4 Steps to Implement an SEL Curriculum Building-Wide

John Norlin · November 20, 2017

Before trying to implement any new idea or thing in a school, a TEAM must be created to roll out the new program.  Picking the team is an essential part of the process.  Team members should have a growth mindset, be highly influential educators, and open to new ideas.  Ideally, a cross mix of individuals who can infuse their positive energy into some new direction.  Often times, schools make the mistake of selecting educators who are stuck in their ways and may need some fresh ideas or thoughts.  The thinking being that this new program will light a fire with these folks.  However, these educators tend to love or hate whatever the new thing is.  Teams with close minded folks tend not to inspire other educators to jump on board.  Other times, schools open team membership up to committees of interested people.  These committees have all the passion but none of the school influence to lead the new program into sustainability.  These self-selected teams can be highly effective AFTER a building influence team has begun the early implementation process.  


Once a capable team is created, the team must focus on TRAINING.  Training must be formal and informal in nature.  Professional Development allows this group of people to become the core support for the rest of the school.  As questions and opportunities arise within the program’s early implementation, this team will be equipped to lead the way.  Training has 3 phases: Initial Team Training, Initial Entire Staff Training, and Ongoing Training.  The team gets up to speed and then trains the entire staff (including paraprofessionals, secretaries, itinerants, etc).  Lastly, schools must offer small doses of ongoing training through staff meetings, book studies, emails, etc.  

Next up is PLANNING.  The team must make decisions on how things will all fit together.  Some of the key items on the agenda include: Themes, Assemblies, Staff meetings, who/how Advisory lessons are taught, and how will teachers be supported.  These teams must build in ways of celebrating successes of the program; both student and adult, AND how these successes will be communicated with parents/families.  Lastly, effective teams plan regular check-ins and identify how they’ll gauge success of the new program; both with real data and anecdotal.

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ACCOUNTABILITY is the final step in implementing a building-wide SEL program.  If your team did their homework, then you’ve chosen an exceptional program which is both fresh and engaging for students/staff.  However, every school has a need to make sure all staff are on track.  A highly effective method that we’ve used is to get into classrooms every Friday during Advisory time.  During this time, the office team engages with students, offers support, and take pictures/videos to share out.  We also send highlights of amazing moments from these observations through emails, social media, and/or google classroom.  By focusing on outstanding positive teaching and publicly recognizing educators, we’re able to encourage the types of relationship-focused work that’s a game changer in schools.  The TEAM is also in the perfect position to coach, support, and/or have difficult feedback conversations with staff members who are not delivering their best efforts with the new program.  

By establishing a TEAM of highly influential, TRAINED educators, schools are able to PLAN for the dynamic new SEL program all while holding each other ACCOUNTABLE!


John Norlin

John Norlin is a Co-Founder of CharacterStrong, a Servant Leadership trainer, and motivational speaker. He was Washington Advisor of the Year, taught 5 leadership classes per semester for 10 years at Sumner High School, and was a Program Administrator for the Whole Child for five years.