Home  Full Book  Portals  Units  

Educational Settings

Tailored experience for youth-serving professionals in educational settings

Reaching Teens Portal for Educational Settings

Amy H. Scheel-Jones, MSEd

Senior Consultant,Practice Transformation, Coordinated Care  Services, Inc.

Marijo Pearson, Ph.D.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development, Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES

Welcome and Introduction

I've been reflecting on the role and value of education in the “Age of Google” and other digital search engines. What do schools and learning experiences need to offer given that the depth and breadth of human knowledge is at our fingertips?

To my mind, we need students to have experiences that develop discernment and critical thinking to sort out knowledge from noise, to be grounded in historical context so we can know where we've been, to reach for creativity and innovation so that we continue to grow in knowledge, to be accountable to ourselves and others, and to be able to respectfully challenge, collaborate, and problem-solve, because one person is never as smart as a functional collective. We no longer need to engage “experts in content” as search engines (if used well) are our collective expert opinion. It is our humanity, our imperfections, our strengths, and our connections that matter and offer the most to the students whom we serve.

Now more than ever, educators understand that to create environments that are conducive to all students achieving college or career readiness, they must be prepared to meet the holistic needs of their students. They are committed to their students, their families, and the communities they serve and seek the best resources to support their mission.

Reaching Teens offers a framework that informs and promotes true good teaching, the systems change required to support it, and what we want our students (our growing 35-year-olds) to gain from the experiences. It offers a path for professionals to develop and enhance skills that make a real difference in the lives of our students in the years to come.


What’s Available through the Education Portal

First and foremost, Reaching Teens is an incredible resource for adult professionals working with adolescents in a variety of ways. The entire text and related material are available to you for your professional growth and development. However, we also recognize that each of us experiences real-world constraints on our time and capacity. Therefore, Reaching Teens offers a streamlined experience specific to your role as a school-based professional.

A curated list of chapters that may be most helpful to educators has been identified and linked here. They have been selected by educators for educators, based on an assessment of current trends in education and frequent unmet needs in preparation programs. These chapters are laid out in a way that creates a progression of learning, however it is not required that these chapters be read in order or on a specific timeline. They are here for your use and general reference. You will find case scenarios and relevant reflection questions that will further contextualize your learning within the profession of education.


Reaching Teens and Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

State to state, town to town, even district to district, initiatives designed to address the complexity of student learning take a variety of forms. Many districts are adopting Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), Response to Intervention (RtI), Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), and Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI). Increasingly, we see schools implement mindfulness, restorative justice, trauma-sensitive or responsive practices, training on youth mental health, and growth mindset.

The landscape of education today is a dizzying whirl of acronyms, initiatives, and expectations. However, a common construct that threads these initiatives together is Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). SEL recognizes the unique role educators can play in enhancing the social, emotional, and resilience development of their students. Actions can be taken through instruction and curriculum, role modeling, and (arguably most importantly) educator relationships with students. Schools across the country are taking on the challenge of improving their practice through this lens.

States and districts are adopting SEL standards, benchmarks, and rubrics to monitor our students’ progress. These provide important guideposts to measure our efficacy, but the true work of SEL is nuanced and individualized. The biggest tool in our toolbox is our own capacity as educators to understand how to make easy, practical shifts in our thinking and day to day interactions to foster the ongoing social-emotional development of all our students.

Reaching Teens is positioned to help. Social-Emotional Learning can be conceived as a way to unite each of these multi-faceted initiatives, and Reaching Teens provides the foundation. Reaching Teens does not compete with any initiative, rather it supports them all. The knowledge and practical strategies within provide the infrastructure that allows adults to take new actions to positively impact students.

To further help with ease of implementation, you will find that relevant chapters in this portal will include up to three SEL standards for adult capacity that are aligned with CASEL’s Core SEL Competencies of Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills ,and Responsible Decision-Making. These adult learning standards will allow educators to hone in on key actitivities related to individual practice change, while concurrently guiding districts to easily design professional-development activities. By applying Reaching Teens as a resource to this work, educators can develop frameworks, practices, procedures, and even board policy that are reflective of positive youth development, trauma-sensitive practices, resilience development, and social-emotional learning. And most importantly, they can deliver high quality instruction and support the holistic growth of our next generations.

The 7Cs (See Chapter 2) and SEL: A Mutually Reinforcing Relationship

























Social- Awareness








Responsible Decision-Making








Relationship Skills









Selected Units and Chapters

Selected units of chapters that may be most helpful to educators are provided below.


Case Examples for Group Learning and Discussion/Personal Reflection

Each chapter offers group learning and discussion and/or personal reflection exercises to help develop specific skill sets. Knowing the broader context of young people's lives makes the difference in our ability to build on their strengths and support them to overcome their challenges. This is so central to our work that we should routinely consider youths' environmental contexts, strengths, and challenges as a first step to addressing any issue. Rather than having you need to go through this process with new youth in each chapter, we want you to be able to focus on the chapter-specific skill-set. Therefore, we suggest you get to know the youth described below and use them as consistent case examples. You may choose instead to substitute in actual cases if it helps you and your colleagues better learn the material.


GG is a non-binary 10th grader whose pronouns are “they/them/their”. Having been kicked out of their home by their single dad, GG stays at various friends’ houses throughout the week. Sometimes GG is at the youth shelter twenty miles away and sometimes school staff have seen GG walking outside very late at night.

Strengths: GG is very bright and insightful. They are incredibly creative, and have won several awards for their artwork. GG is sensitive and is protective of students who are smaller or younger. GG would like to be an artist but worries about the ability to make money and have a home of their own. GG has many friends, has a consistent relationship with the school counselor, and seems to be very close with the art teacher, who often has granola bars and fruit for GG to put into their backpack on Friday.

