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Get Ready for the School Year with Alejandro Diasgranados

Wednesday, July 14, 2021



Get Ready for the School Year with Alejandro Diasgranados
The 2020 National University Teacher Award Winner Shares His SEL Goals

Summer is in full swing, and we caught up with Alejandro Diasgranados to learn what he’s looking forward to this summer and how he plans for a new school year and sets SEL goals. Mr. Diasgranados, known as “Mr. Dias” among his students, received the 2020 National University Teacher Award this spring and continues to gain recognition and awards for his work as an inspirational educator. Check out Mr. Dias’ answers to our questions from Amanda Rothenghast, Program Manager of Inspire Teaching & Learning, and John A. Pickens III, Program Manager of Harmony SEL.

John:
It’s summertime! What are you looking forward to most during summer break this year?


Mr. Dias:
This school year has been challenging for so many teachers across the country, and this summer I plan to focus on self-care. I’ve found that I cannot be an efficient teacher if I neglect my own needs, which is why I plan to use this summer to visit family members and friends that I haven’t seen since last year. I also plan to enjoy outdoor activities like fishing, hiking, and gardening.

In the past, I haven’t been very intentional with my self-care routines, but this summer I plan to change that. When students return to school, I know that they will need me to be fully present, and I know that I must be intentional about my self-care routines in order for me to feel fully prepared to return to school this fall.



Amanda:
What are some of your favorite tips for teachers planning for a new school year?


Mr. Dias:

Planning for a new school year is always a challenge, especially after the year we’ve had. Each year, I try to begin my planning process with a reflection period. During this time, I list strategies that were successful throughout the school year, as well as identify areas for growth. This reflection time allows me an opportunity to think about how I’d like to grow as an educator and some of the goals that I would like our class to achieve during the school year. As a teacher, I’m always looking for opportunities to improve my practice, and dedicating time for reflection has been very helpful in my growth as an educator.
Get Ready for the School Year with Alejandro Diasgranados 1


John:
What are some SEL goals you have for yourself and your students in the new year, and how do you plan to support those goals?


Mr. Dias:
Returning to the classroom this fall will be an experience that many of my students haven’t had since March 2020. When students return in the fall, my goal will be to create a comfortable and inclusive environment where students feel safe and supported.

On the first day of school, I plan to give students an opportunity to collectively develop SEL goals for the year. In my experience, I’ve found that when students are included in the goal-setting process it not only gives them an opportunity to share what’s important to them and areas where they would like to grow, but I’ve also found that this increases student investment as well.

In my classroom, I plan to use Harmony Goals with my students. Harmony Goals are created by the class and are similar to group agreements or expectations. These goals will reflect how we would like to interact with one another throughout every moment of the day. Throughout the school year we can always refer to these goals and update them if necessary. Developing SEL goals can also provide teachers with another growth point that can be highlighted and shared with families during conferences.



Amanda:
Do you stay connected with students and their families over the summer? How do you foster healthy communication with them?


Mr. Dias:

This summer many of our students will be participating in our academic summer programming. This will provide students an opportunity to rebuild any relationships with friends and teachers that were lost during our time out of the building. For the students who are not enrolled in summer programming, I plan to keep in contact with their family throughout the summer and provide updates as we approach the start of the school year.
Get Ready for the School Year with Alejandro Diasgranados 5

I think it’s important for families to know that although school is not in session, I’m still available for support throughout the summer months leading up to the school year. In my experience, I’ve found that establishing and maintaining relationships with families over the summer makes the transition to the start of the school year a much easier process.



John:
What are your go-to Harmony SEL and Inspire resources as you prepare for the school year?


Mr. Dias:
Prior to the start of the school year, I plan to review the modules in the Learning Environment unit from Inspire. These on-demand modules are helpful when planning the type of environment that I want my students to enter on the first day of school. This unit includes modules that focus on building relationships with students, creating class expectations, and it also provides strategies for arranging the physical environment of the classroom.

Since most of my students haven’t seen each other in person since March 2020, I want to make sure that their first experience back in school is in a safe and supportive classroom environment that is conducive to learning and growth. On the first day of school, students will participate in our first Meet Up. During this time, I will allow students an opportunity to meet up and develop Harmony Goals for our classroom. Developing these goals on the first day of school will prepare students for a successful school year. As the year progresses, I will continue to introduce students to a variety of Harmony activities and incorporate skills learned from the Inspire modules.




Thank you, Alejandro Diasgranados, for sharing your insights and reflections!


We’re so grateful to all that Mr. Dias does to support his students in and outside the classroom, and we love learning what he has to say! We are looking forward to announcing the 2021 National University Teacher Award winners later this fall. Learn more at nuteacheraward.org!
Alejandro Diasgranados

Learn more at inspireteaching.org and access SEL-informed professional development with the Inspire Online Learning Portal.