#T2Tchat: How Your Fellow Educators Are Approaching SEL This Fall

Teachers like you have shared that this year, focusing on social-emotional learning is more important than ever – so your fellow educators came together to share how they’re supporting wellness and implementing SEL practices in their communities. Now we’re sharing their recommendations and favorite resources with you! We hope you’ll find some inspiration, encouragement or a new strategy for building collaboration into your practice – or all of the above!

You can read more advice from fellow educators (and add your own voice to the conversation) by scrolling through #T2Tchat on Twitter. Special thanks to CASEL for partnering with us to hold this chat, and educators Cait O’Connor, Quincy Hills and Tiffany Alexander for facilitating the discussion. We hope to see you at an upcoming #T2Tchat, too!

Question 1

Question 1: What impact has the pandemic had on your approach to social-emotional learning?

“I think the pandemic made us realize that everyone needed SEL and was a victim of trauma. Teachers could no longer assume it was kids of poverty with high ACE scores. Everyone returned exposed to trauma and needing restorative care.” Educator Ashley Washington

“Vulnerability has been something so important; kids are seeing the humanity of their teachers and we are all learning to choose our struggles with grace; there’s enough going on for all of us!” —Educator Cait O’Connor

“Educators have had to get creative to build intentional relationships and positive classroom climates during virtual or hybrid learning. Virtual class meetings, opportunities for self-reflection and taking meta-moments all help students feel centered and connected.” CASEL

“Teaching during the pandemic has put SEL at the forefront of trying to foster a safe classroom environment. Dedicating class time for whole group discussions to grow into silly things has built much needed relationships and feels even more crucial now.” Teacher Mr. Zawacki

“I’m so grateful for the opportunities to allow students to come on the mic and share. We’ve hosted restorative circles online, allowed students to lead family meetings and encouraged positive feedback through class cheers. Our class is still family, even electronically.” Teacher Jami Witherell 


Question 2

Question 2: What SEL needs are you seeing in your students this year?

“Students need time to process everything, including things that once came to them ‘naturally.’ Deadlines are flexible (not non-existent). Students have always had input with pacing and assignment choice in our class. Now more students are speaking up to add their voice.” Educator Holly Spinelli

“With families sitting side by side, we are struggling to gain self-reliance and independence. In the classroom, students are gaining skills by working independently. In distance learning, there is a real struggle to allow the productive struggle to happen at home.” Teacher Ms. Witherell

“Our students need EMPATHY, COMPASSION, and GRACE more than anything this year. We owe it to our students to be a listening ear during this difficult time for everyone.” —Educator Quincy Hills 

“Students need opportunities to talk about what they’re experiencing and make sense of the world around them. We need to center our work around their strengths and lived experiences.” CASEL

“I am in a prep block right now so my own classes haven’t started yet but what I am hearing from colleagues is, students are desperately looking for normalcy. They know that things are different but they want as much of the familiar routines as we can provide. And motivation. It’s been a challenge to re-engage some of them after so long away, especially when they are at home part-time.” Teacher Andrea Biro

Question 3

Question 3: What tools, strategies and resources help you empower students to name and process their emotions?

“First, make space for emotions! Help students develop a rich emotional vocabulary to describe their experiences and give them opportunities to check-in with themselves, you and one another.  Our tool, 5-Minute Chats with Students, can help: https://bit.ly/2SfNL44” —CASEL

“My school has created a SEL Lounge that is a welcome place for POSITIVITY and EMPOWERMENT! We have a growing number of wrap-around services that focus  on mentorship and building POSITIVE relationships … My school begins each day by responding to a selected writing prompt in our ‘Resiliency Notebooks.’ Every adult and student in our building takes these 5 minutes to self-reflect, provide praise, and set goals that lay the foundation for their day.” Educator Quincy Hills

“All teachers should be aware of the 5 competencies of #SEL and quite frankly @caselorg is my absolute go to for resources. Add some @EmpaticoOrg lessons and understanding of my own emotional intelligence & I’ve got some great nuggets.” Educator Dorina Ebuwa 

“I use #Flipgrid for them to express the way they feel, how they have felt, to reflect on their actions – and students liked it.” —Teacher Ana Cecilia Mewa 

“After mindset measures, it’s helpful to allow students to share their own strategies for what works. This empowers [them] and allows learning to happen peer-to-peer.” —Educator Stefanie Rothstein

“I am using @PearDeck & @GoogleForEdu slides to check in with my students. Students identify the pokemon that relates to how they’re currently feeling each class at the beginning of the class. I also include the option of ‘Prefer not to say/share.’” —Teacher Angela W. Tseng

Question 4

Question 4: What tools, strategies and resources help you support students in building relationships within your classroom?

