Special Edition - October 2020

In response to these challenging times, many of us are seeking opportunities to discover new forms of collaboration and connectivity to participate, share, and continue to grow strong relationships. The remarkable stories shared during our 2020 SEL Exchange Virtual Summit on October 15 reveal inspiring ways that our presenters are forging new pathways for building community and supporting SEL. 
In our time of physical distancing, we’ve found new ways to collaborate and an opportunity to virtually welcome nearly 2,500 people from 22 countries. As we confront deep-seated systemic inequities, we’ve recommitted to fully supporting all young people as they develop their identity, agency, and a sense of belonging. Last week, we dedicated space and energy to create an opportunity for young people, researchers, educators, mentors, parents, and community members to come together. Our theme, “Catalyzing Our Commitment To Youth,” called on everyone to create environments where all young people can thrive and become agents of change in their lives, schools, and communities. 

To make that happen, we are sharing our commitment with the Together for SEL Pledge. This pledge is a simple promise to commit to SEL, to support every young person, and to do our part for a more just and caring world. I hope you’ll take the pledge and join us in working to make it visible through our actions. 

Karen Niemi 
CASEL President & CEO

Key Insights from the 2020 SEL Exchange Virtual Summit
The Why of SEL: Support and Promote the Identity, Agency, and Belonging of Youth in Partnership with Them
The voices of young people are compassionate, courageous and clear, proclaiming their power to co-create a society more just, more caring, and more inclusive of perspectives previously devalued or dismissed. This session was a clear reminder of the awe-inspiring creativity and unapologetic truth-telling of young people. 
The session was moderated by Asalah Youssef (17-year-old photographer & advocate for sustainability, well-being, & social entrepreneurship), who shared the power of digital photography to highlight human connectedness and share experiences during quarantine, including with our youth speakers. Asalah connected us to inspiring testimony from Rashad Evans (eighth grade honors student) on the power of young people to challenge racism, impactful storytelling from Samia Zia (high school senior, nXu Fellowship) on forging identity as a young person, and a moving spoken word performance by Chiqui Diaz (high school sophomore & youth activist, Beyond Differences) highlighting how safe spaces can create belonging. These speakers shared a clarion call to action for adults to leverage SEL to prioritize the agency and expertise of youth in re-imagining and re-designing thriving schools and communities.

Reflection for our own work: How can we, as adults, hold space with young people and engage with them as whole learners?
The What of SEL: Ground our Work in the Research that Supports SEL in the Classroom and Community
The speakers in these sessions connected their research to an expanded understanding of SEL — illuminating the importance of relationships, learning experiences, and environments that affirm every young person’s full identities, offer them the experience of belonging, and promote their agency. 
Dr. Christina Villarreal explored identity, reminding us that teachers should start their work with the historical and sociocultural stories of their students and trust them as experts of themselves. Ben Kirshner, PhD, identified four principles to support student agency by sharing power, engaging in critical conversations, participating in action research, and creating opportunities for public speech and discourse. Dr. DeLeon Gray and Dr. Elan Hope discussed fostering a sense of belonging through instructional, interpersonal, and institutional strategies such as pausing before a lesson to connect the learning to larger goals and dismantling discipline policies that undermine a sense of belonging.

Reflection for our own work: How will we support and celebrate students in asserting their unique selves in the classroom, in their homes, and in the community?
The How of SEL: Moving Theory into Action to Cultivate Supportive Environments in All Learning Spaces
To catalyze our commitment to youth, we all must examine our own perspectives and biases to create space for all voices. Specifically, we must interrogate and adjust our systems and our policies, rather than insisting that students adjust to inequitable environments. This segment featured leaders who are deeply engaged in the necessary work of collectively reimagining and reconstructing on behalf of our youth.
Drs. Linda Darling-Hammond and John B. King, Jr. connected SEL best practices such as building interpersonal relationships, using positive discipline practices, and encouraging student agency to improve schools and achieve equitable outcomes. Dr. Gholnecsar (Gholdy) Muhammad discussed importance of “criticality,” supporting students in learning how to disrupt the harm and oppression around them. Dr. Stacey Chimimba Ault helped expand our view of trauma, both out of school and within it, by looking beyond self-care to “squad care” and giving young people the space to create community with their peers. Karen Pittman, in partnership with Edutopia, highlighted the full ecosystem of learning, including out-of-school experiences in the arts and athletics, where young people can benefit from adults providing wrap-around SEL. 

Reflection for our own work: What is one barrier in our work that hinders authentic engagement and partnership with young people and their families, and how will we push against it?
The Now of SEL: Carrying Our Commitment Forward to Advance SEL as a Lever for Equity
As CASEL Board Chair Tim Shriver said, “The work of SEL is no longer for the future, it is for the present.” The Virtual Summit focused on catalyzing our commitment to the work and, most importantly, to all youth. We’ve heard their voices, we’ve seen the research, and we recognize that this can indeed be done. The step that remains is our individual and collective action.
Reflection for our own work: Will you take the Together for SEL Pledge and commit to the work of social and emotional learning? What are the first two action steps toward bringing that pledge to life?
Taking Action
  • Together for SEL Pledge: We hope you’ll take the pledge and join us in bringing these words to life.

  • Gain access to the Virtual Summit: Did you miss the live event? Good news! All speakers and sessions from the Virtual Summit were recorded. You can purchase access to the entirety of Summit content and related resources from November 2 through December 31, 2020.
Staying Connected
Join the conversation.

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