Social-Emotional Learning Meets Equity

Topics: Social Emotional Learning, Equity and Diversity, Health and Wellness

Kaylen Tucker, Ph.D.

Bias. Racism. Cultural competence. Justice. While these are terms that every school community has come to acknowledge, they are not words typically associated with social-emotional learning. But if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that the importance of educational equity knows no bounds.

That’s why CASEL—the organization with the best-​recognized definition for SEL—recently updated its language to include support for educational equity, placing more focus on authentic partnerships with families and communities, as well as the ongoing examination of identity, prejudice, bias, and cultural competency. All can contribute to the student well-​being that undergirds the purpose of SEL.

SEL Is for Adults, Too

To do this work, principals and teachers need training in SEL that is culturally competent and advances equity. Why? Because “even well-intentioned adults in schools—like well-intentioned adults outside of schools—have biases and beliefs that can harm students’ development and overall achievement,” according to “Social, Emotional, and Academic Development Through an Equity Lens,” a 2020 report by The Education Trust featured in this issue of Principal.

The report argues that current approaches to SEL currently aim to “fix” kids but should instead focus on creating an equitable learning environment. “Teaching students self-management and self-efficacy will have little impact if school leaders fail to address an atmosphere that has become toxic due to discrimination or systemic racism,” the report says.

This issue of Principal also addresses one of the year’s most challenging matters: implementing SEL in hybrid and virtual settings. Read “Home Skilled” for SEL strategies that work whether you are in person, hybrid, or virtual. You will need them—regardless of your school’s status this year, the summer and fall will usher in a new set of unknowns that require flexibility.

Look to the accompanying Leading Lessons staff guide to help students in a post-pandemic world. As an extra bonus we’re pleased to present you with a school safety poster presented in partnership with Lysol; find it on page 31. And as always, please let me know how you enjoy this issue of Principal magazine.

Kaylen Tucker, Ph.D. is editor-in-chief of Principal magazine.



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