Capable, Connected, And Cared For: The Lived Experiences Of An Urban Charter School Founding Team And Their Perspective On The Impact Of Social-Emotional Learning In Creating A School Identity

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Background: The need to address the whole child becomes more apparent every day. Whether watching reports of school shootings or social media trends where teens destroy property, it is evident that there are social-emotional components to education that must be addressed directly. Unfortunately, the academic expectations placed on schools make it difficult for Social Emotional Learning (SEL) to be a priority. Purpose: This study aimed to explore the lived experiences of a charter middle school’s founding team as they navigated the day-to-day practices of building a new school and creating its story. The researcher-participant explored how the team negotiated accountability and charter requirements while keeping SEL a priority. The research question was: How does a charter middle school’s founding team describe the influence of social-emotional learning practices on their efforts to shape or co-construct team and school culture amid the pressures of opening and growing a school? Methods: Utilizing a qualitative narrative inquiry study approach, a descriptive account of the six participant’s narratives was included to develop an understanding of the founding team’s experiences. Participants included the six all-minority members of the founding team of a small public charter middle school in an urban setting. Data collection methods included field texts such as the researcher’s field journals, observations, anecdotal notes, and school and professional development artifacts. In addition, individual semi-structured participant interviews were conducted. Member checking occurred through the sharing of interim texts to allow participants’ voices in the final rendition of their experience. The researcher was also a participant, and measures were in place to protect the study from researcher bias, including extensive member checking, written assurances that participation would not affect employment, and the availability of University and School vi District supervisors for participants to contact. Trustworthiness was established through member checking, peer debriefing, researcher reflexibility, and triangulation of interviews, artifacts, and researcher field journals. Findings: Three themes resulted from the analysis of the narrative data: 1. Capable: More understanding and professional development needs to happen to intentionally implement and continue Social Emotional Learning. 2. Connected: There is a need for personal and professional interconnection between faculty and staff for SEL to be implemented, and 3. Cared For: Time must be dedicated and sometimes sacrificed for authentic Social-Emotional practices. Conclusion: Participants embodied and embedded SEL practices though they lacked specific knowledge of SEL instruction. The family-like climate and school organization structure allowed for SEL to be a priority. More professional development is needed for explicit and intentional SEL to happen as the school grows. This study contributes to charter school research by providing insights about SEL in the charter setting and to SEL research, the experience of an all-minority founding team.

charter, social-emotional learning, leadership, school culture, narrative