Helping Students Light Up and Shine

The Evolution of Social-Emotional Learning at Center for Responsive Schools

There’s a story of a child who discovered the summertime joy of watching the flicker and glow of fireflies. He wondered about the source of their light, but wasn’t able to get a clear answer, so decided to discover for himself. After about a half hour of observation, he proudly declared that the reason fireflies light up is because of the “stuff that’s in ‘em!”.

For almost 40 years, Center for Responsive Schools has been solely focused on social and emotional competence as the stuff in students (and adults) that supports success in, out of, and beyond school.  Our program, Responsive Classroom, is guided by a core belief and set of guiding principles that undergirds this focus. Over the past four decades, tens of thousands of educators have learned to use Responsive Classroom practices to teach, model, and create conditions for students to develop five social and emotional competencies: cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self- control. Each of these competencies is made up of a set of developmentally appropriate skills that students can learn, practice, and demonstrate and they align well to the competencies that CASEL has named as demonstrated by the graphic below.

Helping Students Light Up and Shine

The good news in Aspen Institute’s Nation at Hope report and its recommendations for social, emotional, and academic development has served as affirmation, inspiration, and aspiration for us at CRS.

Our excitement mounted as we read the report and reflected on CRS’s vision to bring hope and joy to educators and students, our November 2018 national conferences that focused on hope, and our mission to partner with educators around the world to transform schools into places of optimal learning.  As we examined our current and future work in light of the report’s six recommendations, we found affirmation that we are still on course for supporting educators in doing the most important work in the world.

We are committed to ensuring that educators who attend Responsive Classroom courses and workshops learn a wide range of research- and evidence-based practices for creating conditions for, modeling, and embedding social and emotional skill development in the academic content. And we are fortunate to be able to share the joy, satisfaction, and “aha” moments educators experience in the courses as they make their own connections to why social and emotional skills are foundational to academic engagement, positive community, and success beyond the classroom. We are humbled when they tell us how using Responsive Classroom not only changes their students, but changes them as well.

Ready for Read Aloud
Ready for Read Aloud by Jenny Rose and Lisa Griffin

We find inspiration in the stories educators share about how they, as well as their students, experience the benefits of Responsive Classroom.

We are not resting our past laurels. I am thrilled to announce our new children’s books imprint Avenue A Books, whose mission is to publish socially relevant books for grades K–8 that enrich social and emotional learning through engaging stories that reflect students’ lives and the challenges they face.

Charlie and the Octopus
Charlie and the Octopus (artwork not final) by Rebecca Roan and Larissa Marantz

Jump over to the Avenue A website to watch this video of Christine Freitas, Director of Publications, and Sera Rivers, Managing Editor, sharing their excitement about Avenue A and what these books will mean to students.  The characters are diverse and representative, and their stories reflect the lived experiences of students and provide ample opportunity for students to see themselves in a positive light, because that’s the stuff in ‘em that causes them to light up and shine!

Written by Lora Hodges, Executive Director at CRS