

Elizabeth: Yes. Absolutely. Yeah a lot of teachers they hesitate with arts integration in general because they think that they’re not an artist. But that’s really not what matters. Because it’s what I call the arts integration like frame of mind to where it’s not really about you where your comfort level. You just need to be comfortable enough to give the students the opportunities. And so part of that can be I you know teachers can go out and learn some arts integrated strategies and there are some really simple plans that you can start with that you look into you know professional development that’s gonna kind of give you a good head start in the right direction and just give you some basic ideas and as you probably know you know that’s that’s what my focus is to the inspired classroom is providing that professional development for teachers of all levels of skills. Giving them those ideas that they can easily implement in their own classrooms and then you know just go from there. And so you know just starting with what something is that you might enjoy. So for me it was starting with music but for another teacher it could be starting with drawing or starting with sculpture or starting with poetry or storytelling you know whatever the art form is that they might enjoy.

Ti-Fen: That’s really great. So I think teachers in most countries are really constrained by the standardized tests. Let’s say even math teacher tries to cram their students for the upcoming tests but still want to use a without allocating too much time. Is there any other ways they can incorporate SEAL into their classroom?

Elizabeth: Yeah. Absolutely. In fact when I developed SEAL. I wanted to make sure that it was not a program that you had to follow step by step because I think that’s what what there is to much of out there right everyone’s trying to you know hang up SEAL program into their school or into their district and teachers OH Gosh another thing I have to do you know I have to spend thirty minutes a week on this you know. And then it’s it’s something that’s not really not really as effective you know it’s not real it’s not real. Where the arts are real. And so when I designed seal I wanted it first and foremost to be something that teachers could just integrate into what they already do. So I focus a lot on the teacher herself. So the teacher is the where it all comes together. So it’s not about the it’s not necessarily all about the ideas and strategies. It’s really about the teacher and what they’re comfortable wins and how they’re going to like create this atmosphere in their classroom to be safe and caring and creative and just allow for this type of SEAL work in their classroom. So the SEAL teachers that go through SEAL teacher training, the first thing they do is they focus on themselves and what it’s gonna look like in their own classroom because there are a lot a lot of teachers who have to do or are forced to focus on just the content. So and making sure that the students are ready for the tests and so we focus on the teacher first and then we also focus on and strategies that you can just embed right into what you do every day. So simple things that are just become part of your regular curriculum every day but also touch upon art in touch upon social emotional learning as well.

Ti-Fen: Right. Can you give an example in your class in the classroom that you use really little time to integrate art with other subjects.

Elizabeth: Sure. Excuse me. I’ll give you one for drama. So this is an embedded SEAL strategy for drama. And what it is I call it dramatic check ins. And it’s so quick it literally takes five seconds. Right what you do is you know once you’ve completed the lesson or once you’ve talked about a situation or diffuse the situation or whatever it might be in the classroom. You have the kids do a dramatic check and so what that is is they show you with their face how their feelings so if they’re okay they will show you with their face that they’re okay. If they’re not okay or they’re confused it’s almost like putting an emoji on their face acting out the emoji. And you can take this to the next level and they can stand up and do their whole body posture. Or you can take it down a notch like if you’re teaching older kids who are just not gonna do that. They don’t feel comfortable doing that. Or you have students that just aren’t ready for drama in the classroom. You can have it they have them do it on a piece of paper and make the emoji on the paper. And so you know just kind of checking in in a in a way that’s tied to theater and drama to be able to just quickly check in with students and then move on. And maybe even make take note if you know who needs what and then you can move on. And this is also something that you don’t just do once. This is a strategy you can use over and over and over again throughout the year and the more you do it the more comfortable students will actually get which is giving you that dramatic check in with their facial expression.

Ti-Fen: I like that. That’s really that’s really great. So now in the U. S, because of the COVID-19, students are mostly learning remotely. I bet you’ve got lots of questions about distance learning so my question is how a teacher can use SEAL in this setting even with some online tools that you would suggest.

Elizabeth: Yeah. Yes. Definitely in fact in in the seal teacher training course I did a whole bonus unit for everybody because it was just on the top of everybody’s mind about you know how we were gonna do this remotely. And then in the fall how we’re going to do it as well. So so for you know here a couple of things that I’ve been doing with my own class is we still have Friendly Friday. But we do it inside Google classroom so we might instead of sending notes to one person in the class at a time you know we’ll have a a stream of comments where you’re just sending positive feedback positive notes and positive messages to the whole class. And that is also good because not everybody is participating a hundred percent of the time. I also found a couple of really great websites they’re skipping my mind right now but you can just Google online collaborative drawing sites and we spent one friendly Friday just driving together online. And just kinda adding and changing and and just working together on that which is kind of fun. And so there are definite ways to you know remind students about any self management skills that you worked on and just doing it that way it’s definitely an added challenge but totally.

Ti-Fen: Yeah that’s wonderful. So few friends of mine who were teachers before but got out of teaching because it just burnt them out so self care is being advocated a lot in these days. Especially for teachers who would affect their students if they don’t like take care of themselves well. What does your routine for taking care of yourselves even through arts. What like what do you do in the morning if you have a bad night ? What do you do after a frustrating day at school?

