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This Month's SEL Conversation | August 2021
Top of Mind: A New Kind of Back-to-School
While back-to-school is a time for returning, it is also a time to build new momentum that prepares students for both the school year ahead and the future that awaits them. The past few years have underscored the importance of social and emotional learning (SEL). As we return back to school, how can we leverage SEL to refocus on our mission and innovate our efforts?

With many priorities in the new school year, SEL offers a through-line to align and coordinate our goals. Through SEL implementation, we can create classrooms that are rooted in care and provide support to teachers and other staff. By selecting and implementing evidence-based SEL programs, we can ensure students have consistent, effective, and enriching opportunities to learn and practice SEL.

In this issue, we’re highlighting some of the big priorities for schools and districts as students return to the classroom: mental health, civic learning, and preparing students for their careers and future. We hope the resources below will help educators launch into a new school year, renewed in their focus on all students’ social, emotional, and academic development.
Let's Talk More About...
SEL and Back-to-School Priorities: Mental Health

In last month’s newsletter poll, mental health was the most common response for readers’ top priority heading into the new school year. SEL will be an important part of supporting students’ well-being. New research suggests many young people, likely 30 to 40 percent, have experienced negative impacts on their mental health or social and emotional well-being during the pandemic. While SEL does not replace needed mental health services, SEL can promote mental wellness in many ways. By promoting responsive relationships, emotionally safe environments, and social and emotional skills development, SEL cultivates important “protective factors” to buffer against mental health risks. Additionally, when schools prioritize the adult SEL skills needed to manage the shared responsibility of student mental health, it can help promote higher academic achievement and decreased behavioral challenges.

Related Action: Check out the SEL Muti-Tiered Systems of Support Toolkit for state and district leaders looking to foster safe and supportive environments.
SEL and Back-to-School Priorities: Civic Learning

This school year, there’s a renewed focus on helping young people make meaning of the world around them, develop their sense of purpose, and work together as caring and engaged community members. By integrating SEL and civic learning, we can give students opportunities to develop empathy, critical thinking, and relationship skills to live, work, and thrive together. For example, by linking SEL and service learning, students can practice their social and emotional competencies while serving their communities. In a joint op-ed, Civic and The Allstate Foundation summarized, “The cascading challenges of the current moment will require a generation of leaders with knowledge, empathy, resilience, appreciation of diversity, and civic dispositions to innovate through times of crisis.”

Related action: Register for our upcoming SEL Exchange Virtual Summit, which will include sessions on the synergy of SEL and civic engagement.
SEL and Back-to-School Priorities: Workforce Readiness

Young people will enter a rapidly evolving workforce, reshaped by a pandemic and an increasingly digital society. For many students, this shifting landscape may spark new aspirations for their future careers. As another unprecedented school year begins, we will need a fresh lens to consider: What will students need to know and be able to do to prepare for the world ahead? In addition to technical skills, SEL skills will be an essential foundation for students to pursue their career and life goals. Employer surveys continually show that they are seeking employees who have social and emotional competencies, emphasizing communication and interpersonal skills, self-management skills, and the ability to collaborate or work in teams. When we prioritize SEL, we can help our students create tools that will serve them for a lifetime, no matter what they choose to do.

Related action: Watch the video series from the Rhode Island Department of Education connecting each SEL competency to the workplace.
Worth A Read
The Learning Professional | Learning Forward
  • August issue of Learning Forward’s journal spotlights SEL for career readiness, for the new school year, in out-of-school time, for coaching, in the home, and in family-school partnerships.

  • A report on parent attitudes about SEL and policy recommendations for bolstering and supporting parent enthusiasm for SEL in schools. 

  • An op-ed from Civic’s Matthew Atwell and CASEL’s Justina Schlund about how to create more engaging learning experiences. 

Ways to Wellness: SEL for You, Too | California Teachers Association (CTA)
  • A spotlight on CTA members who integrate SEL into their work.

  • An examination of how the intersection of SEL and digital citizenship supports students’ unique digital challenges.
What's Next
  • Free CASEL webinar on practical ways that we can advance SEL and service learning in school communities.

  • Sponsored webinar exploring how students have made a difference in their own communities.

  • Free CASEL webinar featuring Common Sense Media on how young people are using digital media to manage their mental health.

September 24: SEL Showcase for September | SEL4US
  • Share your ideas about the importance of SEL with a social media post using #SELshowcase and tagging @SEL4USA and @caselorg.

  • Register today for "Beyond Talk: Building Tomorrow Together" to engage with youth, educators, researchers, and community partners.
What's your take?
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Thank you to CASEL's generous sponsors

The Allstate Foundation and CASEL are collaborating to focus the country’s attention on the power of social and emotional learning to equip the next generation with the skills they need to succeed. The Allstate Foundation champions SEL and service-learning programs to ensure youth reach their full potential and have the power to build the just, equitable and healthy world we all deserve.
LG is proud to partner with CASEL to advance SEL. The LG Experience Happiness platform is dedicated to bringing Sustainable Happiness Skills to youth across the country through collaboration, awareness and highly impactful SEL programming.