“Including students’ lived experiences and material/text suggestions. They are the experts in this content, so they lead the work. It has been transformative.” —Educator Holly Spinelli 

“Strategic roles in breakout rooms have helped students have productive conversations and build relationships. Also check-in/welcoming rituals that tie to an SEL competency and allow all voices to be heard right from the start of the lesson.” —Educator Ashley Taplin

“We’re full distance learning, so challenging students to submit photos of natural things that bring them joy. After viewing them, I’ll place them in a collage to publish for the community to see. Organic connections through art (therapy).” —Educator Stefanie Rothstein

“Integrating SEL with academic content creates a community of learners. As students support & challenge one another, they build relationships & the competencies that support collaboration.” —CASEL

“Whole Brain Teaching Rules, Brainies, & other strategies are keeping us engaged. Restorative Circles are supporting our open community. MUSIC. We sing a lot together and I open our day with a morning song to call a family meeting and close our day with a closing song.” —Teacher Jami Witherell

Question 5

Question 5: What’s a question you have about supporting the social-emotional growth of your students?

“The question that I continue to tackle everyday with 60% of my school’s students being virtual is, what are the best methods to support the social-emotional growth of our overwhelming number of virtual students?” —Educator Quincy Hills 

“How do we encourage SEL growth in a way that is trauma-informed and emotionally safe for students?” —Educator Aren Morris 

“I think we have been trained extensively on how to support students. I wonder how we support teachers who are trying to support students while dealing with their own trauma? They’re struggling to take care of everyone around and pouring from empty cups. How do we [avoid] burn out?” —Educator Ashley Washington

“Many of us are thinking about how SEL can help build our students’ capacity to respond to an unjust world while also knowing we as adults need to make the world more just for them to begin with. How do we hold this tension in a way that is productive?” —CASEL

“How do we move from the idea that SEL is ‘fluffy stuff’ to proving its effectiveness and impact? Research continues to surface, but just like other controversial topics, it often doesn’t move the opinion needle.” —Educator Stefanie Rothstein

“Positivity is great, but we all experience a range of emotions. How do we balance offering positive support without pushing toxic positivity?” —Educator Holly Spinelli

Question 6

Question 6: How does your work to support SEL intersect with your efforts to build an equitable classroom and community?

“SEL helps adults to step back, reflect on who we want to be in this situation, and act responsibly. This allows us to create identity-safe and trauma-informed classrooms where we are responsive and attuned to the needs of students.” —CASEL

“Intentionally building an equitable classroom community overlaps with SEL beautifully. Community building requires SEL and bonds of trust. SEL requires community and trust as well. When you focus on building one, you organically build the other.” —Educator Ashley Hinkle

“SEL allows educators the opportunity to meet students where they are. By being more aware of students’ needs that encompass gender responsiveness and a trauma lens, educators are at an advantage to understand the environment students need to be successful.” —Educator Dr. Vee

“A huge part of supporting SEL is building relationships with students and getting to know their needs and goals. When I plan my classes with those needs in mind and am actively working to help Ss meet their goals, it leads to a more equitable classroom for all.” —Teacher Andrea Biro

“It’s all about making the students feel accepted for who they are. Meeting them where they are at this moment. Acceptance is the key! Children must be taught acceptance and tolerance.” —
Teacher Tammy Tomazoli

Question 7

Question 7: How can you support the social-emotional wellness of yourself and of your fellow teachers this year?

“With patience and honesty. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a colleague if you need support. I was so appreciative about two weeks ago when I was asked about the fear and anxiety I was projecting (unknowingly) on others. Quickly adjusted my lens + turned to LOVE and GRACE.” —Educator Jillian DuBois

“Encourage teachers to [prioritize] self-care and provide opportunities for them to express their needs/frustrations. As a leader, always put yourself in their shoes and think about solutions to issues that may be pressing for them.” —Educator Sara Tudon

“Recognize that we are fighting a pandemic and not each other. Accept that we are all trying our best. Be kind to each other.” —Teacher Julie Arsenault 

“Remind yourself and others to honor the process. Extend the same grace to yourself that you would extend to students. Each of us is doing the best we know to do at the moment. Be an ear for someone who needs it and listen through the silence.” —Educator Dr. Vee

“I’ve been reaching out more, both to check in on colleagues and to vent. I think we need to stay connected right now as much as our students do. Working out regularly helps with anxiety but I’ve never been good at keeping that up during the school year.” —Teacher Andrea Biro

“When we truly take responsibility for ourselves and each other, we understand that all behavior is communication. This lens helps us to cut everyone some slack and ask, ‘What is that person going through? What do they need?’ It’s a hard time, and we are in it together.” —CASEL


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