Principal - May/June 2021 - 18

S EL i s essent i al for
l earni ng, growi ng,
and connect i ng
And yet, school leaders have faced
considerable obstacles to SEL implementation. These include insufficient
professional learning, competing
district priorities, and lack of funding,
not to mention pressing challenges with implementing SEL through
distance learning and integrating SEL
with needed supports around mental
health and trauma.
And as the popularity of SEL has
grown, so, too, has the number of SEL
programs, initiatives, and best practices pitched to principals. It's no wonder
that the most common question we
hear from school leaders is, " How do I
get started with SEL? "
A good place to start is by clarifying
what we mean by SEL. After years
of working closely with school and
district leaders and reviewing the
current research, CASEL last year updated the best-known definition and
framework for SEL. As the organization that founded scholarship in the
field of SEL more than 25 years ago,
we wanted to create a stronger foundation for school leaders to promote
SEL in ways that support educational
equity and excellence.
CASEL's updated framework continues to demonstrate the importance
of enhancing the social and emotional
competencies of all young people and
adults, while placing more emphasis
on how relationships and environments influence learning and development. We continue to highlight the

Students are m ost likely
to ben ef it f rom SEL
wh en it is consistently
part of th eir daily
interactions an d
learnin g experien ces.
*

18

M A Y / J U N E 2 0 2 1 * N A E S P. O R G

wi t h one ot her.

importance of SEL in classrooms and schools, and we've
given additional attention to the importance of authentic
partnerships with families and communities.
We also included how we see SEL helping young people and adults learn and work together to develop the
knowledge, skills, and mindsets to create caring and just
schools and communities. For example, the five core CASEL
competencies-self-awareness, self-management, social
awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decisionmaking-include reflecting upon personal and social identities, examining prejudices and biases, developing cultural
competency, evaluating social norms and systemic inequities, and supporting community well-being.
What does all of this mean for school leaders, who play a
central role in shaping SEL implementation? Below, we offer
four strategies for principals to integrate SEL throughout
their schools:

1. CULTIVATE SHARED LEADERSHIP
SEL involves and affects all members of the school community, including students, teachers, administrators, counselors, support staff, families, and community partners. Shared
leadership for SEL means that schools have inclusive
decision-making processes that engage all of these different
groups in developing and enacting SEL priorities and plans.
Here are actions school leaders can take:
* Establish a team that shares leadership responsibility for SEL,
including representation from staff, students, families, and
community partners.
* Ensure that the SEL team is representative of the school
community, including their roles, experience, gender, race,
language, culture, etc.
* Create time and space for all students, staff, families, and
community partners to learn about SEL.
* Engage all stakeholders in setting a vision for SEL that reflects
the school community's collective values.
* Ensure that those who will be affected by decisions are included in decision-making processes.

2. ESTABLISH A FAVORABLE
WORK ENVIRONMENT
SEL implementation depends on how well adults work
together to facilitate SEL instruction, foster a positive school


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