Two professors at Cal State Bakersfield, through their work in education and interactions with teachers across Kern County, recognized there was a need to explore ethics, social-emotional learning and democratic areas in kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms.
Enter the SEEDE Institute, or Social Emotional Ethics and Democratic Education.
Founded in 2018 by CSUB professors Michael D. Burroughs, Ph.D., and Brittney Beck, Ph.D., the two found ways to combine their specializations into a four-day institute that benefits teachers hoping to engage with their students and create a more open and respectful environment in classrooms.
"A lot of education happens in a manner that's top-down and less inclusive of students' interests," Burroughs said. "My work is teaching how to incorporate students in the teaching process."
The second annual SEEDE Institute will take place July 22-24 and 26 at CSUB. Twenty-three local kindergarten through sixth grade teachers, ranging from first-year to veteran teachers, participate in several workshops and present how they plan to use topics covered in the institute in their classrooms.
Topics include ethics education, social-emotional learning and democratic pedagogy. Sessions provide information on current research and focus on strategies to adopt those topics in the classroom, school and community, according to the SEEDE Institute website.
Beck and Burroughs explained teachers can incorporate these topics through children's literature and vignettes, which are open-ended short stories, by discussing challenges and problems they are facing in the classroom.
Participants get to take 12 children's books back to their classrooms that address different issues such as race, LGBTQ and immigration.
This year's institute also includes two special topics: trauma sensitive practices and religious diversity in classrooms.
"(Students in Kern County) come carrying trauma from poverty, immigration status ... how they need to acclimate to environment," Beck said.
The institute is partnering with the Dream Center and representatives will be "coming to talk to students about what type of trauma students are experiencing and productive ways teachers can work with their students," she added.
After the four-day institute, participants are then involved in a year-long coaching cycle.
"Understanding that one-and-done workshops are not very effective, we engage in year-long cycles of coaching, and that coaching takes the form of asking the participant to create lesson plans that are SEEDE informed," Beck explained.
The two conduct in-classroom observations and provide feedback on ways teachers can improve or continue to use SEEDE-based concepts in their classrooms.
Marci Diller, Ph.D., a third grade teacher at Leo B. Hart Elementary School, said she received valuable feedback on how to open dialogue on social-emotional issues her students may be facing in the classroom when Beck and Burroughs observed her.
"There’s not curriculum in our Common Core State Standards that can address that," she said. "There’s not a lot of training in our credentialing program that addresses that, so with the SEEDE program they’re trying to fill a gap that exists in the classrooms and helping kids deal with behaviors and how to solve situations without getting in fights, but rather how to use your words and recognize feelings."
To fill that gap, she used literature and vignettes, as suggested through the institute, and she talked about the norms for dialogue with student so they feel respected and heard.
"There’s no wrong opinion, and we need to hear each other," she said. "If I'm going to read a story, why not make it a story that’s going to have a tool that can be used or something that can open discussion on ways to handle things that can help them?"
Many, such as Ivania Villatoro, a second grade teacher at Stella Hills Elementary School, have already been implementing the topics discussed in the institute but they wanted to find ways they could improve and expand.
"It really helped me realize how helpful it is to kids that what they believe in matters and it makes them feel more confident in the classroom," Villatoro said.
She explained a majority of the students in Stella Hills Elementary come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. "They lack a lot of confidence. They lack a lot of love. They don’t really self-respect."
At the beginning of the school year, her students come up with classroom rules, which include being nice and respectful to each other. Giving them a voice changes their outlook, she said, and she feels it has made her a better person and teacher.
Diller recommends the program to all teachers because even though she has spent more than 30 years in the classroom, the lessons taught are valuable.
"I think this is an area in today’s schools for teachers to have the right tools for because it’s so necessary that we have discipline issues in classrooms and we need to have strategies to deal with them," she said. "It’s just another tool that can be very useful for new and veteran teachers."
After seeing positive results from the first cohort, Beck said future years will see the addition of other special topics relative to the community, such as migrant students and immigration. Ultimately, the goal is to have the best learning practices in classrooms statewide and supporting teachers.
"One of the more successful things is creating a community around teachers who want to benefit their kids and bring them together," Burroughs said. "The community building aspect of this and the support of talking with kids is really needed."
To learn more about the program, visit www.cs.csubak.edu/~kie/seede.