DWP February Newsletter, Issue IV: Social and Emotional Learning

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

Our entire team hopes your February is off to a great start. There are lots of reasons to celebrate this month including Black History Month and National School Counselor Week to name a few.

This month, the DWP editorial team focused on the important issue that many schools and districts are grappling with on a daily basis — an overwhelming mental health strain on students, parents, teachers, and communities. Historically, schools and communities sought to develop students’ and adults’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors needed to make successful choices through programming in schools. This type of instruction has loosely operated under the term Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Leaders in the field like the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) continue to provide strategies, resources and guidance to ensure that our schools are community institutions that empower and serve the whole child.

Across the country, and surprising to our team, the term SEL has suddenly become a polarizing and divisive issue. We hope that our commentaries and background reading help advance your own understanding of SEL, and more importantly, provide you with an opportunity to engage in the dialogue around why SEL should be an important component of schools across the country.

If you are new to our newsletter, here is a quick rundown of how our team approaches the work each month. We start with a pressing education issue, February is the role of SEL in schools, and then we curate a variety of different sources and opinions to ensure our readers have a common foundation to approach the topic. The DWP team provides you with a quick synopsis of each article and a link to pursue the full read at your convenience.

The DWP team is pleased to welcome Dr. Michael Allen as our first guest author. Dr. Allen’s piece, Epigenetics and a healing path forward, highlights the importance of mental health and self-care for adults at this crucial time as they continue to face unprecedented challenges for leading and keeping schools open. Jamie Zinck offers a creative call to action centered on why mental health and self-care should be normalized for all schools and communities. And to round things out, Sarah L. Evans interviewed Veronica York and Jessica Graf from Townsend Harris High School in Queens, NY. They provide a thoughtful approach to school level work on SEL through the lens of administration and school counseling. This interview not only captures work with students but with teachers as well.

Allison Donahue, writing for the Michigan Advance, provides a concise history of SEL’s history within public schools and a thoughtful analysis around why this concept has suddenly become a divisive flashpoint. Her deep dive into Michigan and school politics, How Social and Emotional Learning Became a Priority for Schools During the Pandemic, provides a guiding lesson on why schools and states should depoliticize school programs and initiatives that seek to improve the mental health and wellbeing of every student.

Linda Jacobson, senior writer for The 74, captured a wonderful interview with the new CEO for CASEL, Dr. Aaliyah Samuel. In this piece, Jacobson explores why Dr. Samuel is the best person to lead CASEL and the challenges that await CASEL in 2022 as political races heat up across the country. Dr. Samuel encourages the audience to stay focused on meeting students’ needs and not get distracted by controversies over terminology.

Zoe Darazsdi, writing for EdWeek, shares her zoom teaching reflections and qualitative research that promotes movement-oriented SEL practices for all students. Zoe’s article, Movement-Oriented SEL Might Just Improve Student Learning, provides a clear set of practices recommended for all educators to consider bringing into their respective classrooms.

As always, we look forward to your ongoing readership and dialogue with us. If you are interested in writing a commentary for Dialogue with Pedagogues, please reach out to one of the editors on the team. Thanks for reading!

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