We’re so excited to introduce you to our new SEL Ambassadors! In this series, we’ll spotlight SEL Ambassadors from across the country who are Moving This World through SEL. Today, meet Principal Cherish Pipkins from Rolling Hills Engineering Academy in Texas. If you follow her on Twitter (we highly recommend it!) you’ll see that she refers to her team as Team Excellence and implements a variety of strategies to maintain a culture of excellence and build a community of belonging all year long. Read more about how she supports SEL in her school community.
MTW: What does SEL look like in your community?
Principal Pipkins: At Rolling Hills Elementary, SEL looks like pausing to allow students and staff to breathe, relax, and talk about themselves or each other in a productive and meaningful way.
MTW: How did you know your community needed the support of an SEL program?
Principal Pipkins: I became principal of RHE during the 2018-2019 school year. I noticed that many students did not have the vocabulary to express disappointment, frustration or confusion. Children would simply act out or misbehave. Their reactions looked angry but that was not the true emotion they were experiencing. On too many occasions to count, after counseling with a student in my office or the hallway, I realized our kids needed a structured opportunity to be taught a productive way to handle conflict with their peers and adults.
MTW: How has a comprehensive SEL curriculum impacted your community?
Principal Pipkins: Move This World has given Team Excellence a common language. Staff and students begin the first moments of the morning by slowing down and connecting, allowing them to be fueled for the challenges of the day.
One of our third grade students was giving her teacher a difficult time. She would name call and do the opposite of what her teacher asked. She is intelligent and continued to struggle with making positive connections with her peers. In her words, “This is stupid and I don’t know why we have to do this.” It was comical because the program was designed for students like her. I talked with her and explained that I wanted her to give it a try. I told her that MTW would help her, her classmates and teacher. By January, three months after our campus implementation, she was leading the classroom step routine that was introduced in one of the MTW videos. Her teacher allowed her to ‘find me’ so I could see her in action. It was an amazing experience to see the change in attitude from willing participation to leadership.
MTW: What advice do you have for schools that are new to implementing an SEL curriculum?
Principal Pipkins: If you are new to SEL, your school needs to ensure staff are able to discuss the need and expected challenges and outcomes of a program. We used a staff meeting to discuss why we had to do something different to get a different result. During that meeting, we analyzed our referrals, anecdotal data, and were introduced to MTW. We knew time would be an issue, so we planned that MTW would be executed campus-wide immediately after announcements each day. Additionally, allow time to fumble. We started in October and it took some time to find our groove and eliminate excuses. Likewise, our administrative team would walk through classrooms to ensure MTW was being utilized. The admin checks allowed us to see the program, engage with students, troubleshoot tech issues and share pics/videos across campus.
Thank you Principal Pipkins for all that you do to Move This World in your school community! If you’re interested in connecting with this outstanding educator, be sure to follow her on Twitter and learn even more about her work. We hope you find some valuable takeaways to support social emotional learning in your school community.
To learn more about Move This World’s PreK-12 SEL programs, connect with us here.