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This Month's SEL Conversation | December 2021
CASEL Community,

It has been an absolute privilege to have been president and CEO of CASEL for the past seven-and-a-half years. In that time, I have seen the remarkable growth of social and emotional learning (SEL) and its extraordinary impact on the lives of our children. When I watched thousands of passionate educators, researchers, and policy leaders gathered together for CASEL’s inaugural SEL Exchange in 2019, a highlight of my time at CASEL, I felt tremendous hope and pride. That optimism has only grown since then. SEL has become a movement and a force in helping to foster healthy development for ALL children.

While many of the current challenges existed before the pandemic, the depth of hardships for our educators, students, and families is truly unprecedented–and they have been exacerbated in the last two years. Additionally, we are living in a political environment that is highly charged, often void of reason and diplomacy, and fueled by anger, misinformation, and fear–negatively impacting the lives of our children.

However, my confidence and optimism is stronger than ever. So many passionate educators, researchers, and policy leaders recognize the role SEL can and should play in bringing about lasting positive change in our nation's classrooms, and they are dedicated to improving learning environments for all students. Decades of research and practical experience have positioned our SEL field to lead in this moment. To do that, we need to call upon the core tenets of SEL. We must listen deeply to one another, reflect on the multitude of perspectives and experiences, build meaningful relationships, and work together to problem-solve and find solutions. We need to link arms more tightly than ever and double down on our commitments to collaboration, evidence-based approaches, and alignment of research, policy, and implementation to best serve students.

At the end of this year, I am proudly passing the baton to CASEL’s incoming president and CEO, Dr. Aaliyah A. Samuel, an educator and national policy leader, who will lead us into the next era of SEL. Read more about Dr. Samuel. Dr. Samuel is inheriting a world-class team who are some of the most creative, thoughtful, and humble leaders I have come across. Her leadership combined with that of CASEL’s extraordinary board of directors, committed funders, and dedicated staff will provide a powerful engine to drive CASEL forward into its next phase. While I am stepping out of this role, I will very much continue to be a part of this movement alongside all of you. Thank you for allowing me this tremendous opportunity and for your ongoing support of CASEL and SEL. Onward!

With appreciation and optimism,

Karen Niemi
Let's Talk More About...
2022 SEL Commitment: Safe and Caring Schools

How can schools keep students safe? The question is weighing on educators and families as concerns around safety, mental health, and trauma continue to rise. The new year brings an opportunity to recommit to safe and caring schools. This commitment requires long-term solutions that address root causes before a crisis develops–and SEL plays an important role. By promoting skills like self-regulation and problem-solving, SEL helps students cope with mounting anxieties and reduce the risk of violent behaviors. A focus on SEL schoolwide also fosters positive relationships and supportive climates that increase students’ sense of safety and well-being. While SEL does not replace needed mental health supports or violence interventions, it’s an integral part of making sure all “young people experience school as a place of connection, relationship, and community.

Related action: All students deserve an education that SELebrates them. Use the hashtag #SpeakUpforSEL to share your support on social media.
2022 SEL Commitment: Teacher Well-Being
Winter break offers much-needed rejuvenation for educators, but supporting teacher well-being will take ongoing commitment. Evidence is growing that the pandemic has increased burnout among many teachers. A focus on SEL can help create long-term strategies that address systems-level changes that require us to look beyond individual strategies for self-care and stress management. In the new year, school leaders can prioritize structures that protect teachers’ time for collaboration, involve them in the design of professional learning opportunities, promote trauma-informed strategies, and collect data on teachers’ concerns. With an ongoing commitment to SEL for both students and adults, schools can create sustainable conditions that support educators year-round.

Related action: Join tomorrow’s free webinar on SEL and teacher well-being.
2022 SEL Commitment: Deeper Family Partnerships 
It is time to go beyond the parent-teacher conference. The end of first semester often brings together families and teachers to check in on students’ progress. In 2022, commit to taking these conversations further by engaging families in reflecting on the school's or district’s progress around SEL. Families and caregivers are critical partners whose perspectives help identify what’s working well and what needs to be adjusted. Partnering with families on SEL and collecting data on their experiences is particularly important in this challenging year with many students returning to in-person school after months of disruptions. By working together, schools and families can ensure that SEL plans that were launched in the fall continue to benefit all students as the year goes on.

Related action: Looking for more support with SEL implementation? Join our SEL Workshop Series on implementing systemic SEL in your school community. 
Worth A Read
  • Interview with incoming CASEL president and CEO Dr. Aaliyah A. Samuel

  • Insights from David Adams, CEO of the Urban Assembly, about the current controversy about SEL and reasons why understanding SEL’s benefits for students is so essential

  • Ninety-seven percent of school district directors reported that social-emotional skills were as important or more important than developing academic knowledge for student success

  • A brief that provides suggestions of how educational planners and decision-makers can ensure a positive learning environment for all

  • A ninth-grade English teacher recounts how to provide opportunities to develop empathy and a sense of community in students

  • CASEL’s Justina Schlund outlines three practices for bringing SEL into the workplace
What's Next
SEL Showcase | SEL4US + CASEL
  • Spread the word about SEL by posting on social media using the prompts below, with #SELshowcase and tagging @SEL4USA and @caselorg.
  • December 17, co-hosted with America's Promise: Share an SEL practice you use to support student voice, and tag @AmericasPromise.
  • January 28: What is your new year’s reSELution? Share an SEL skill or practice you want to strengthen this year.

  • Free CASEL webinar on how school leaders can design the necessary structural supports that enable teacher well-being.

  • Registration is now open for our workshop series to help you plan, sustain, and continuously improve systemic SEL implementation throughout your school community.

February 4-6: 4th Annual Educating Mindfully Conference | Coalition of Schools Educating Mindfully (COSEM)
  • EMCON2022 will develop adult SEL competencies and dive deep into how students self-regulate and learn, using mindfulness to disrupt bias, and increase self-awareness and equity.

March 11: SEL Day
  • Mark your calendar and stay tuned for information about how to participate!
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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. www.AllstateFoundation.org