Category: Article

Why We Can’t Afford Whitewashed Social-Emotional Learning

Teaching ‘fearless SEL content’ can help give students the “Ultimate Life Skills”. Read more to see how social-emotional skills translate to tools that students can use to build relationships, foster social awareness and navigate unjust realities.


Dena Simmons

Social-emotional learning (SEL) skills can help us build communities that foster courageous conversations across difference so that our students can confront injustice, hate, and inequity. SEL refers to the life skills that support people in experiencing, managing, and expressing emotions, making sound decisions, and fostering interpersonal relationships.

However, educators often teach SEL absent of the larger sociopolitical context, which is fraught with injustice and inequity and affects our students’ lives. As an SEL practitioner-researcher who speaks nationally about the intersection of emotional intelligence, equity, and culturally responsive practices, I hear that educators shy away from such discussions for fear that they will be accused of politicization or that they will lose their jobs.

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Yes, Field Trips Are Worth the Effort

This article focuses on how culturally enriching trips and shows can boost grades and decrease absences. The piece also features educator recommendations that make it easier for teachers to implement these trips.



By Paige Tutt

As a teacher, Elena Aguilar often looked for opportunities to get her students out of the classroom and into different neighborhoods or natural environments. “We did the usual museum trips and science center stuff, but I loved the trips which pushed them into unfamiliar territory,” writes Aguilar, an instructional coach and author. Nudging kids out of their comfort zones, she says, “taught them about others as well as themselves. It helped them see the expansiveness of our world and perhaps inspired them to think about what might be available to them out there.”

Aguilar’s thinking made an impact: 15 years after traveling with her third-grade class to Yosemite National Park, a student contacted Aguilar on Facebook to thank her for the life-changing excursion. “You changed our lives with that trip,” the student wrote. “It’s what made me want to be a teacher, to be able to give that same gift to other kids.”

As schools grapple with pandemic-related concerns about balancing in-seat instructional time with non-essentials like trips, new research published in The Journal of Human Resources argues that field trips, and the vital educational experiences that they provide—whether it’s a visit to a local museum or a big commitment like Aguilar’s national park trip—deliver a host of positive social and academic outcomes and are worth the effort.

“The pandemic should not keep schools from providing these essential cultural experiences forever,” asserts Jay P. Greene, one of the study’s co-authors and a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, in an opinion piece for the Daily News. “If schools make culturally-enriching field trips an integral part of the education experience, all students—especially those whose parents have a harder time accessing these experiences on their own—would benefit.”

Helping Students Reacclimate to Being with Others All Day

Learn how a few, simple strategies that schools could implement can help students readjust to being back in school after the pandemic. This article highlights focused attention practices that can be incorporated into class time.



By Lori Desautels

The start of the 2021–22 school year has been rough. Students across the world are experiencing “broken belongings”—a detachment from others—as the pandemic created conditions of relative isolation and a significant amount of chronic unpredictability within communities and home environments during the past 20 months.

We can observe this detachment in student behaviors, which are signals of a nervous system dysregulated by often toxic levels of stress. Our schools are being challenged to return to some type of normalcy even as we move through the third academic year of a global pandemic. The social loss our students are carrying is palpable.

Two mornings and afternoons a week, I am co-teaching in seventh-grade classrooms in a large middle school, and as I walk down Hallway B, I feel the tension in the air. As a staff, we are wondering how to reclaim feelings of safety and connection so that sustainable learning can occur. The nervous system is social, and has plasticity, but we require safety and a sense of belonging to access the frontal regions of the brain that hold our abilities to problem-solve, pay attention, emotionally regulate, and thoughtfully respond, which we all need to feel competent, autonomous, and motivated.

The destructive TikTok challenges that have gone viral in many of our secondary schools, accompanied by defiance and destruction of school property, are behaviors that demonstrate how distorted belonging feels better to students than the isolation of the recent past—these highly irrational challenges are often driven by the developmental need for attachment to others.

We need to harness students’ energy and attachment to each other, and follow the nature of the child. Our seventh-grade team has been meeting to cultivate ways we can begin to rebuild trust and connection through our procedures with the increase of predictability, safety, and relational conditions. We are and will be continuing to integrate these practices at the beginning and end of classes and during transitions.

26 Mini-Films for Exploring Race, Bias and Identity With Students

This article lists short films that can facilitate classroom discussions on race and racism. It also lists a few tips (Teaching Ideas) for further awareness and understanding of the issues. Some of the Teaching Ideas include: open-ended questions; offer choices of the film to students; use short activities; pair with short readings; take action.



By Michael Gonchar

How do we get students to consider perspectives different from their own? How do we get them to challenge their own biases and prejudices? If, as Atticus Finch famously said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it,” how do we get our students to do that?

Teachers traditionally turn to literature, history and current events to open up these conversations, but it’s always helpful to have a bigger toolbox to tackle such important and difficult issues. That’s why we pulled together these 26 short New York Times documentaries that range in time from 1 to 7 minutes and tackle issues of race, bias and identity.

To help teachers make the most of these films, we also provide several teaching ideas, related readings and student activities.

Social-Emotional Learning for Black Students is Ineffective When it is Culture-Blind

In this article, Donna Ford identifies issues that black students face in schools, and the racial trauma that could affect them.  Take a look into how these racial issues can potentially follow students in to higher education.

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In ‘Social-Emotional Learning,’ Right Sees More Critical Race Theory

This article details how SEL has been confused with Critical Race Theory (CRT) and how and SEL has come under attack by parents who don’t really understand what SEL is. Do you think we can leave the topic of race out of SEL curriculums?

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SEL and Music

Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Ian Kelly and I have worked in the mental health field in various aspects for about 5 years now. Some of my training has been professional, such as being a therapeutic behavioral specialist and a success coach with the Dangers of the Mind, but another aspect of therapy that I use daily is through music. As a therapeutic behavioral specialist, I used to help adolescents and teens find adaptive behaviors through methods that worked best for them, I.e. naming it to tame it or working on “I” statements. While helping others learn their own adaptive behaviors I began to realize my day to day passion was also my adaptive behavior in regards to stress relief and decreasing tension.


Music in itself is therapy and being able to at times be vulnerable and put that into song form can be a way to ease various stressors that may take over thoughts in the mind more than planned. I notice the more I write the more I begin to heal in different ways. While making music I am able to combine social and emotional learning skills with music to make art therapy. I like to attack social awareness through speaking on issues that I see around me, whether that be on a micro scale or a macro level. Within talking about social awareness I often find myself analyzing my self awareness through the process. Being an artist is all about self management and how you maximize your time to treat your art like therapy.


Relationship building is also something that is key and necessary in any situation. I noticed that building rapport with clients and students helped make things flow smoother in regards to having progressive conversations as a therapeutic behavorial specialist. The same thing applies with being a musician. You can’t do it all yourself, unless your Prince. You soon learn that building relationships are the foundation to a healthy career. What you’re acting, thinking, and feeling plays a major role in the process of social emotional development. Through doing various studies I also noticed a correlation to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychological treatment that has been demonstrated to be effective for a range of problems including depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug use problems, marital problems, eating disorders, and severe mental illness. While I realize there are some artist that participate in drug use, I noticed that, Facing one’s fears instead of avoiding them. Using role playing to prepare for potentially problematic interactions with others. Learning to calm one’s mind and relax one’s body can all be done through music and what you decide to talk about.