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This Month's SEL Conversation / April 2022


This month’s SEL-inspired art: "Lighting the Way" by Eliza, Age 11

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Dear Carolina,

Consider a real-world math problem: One in three high school students experienced poor mental health during the pandemic, chronic absenteeism more than doubled, and academic learning gaps widened. 

What will we need to add, subtract, and multiply in our schools so that 100 percent of children thrive? 

Add: Caring relationships. Data from the pandemic shows that students who felt close to others at school had a significantly lower prevalence of poor mental health and persistent sadness. Caring relationships also help reduce absenteeism, increase engagement, and bolster academic achievement. 

Subtract: Political distractions. Political agendas are being prioritized over what parents actually want and the education all children deserve. Let’s bring schools, families, and communities together to support students' social, emotional, and academic learning.

Multiply: All of our social and emotional competencies. When we build on the strengths of students and adults, we cultivate skills to grow healthy relationships and collaboratively problem solve—key components of how we heal and move forward.

Read on to learn more about how SEL can support mental wellbeing, promote belonging, and deepen academic learning.

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SEL and Mental Health: What’s the Relationship?

SEL is like a balanced diet, nutritious and necessary for everyone to stay healthy. It promotes mental wellness by helping all students (and adults) build healthy relationships, better understand their emotions, cope with stress, and ask for help. But SEL cannot and should not replace mental health services for students who need them. SEL is not a way of treating or diagnosing mental health conditions, and it does not ask teachers to provide therapeutic responses. The role of teachers in promoting SEL is to build supportive relationships and create opportunities for all students to learn and practice skills that help them succeed in school and life.

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Strengthen SEL to Promote Belonging

As one 12th grader shared with YouthTruth, “What my school can do to help me during this period of change is make me feel like I’m not alone, and that people actually care about me and let people know that I am here as a friend.” After remote learning and school disruptions, the need for belonging has never been clearer. Researchers have found that students’ sense of belonging not only has an impact on their academic performance, but is also a “protective factor” to buffer against anxiety and depression. SEL is a critical tool for cultivating belonging by building warm classroom communities, deepening social awareness and empathy, and developing communication and relationship skills.

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SEL and Deeper Learning: What’s the Academic Connection?

Parents and teachers know that supporting students’ academic growth takes more than subject knowledge. Not only do social and emotional skills help students focus on learning, work through challenging material, and collaborate with peers, SEL deepens their engagement and understanding of academic content. For example, STEM teachers know that teaching students math or science objectives takes more than showing them the answers. It involves teaching analysis and interpretation, helping students to apply concepts to real-world situations, guiding meaningful discussions, and challenging previous assumptions. SEL can’t be separated from academic learningit is exactly how learning happens.

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NBC News:

Social-Emotional Learning In Schools Targeted As New Critical Race Theory

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May 5:

Urban Assembly 2022 SEL Symposium

  • K-12 Dive: How the Pandemic Made Social-Emotional Learning More Accessible

  • Edutopia: 5 Ways Administrators Can Support Teachers
  • May 17-18: CCD 2022 Career Readiness Summit

  • June 1: Registration closes for Learning Together SEL Workshops

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