SEL Ambassador Spotlight: James Norris from Eastside Union School District

In this series, we’ll be spotlighting SEL Ambassadors from the Move This World community.

The start of the school year – this school year especially – is full of many emotions. We’re excited to be back together, filled with momentum and enthusiasm to meet new students and reconnect with colleagues. We may also feel overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of another year, or frustrated with all of the new technology that teachers need to learn and use this year. 

Some districts are lucky enough to have the supports of TOSA’s or Teachers on Special Assignment. We’ve heard about TOSA’s innovating the ways that they offer support to educators at the start of this school year by expanding their collaboration efforts, offering more virtual office hours, and leading professional development workshops around new technologies. When it comes to social emotional learning, TOSA’s are incredible resources to support, promote, and advance SEL practices throughout a district. 

We recently spoke with Student Services Teacher James Norris from Eastside Union School District in California to learn more about how he supports SEL in his community.

MTW: What does SEL look like in your community? 

Mr. Norris: We have been working with Move This World for the last two years and up until the Pandemic hit and schools closed down, we were headed in a good direction. We had begun to have bigger conversations about helping the whole child. This has been a welcomed shift from just academics and we are starting to see and monitor the progress of our schools through Panorama.

Panorama Education is a Move This World partner and provides SEL assessments for schools and districts. 

MTW: How did you know your community needed the support of an SEL program? 

Mr. Norris: Dr. Lightle and Dr. Smith, our Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent, along with our leadership teams looked at the Panorama data and recognized the need. That is to say, that the data showed us that this was a component of our school program that needed work.

MTW: How has a comprehensive SEL curriculum impacted your community? 

Mr. Norris: We have given the students and teachers tools to be able to express themselves more clearly. This has given a common language to Staff and students which is fostering better relationships. In a nutshell, with the ability to better communicate we will better be able to service the students’ needs and meet them where they are at. Especially in this virtual environment we need to foster the skills so that people know how to ask for help. And for us to have success as a district.

MTW: Tell me about a time that you noticed the impact of SEL on a specific student, class, staff member, or family in your community. 

Mr. Norris: Our middle school has transitioned to a place that is calming. The environment during the first year of MTW was rife with loud disagreements and physical altercations. Emotions were running high throughout the school yard. Although I cannot mention a particular student, walking on the campus as a whole has become a joy. The interactions between students [as well as between] students and adults have become more social, and being on campus has regained joy. [I’m] not sure how or when we will return to campus, however my hope is that we will continue to move in a healthy social emotional direction for all stakeholders.

MTW: What advice do you have for schools that are new to implementing an SEL curriculum? 

Mr. Norris: The key is the adults going through the program with the kids. Please make sure that they overcome the adult desire to be comfortable all the time. We must take risks in order to impact our kids. With that said, we can’t help but be successful in raising healthy kids.

Thank you, James, for all that you do to Move This World in your school community! 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.

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