Elizabeth: mmhm. Another amazing question. Thats a great Ti-Fen. Because that is such an important part of this SEAL teacher training. So we have three ways or three phases of the training and the first wave like I kind of mentioned already is all about the teacher first and we do focus and on teacher self care. Because our job is so demanding and a very emotional way and so many teachers are burning out. And so one of the things that is suggested in that section of the training is to even just start the day every day with an intention. You know just kinda giving yourself your own positive self talk and being able to you know like when I would go to school. Sometimes I would park my car and just stay there for a moment and say okay this is gonna be a great day I’m going to make sure I touch base with this kid and this kid and make sure that they’re coming into the classroom okay. I’m gonna make sure that you know if someone needs help I’m gonna have a lot of patience. You know almost like giving yourself those reminders of what it really means to be a SEAL teacher because it has to do with being caring. Being make making sure that you’re making connections with your students and then providing for those creative opportunities for your students as well. And so just almost like reminding yourself of that is a really important thing. And as far as you know, after school or at home and just making sure that I can leave school at school and now that we’re remote right now that means closing the school tabs closing the school email at a certain time of the day. And saying okay now I’m done until tomorrow and giving myself that spacing and teachers have. It’s really important that they give themselves that space so that they can just take a mental break from t what might be happening at school and enjoying some of their home life. It’s just so important right.

Ti-Fen: Yeah. So for now do you have any any particular activities that you will do to take care of yourself ?

Elizabeth: For me it’s kind of funny, because I always say you know what are you doing for art. So I have a couple of things. One is a couple years back , for my fortieth birthday, my family got me a drum sets.

Ti-Fen: Wow.

Elizabeth: Something I have wanted since I was a kid. And so on every once in a while I’m able to go on there and play and that’s just really fun it’s just so much fun so that’s like a little outlet for me. Playing the piano here and there is also something that I try and make sure I didn’t get it chance to do. And be very honest as far as being creative right now I love creating new things for the inspiring classroom. And I just love connecting with other teachers for me that suggests so uplifting because it helps me to know that I’m not alone you know. And helping to bring other teachers together is really exciting for me to see that whether it’s on Facebook or what what have you professional development that I organize and I think just going through that whole creative process of creating a workshop or creating a retreat is just really for fulfilling to me. So that’s kind of how I do be creative now it’s kind of fun, I love it.

Ti-Fen: Right that’s very very a great tip. I I believe that’s what teachers can learn from it and let just apply to their life. Especially for these really tough times. So I have just like few questions left. The one question is there any books that influenced you a lot in teaching ?

Elizabeth: Yes. Oh Gosh. I’m so bad at remembering names in booking names so trying to see if I can see them in my yeah right yeah there are some I love this is an old book you know Arts with the brain and mind in music with the brand in mind. I think those are great books oh goodness there are some really good books I think it’s merrily Goldberg who does a fantastic job of talking about arts integration. I even like the book it’s called Yardsticks. It’s also an old book or an older book but it talks about students at different stages in their schooling which I think is such an important thing for us to truly understand you know what exactly our students are going through in their mind and physically and emotionally at different stages in their life. That’s a really good one. I just started a book I think it’s the deepest well goodness. I’m so sorry. I’m bad at our it talks about you know how trauma affects people younger people specifically in the book it it it talks about how trauma affects us physically so it’s really interesting in terms of you know if you want to you know look at your students and a new way and be able to provide them with some SEAL opportunities. And there’s one more that I would highly recommend it I’m gonna have to send you the title but it’s something blank.

Ti-Fen: No worries. I will follow up with you around the books you mentioned so I can put you in the show notes for the audience to check up.

Elizabeth: Ah yeah. Absoloutely.

Ti-Fen: When you were a baby teacher what is the worst advice you have ever received?

Elizabeth: Well that’s a great question. Okay this was probably in my first couple years of teaching where I heard from a teacher or I don’t know exactly what she said. But kind of she gave this impression that parents don’t really know what their kids need in school. We as teachers we are the only ones that know what students need at school. And I for many years had that look outlook on on my students until I had my own kids and it kind of dawned on me that no that’s not true at all while we do need to you know look at parents and families individually. You know and and decide you know are these going to be good parents and families to work with or do we need to take the reins on what the kid needs we can’t we can’t just say a the kids with me now the parents don’t know what this student really needs but to try and work together a little bit more now. I do have to say there are instances where we do know what the student needs but we also have to be able to communicate that well with the parents and I think the advice that I had been given really almost put like a divider between what I could give the student and what the parents are doing at home and so instead of breaking that communication really trying to work with the parents at home.

Ti-Fen: Right and yeah right I have heard so many teachers complaining about the tension between them and the parents and so I totally agree that we should have a better way to communicate and even collaborate with parents as teachers.

Elizabeth: Yeah yeah and it’s tough it’s that.

Ti-Fen: Yeah exactly and so I know that Elizabeth you have put out so much amazing where in that inspired call classroom website. Is there anything you would like to mention or talk about before we wrap up and I will certainly let people know where they can find you online and we will put everything in the show notes as well. But is there anything that you like to share or talk about people we closed up?

Elizabeth: Sure so it’s fun since we’ve been talking about SEAL if people are interested in seal you can look at some of the free resources we have all right you can go to teachSEALcom and that will lead you to all kinds of good resources and then. If if people are ready to really take a deep dive into becoming a seal teacher my course seal teacher training is really just a great course that I you know I I believe I you know I believe but also the people that have gone through it really do feel like they have gone on a journey. And really come out the other side transforms. Because it’s like I said it’s not just about the ideas and the lessons. It’s about the teacher and the teacher being a great advocate for social emotional artistic learning in their classrooms and in utilizing that for their students so it really is kind of a nice transformational journey for teachers to go to become a SEAL teacher.

Ti-Fen: Thank you for listening we will put the things mentioned interfere to the show notes if you enjoy our show, welcome to share and don’t forget to subscribe. Thank you.

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