By PRCO Intern Sara Harrison
Would you rather read this:
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is vital to student success. Although SEL has not been universally embraced like STEM or included in any ESSA testing or CCSS curriculum, studies show students with SEL training are more resilient and subsequently more successful in school and in life. Our Foundation partnered with Teacher’s University to promote their curriculum-integrated SEL program in Springfield through school partnerships and local learning communities.
Maria, a veteran third grade teacher at PS 1 in Springfield was skeptical about how Social Emotional Learning (SEL) could be integrated into her work with new immigrants. “I felt like the imperative was to help kids improve their English skills.” Thanks to the Teacher Training Initiative at Teacher’s University, and a grant from our Foundation, Maria learned about how to integrate SEL into her classroom. “Thanks to the Teacher Training Initiative I am a more effective teacher and my students are reaping the rewards. I’m also demonstrating to my colleagues that SEL is vital to their curriculum.”
The second option is more engaging and certainly more accessible. Everyone loves a story. Whether you are reaching out to a legislator, pitching a reporter, or engaging your community through social media, your most valuable tools are the real-life stories of how your work is impacting society, changing systems, and transforming people’s lives. Here are five ways to promote your agenda by telling a story:
1. Find a protagonist.
– Find a program participant or grantee who has benefited from your work and tell the story through their experience.
– In our story, this was the teacher, Maria.
2. Identify the problem.
– Clearly state the problem you are trying to solve. What were things like before your work?
– Maria thought she couldn’t include SEL because her students had too many academic and language difficulties.
3. Stage your intervention.
– Show how your program affected your protagonist and how it will change their future behavior.
– Maria went through the Teacher Training Initiative and now she will implement SEL, be a better teacher, and will train others too.
4. Use direct quotes.
– Real sentiment is more impactful than acronyms can ever be.
– Don’t be afraid to step away from industry jargon and use the simple, genuine language that people actually speak.
5. Be mindful.
– Profiling real people, especially children can bring up sensitivities around privacy and safety. Make sure you always have explicit consent to use someone’s stories or photos before you mention them.
– Use composite stories to ensure confidentiality.
Policies, programs, and the issues they address are complicated, but your communications don’t have to be. Stories show how you are helping real people through real programs, resulting in real progress. That’s something everyone can understand.