Challenges: GG’s attendance at school is inconsistent and teachers report frequent sleeping in class. GG can do very well on tests and contributes to class, but does not turn in homework, so many of their grades are below failing. Some teachers view GG as manipulative, capable but unmotivated. Some refuse to adopt their preferred pronouns or recognize GG’s identity. GG was suspended in 9th grade for having a small amount of marijuana in their locker.


Jordan is tall, athletic, and an A student. She has been playing soccer since age 4 and wants to go a Division 1 school and perhaps play professionally. She is driven, intense, and competitive. Jordan’s parents are both attorneys and they have a large home in an established neighborhood.

Strengths: Jordan is the president of student council and can be a leader in both academics and involvement. She can organize her peers around a common goal and create energy and excitement in a project. She is a good self-advocate and has high standards for herself. The soccer coach frequently relies on Jordan to help with practices and teach younger students

Challenges: Jordan is perfectionistic and will often spend hours at night making sure her assignments are neat and perfect. Her parents want her to be a lawyer, but beyond soccer Jordan has no direction. She is very focused on getting into one college, and the school counselor wonders what might happen if she’s not accepted. Her parents are hard to reach, and are not home a lot. In school meetings they focus on Jordan’s mistakes and see them as personal failings, letting Jordan know they are disappointed and expect better. On the field, Jordan has been known to “lose it” on her teammates if they make an error.


Louis is a good student, both academically and behaviorally. He’s in 11th grade and takes Advance Placement courses across the board. His top three college choices are Harvard, Columbia, and Cornell. He lives with his mom and three younger siblings. His mom struggles with her mental health and is on disability. Louis works two part-time jobs and is frequently seen around town with his brothers and sister, running errands. Recently his grades have begun to decline and his attendance has started to drop.

Strengths: Louis is committed to his family and frequently comments on his role as “man of the house”. He is intelligent and sensitive and is interested in becoming a doctor. Generally very organized, Louis has taken on big projects: He used to volunteer in the community, was active on the Robotics Team, is the Treasurer for Spanish Honor Society, and started the service club at school.

Challenges: Recently in school, Louis seems more tired. He’s been observed sleeping in class and has dropped out of his clubs and activities. He’s started to speak less about his college and career goals, which used to excite and inspire him. His AP Physics teacher checked in about this, but all Louis would say is “I don’t know. Probably wouldn’t work out anyway.”


A 9th grade student, Jamal and his mother are already known to school staff. He’s very intelligent and focused on math and science classes. He’s socially awkward and does not seem to have friends. His mom frequently calls the school to report that Jamal is being bullied by other students. At mom’s urging, in 8th grade he was evaluated by the district’s autism specialist but did not meet criteria.

Strengths: Jamal is a science whiz. He particularly loves anything to do with space and will explore his interest in and out of school. In class, he wants to share his ideas and things he’s learned in this area. He always attends school and does best in classes where there’s an established routine and clear expectations. He excels in both math and science, but dislikes language arts and social studies.

Challenges: When Jamal shares in science class he can talk over other people, including the teacher. He perseverates on small aspects of a topic and will argue his point. At times these are directly related to the topic of the day, at times they are not. In other subject areas, his attention is inconsistent. Writing is a struggle and he will avoid it. Decisions seem to paralyze him, and Jamal has been known to meltdown in these situations. His mom and the school are at odds with each other, as she believes that the district is withholding supports and services that would help him. She also posts on social media that they do nothing about bullying. Teachers view the mother as over-reactive and difficult. Many feel Jamal would do better with greater accountability through consequences and if his mom enabled him less.


Kiara can best be described as a “nice girl”. She is an average student in 12th grade and comes to school regularly. She’s never had any behavioral concerns, and she gets decent grades. Kiara and her twin brother were adopted by their dads at eight months. It was an open adoption, and during their elementary years they seemed to be in regular contact with their birth mother. However, this does not seem to be happening with any regularity recently, if at all.

Strengths: When asked, school staff describe Kiara as quiet and compliant, with sound academic concerns. They note she seems friendly, but no one seems to know much about her, her interests, or her plans in detail. She intends to go to a local state school to study accounting.

Challenges: A recent student perception survey done in health class showed that Kiara does not identify a positive adult in school. She scored lower than average on indicators related to overall positive connections, sleep, and exercise habits. At a recent parent night, one of her fathers mentioned to the assistant principal that she seems moody and gets snappy with them and her brother, and that she spends more time in her room than before. He chalked it up to “typical teenage girl stuff”.


Max is new to the district as a 7th grader this year. He’s 13 years old and his record indicates he was retained in 5th grade. He arrived in the middle of the year as a foster kinship placement with his mom’s sister and her husband. His younger sister has been placed with their grandmother, who described not being able to take Max due to his behavior.

Strengths: Max is insightful and seems to have wisdom “beyond his years”. His school record seems incomplete, but he reports he was involved with band in his old school and also likes language arts, particularly creative writing. His test scores show that he is at grade level or advanced in some areas. This stands out in comparison with the report of his previous grade repetition.

Challenges: Max is not well known yet in his new school. He keeps to himself and does not seem interested when teachers or other students approach him. He can go from 0 to 60 in a moment. When asked why, he reports incidences like “He was looking at me”. When his aunt and uncle came to register him at school, the uncle did most of the sharing. He reported that Max’s mom is a “drug-addict, good-for-nothing, who now expects her sister to do it all”. He also shared that Max’s grandma didn’t want Max because he’s stolen and lied to her before. The aunt remained mostly quiet but did say she was nervous to have Max. She said Max seemed to want to spend a lot of time alone with her “almost like a little kid”.

Return to Reaching Teens Homepage