June 4th, 2020

Black Lives Matter & SEL

What is the role of SEL in standing in solidarity with the Black Community? Our students, their families, and our colleagues.

When is SEL being used (implicitly or explicitly) to promote a deficit mindset towards communities of color or racist narrative?

We cannot meet the needs of our students and communities without addressing and unpacking our own privileges and implicit biases. Working with black and brown students with different backgrounds from my own, requires me to acknowledge and fight my biases and to educate myself about systemic racism as well as the strength and beauty in my student's communities and histories. I cannot model, teach, or train social-emotional competencies without first being grounded in equity and acknowledging historical and present day racism and discrimination.

I encourage everyone to read Dena Simmons works: How to change the stories about students of color and Why We Can’t Afford Whitewashed SEL. Another good reasource is CASEL's https://schoolguide.casel.org/what-is-sel/equity-and-sel/ --> Guiding Questions for Educators:
Promote Equity Using SEL.

For this moment in time, my school has curated some resources, one for Educators and one for Families, on current events. We want to support teachers and families in having hard conversations about racism and the tradegies in the news, while also attending to our students emotional well-being. Please share them with your school communities and those that will use them responsibly, if you would like to.

https://lnkd.in/g9pwBFQ https://docs.google.com/document/d/1bVrmVGshpMFrhPLvKTgPbuzCeHIlxwuNaQIUy0RoQKQ/edit?usp=sharing #BlackLivesMatter

Tags: equity, SEL & Equity

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Comments (4)

Comments (4)


This time in human history is intentional for initiating change. I have developed my intervention considering the economic, system, cultural, and individual challenges impacting Black Lives. Without addressing, these issues simultaneously, we have come to discover that disconnected piecemeal approaches gain little merit and effectiveness at improving population health concerns. If I weren't me, I would be you:-)

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Love this post -- I used to run thought experiments about SEL and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and their role in combating racism. I'm sure you know this, Soundhari, given your role as a clinical psychologist but for those reading this who might not know, CBT involves challenging negative thoughts as a means of shifting our core beliefs. For a lot of folk who attend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, they work to unwind core beliefs like "I'm not good enough," "I'm not attractive," "I'm incapable" etc...But I've always thought that the cool thing about CBT is that it really can be applied to any core belief, including implicit ones that promote racial bias and prejudice.

SEL and mindfulness practice is all about awareness. I've always thought we could use mindfulness exercises as the first step in helping people identify cognitions and core beliefs that are racist (implicitly or otherwise) and then use CBT exercises as a means of hacking away and shifting the underlying core belief. In some ways, this gets at the idea of being actively "anti-racist."

I think you also raise a phenomenal point on whitewashed SEL. I've worked with a number of students of color and have talked to them about SEL and mindfulness practice. A common theme that I've heard from them is that there's a student perception that mindfulness -- think of the Calm and Headspace audios -- are "too white." The Western mindfulness movement -- adopted from the eastern tradition -- is often seen as a Caucasian-led movement. To be clear, I'm so grateful and I have so much respect for the work that these leaders have done in popularizing these concepts and techniques. That said, I think we're at the tail end of the gen-1 mindfulness movement here in the US. I think the next generation of mindfulness is going to use different language, different voices, different faces that make it more accessible not only to people of color but also younger people as well. As educators and leaders in this space, it's our job to stand on the shoulders of older SEL / mindfulness leaders and improve the accessibility, engagement and delivery of these principles.

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Thank you Max for your reply. I know there are writings on how mindfulness can reduce implicit bias by the Greater Good Center, Mindful Schools, etc. Thinking about using CBT to combat bias certainly could be explored more! You raise an important point about certain strategies not being equally accessed by all communities, and I think it's important to examine the role that historic and systemic racism has played in that. Whether it be mistrust of medical and mental health establishments, not hiring/including people of color in the development of programs, etc. Hope that BIPOC voices are elevated as we move forward.


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