Practicing What we Preach

by Stephanie Smith, Former Program Director

The first day of WINGS’ summer training for staff is a little like the first day of school when you find yourself sitting in a new class. WINGSLeaders are surrounded by people who are now a part of their “team”, a part of an instant “family” of sorts, but sometimes it takes a little time to warm up to those coworkers who are otherwise strangers.

I remember my first few weeks at North Charleston Elementary School last year was much like this. As I sat in the first few days of training I couldn’t imagine myself bonding with the staff in a larger way than required to simply get our jobs done as best we could.

But as is the WINGS way, as the training days ticked by, and the year got underway, I found our team becoming more and more cohesive. It wasn’t long before we began spending more time together off the clock and more time laughing together more and more on the clock.

What we learned is that it’s really hard to preach what you don’t practice. I would have to say that most WINGSLeaders and full-time WINGS staff would have to agree that we’ve all grown just as much if not more than the kids we work with each day thanks to the social and emotional lessons we’ve committed to memory and put to practice.

As a member of the WINGS staff, I expected to be bonded to my coworkers through a common love of kids and genuine interest in helping them succeed long term. But as I continue to grow and embrace many of the WINGS principles—stepping into others’ shoes, learning to love and accept myself and others for who they are—I have found I have many more bonds with the rest of the staff than I could have ever imagined sitting in training at the start of the year. I guess it makes you wonder what could be accomplished if everyone in all workplaces possessed the same understanding of basic SEL skills WINGS teaches, doesn’t it?