June 5th, 2020

Urgent SEL Needs for Fall

So many important needs and ideas for serving students, teachers, and families have emerged through this Forum, I am hard-pressed to add yet another. Yet, I was fortunate to have participated in a CDE SEL workgroup meeting yesterday, and with members representing districts and roles across the state, I thought it might be helpful to add the SEL needs that emerged from the group--which I hope is ok.
- Anti-racist and equity work for educators and students...including supporting educators to facilitate meaningful, purposeful conversations that result in deeper understanding, compassion, empathy, more connected, healthy relationships, and equitable systems of support
- Wellness supports for teachers, administrators, and parents/families
- Addressing and supporting students with trauma-responsive practices
- Meeting the relational needs of students
- Identifying and supporting at-risk students
- Integration issues--how can we really create effective, tiered systems of support that integrate academics, social-emotional development, and behavior?
- Developing staff competencies to integrate social-emotional development within everyday instruction
- Developing leaders who integrate social-emotional development of adults and students in everyday interactions and leadership roles (including COE, district, and school site leaders--including instructional coaches, dept. chairs, and grade level leads)

Students have also been sharing their experiences with distance learning, and expressing what they want and need. CASEL featured high students at a webinar in April, and the students who were surveyed reported that they want more opportunities to connect with peers and teachers AND more project-based learning. Also, when students and teachers were asked how they manage their stress, students reported more distraction activities than teachers, who were using self-care practices to de-stress.

We know now is the time to address the larger equity issues in our country as well as the social-emotional needs, inequities, and racism in our own communities. We have an incredible opportunity to engage our students in new ways when we return in the fall. Surfacing issues from our communities (community circles), and engaging students (especially at the middle and high school levels) to work on meaningful community projects that address community issues would foster not only social, emotional, and academic learning, it would prepare our students to be active, caring, and contributing members in our communities. Turning to more project-based learning--especially if we continue with online class--would have the added value of building relationships among students and educators and with the broader community. Together, students and educators could really make a difference.

One final idea for the forum...When leaders intentionally model and integrate SEL into everyday activities and in their habits and routines, teachers experience the benefits and are better prepared to support students' social-emotional learning.

I am optimistic because we have some statewide supports for leaders in CA. The CA statewide SEL Community of Practice supports county office and district leaders, and the County Office SEL Communities of Practice provide support to district and site leaders. Support at each level then enables those leaders to better support their own staff. We will definitely need a comprehensive system of support for educators in the fall.

Tags: Adult SEL, Climate and culture, community building, connection, leadership

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Comments (4)

Comments (4)

Thank you so much for sharing the CDE SEL workgroup discussion! I was curious how the circumstances recently were going to be integrated into the conversations going forward with SEL. I’m so grateful and pleased that you shared this information.

A couple of points you made really spoke to me as an educator. I’m glad that you are optimistic about progress that is being made in supporting leaders with SEL skills and the benefits teachers and students will experience in this trickle down effect. Very often I think leaders’ perceptions are that if they are supportive of SEL work at their site or in their district they are doing their due diligence. When, in fact, they need to move from being a passive leader to an active leader by integrating and practicing these skills as a role model. So much focus is placed upon teachers being the role models of these skills for students, somehow leaders doing the same gets lost in the implementation discussion.

Your other point about project based learning and how much students (and teachers) would like to see this model through distance learning has been on my mind a lot. This would be so beneficial for our students! While I know many teachers would be interested in PBL or UDL instruction, they lack the training and resources. Collaborating with other teachers at their school site who have experience is also more difficult now. I’m hoping that there will be more online networking platforms to support teachers with these approaches in the months to come.

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Hi Colleen,
So appreciate your comments! I really agree with you that we have put so much emphasis on teachers integrating SEL into instruction, and, yet, when the leader REALLY walks the talk, the climate and culture is positive, relationships are healthy, and problem-solving becomes more inclusive, collaborative, and responsive--which in turn, results in greater resilience, increased motivation, and inspiration--not to mention improved health and wellbeing.

As for project-based learning...you are so right...we may want to do that, yet, how?! One way to help that along would be if the statewide and county-office SEL Communities of Practice are project-based. That would help equip school and district leaders to support teachers in PBL.

This has been such an amazing opportunity to connect, learn, and explore ideas together. Thank you!!!


I would like to comment on the need for leadership in establishing the imperative for all schools and communities to embrace the absolute necessity for developing or evolving social emotional learning in a time of broader social collapse. The state of our social contract has been exposed by the pandemic to be in shreds, in ways that directly relate to the uneven approach education has taken to meeting the whole needs of students and building positive relationships with parents, communities, and within schools themselves. We need a clarion call that all of us have the opportunity to be part of the changes we need. We have the expertise and knowledge, and we have a great degree of good intention. Perhaps we need candid conversations about whether or not we have the wisdom to mobilize education to move courageously into a more socially evolved world.

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I agree, David! We do have the expertise, knowledge, and intentions for exactly what you are calling forth--mobilizing education to move COURAGEOUSLY into a more socially evolved world. Building positive relationships with many diverse groups and individuals is foundational. I see this as an opportunity! Thank you for responding.