We are all leaders, and when we approach our work as learners, we strengthen social and emotional learning (SEL) for both adults and students. The 2023 SEL Exchange brought educators, researchers, leaders, and champions from around the world to explore the critical role of adult SEL. When adults and students alike have meaningful, inclusive opportunities to learn and develop social and emotional skills, we build a village where everyone thrives.
Impact of the 2023 SEL Exchange
- Adult SEL helps build the context for both educator well-being and young people’s healthy development.
“I saw just how critical it was for teachers to be experiencing well-being both for themselves to function effectively at work and to build relationships with their students.” — Dr. Rebecca Collie, University of New South Wales
The SEL Exchange showcased efforts of schools, educators, researchers, and policymakers to translate this insight into practice. We heard how leaders can model emotional balance and SEL for staff, learned strategies for helping educators identify and process their feelings, and explored the impact of students’ perceptions of teacher care and well-being.
- Innovative educators are finding powerful ways to explore the role of SEL in many contexts and cultures.
“A lot of you are tied to the roots of your culture. As adults, we ask you to tap into that.” — Dawn Eriacho, Zuni Public Schools
SEL is not one-size-fits-all! Presenters at the SEL Exchange highlighted the many ways SEL can support adults and students in the classroom, out-of-school time programs, the community, the home, and beyond. We also heard how SEL is being embraced in different cultures, both in the U.S. and abroad, with insights from members of the A:Shiwi culture of the American Southwest, researchers in rural India, hip-hop artists, and SEL pioneers who urged us to recognize and integrate individual identity into the implementation of SEL.
- Adults who focus on their own SEL are better equipped to lift student voice and agency.
“When students see adults using the tools we need to transform, students see it’s okay for them as well.” — Author and principal Chris Balme
A recurring theme was the importance of encouraging students to engage their own agency in their schools and communities. From discussions of more restorative approaches to discipline to exploring the power of project-based learning to give students an active role in instruction, presenters positioned adult SEL as a valuable foundation for educators and other adults who want to develop their own capacity to lift student voice and agency.
An Evening of Enlightenment With Jewel and Dr. Tim Shriver
“I have an emotional inheritance from my family, and no one talked about it. That became my job: How do I find a new way to relate to the world?” — Jewel
This kickoff event included a welcome from local Atlanta leaders and recorded remarks from U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, followed by a heartfelt conversation between multiplatinum recording artist Jewel and CASEL Board Chair Dr. Tim Shriver about their personal experiences with SEL. We also celebrated the winners of the Social and Emotional Learning Leader of the Year (SELLY) Awards.
SELebrating 50 Years of Hip-Hop
“Hip-hop culture is the best case study in the history of the world of marginalized youth discovering, dreaming, developing, and deploying their social, emotional, and cultural competence to heal themselves and transform their worlds.” — Dr. Roberto Rivera, Alliance for the 7th Generation
We heard about personal experiences of hip-hop and SEL from Dr. Rivera, who provided an absorbing account of the birth of hip-hop and breakdancing as a means to build culture and community; hip-hop superstar Darryl (DMC) McDaniels, who shared how his passion for music has led to an investment in early childhood literacy in his work with Noggin; and DEE-1, DJ and former middle school teacher, who played some cuts from his album of songs based on the CASEL 5 competencies.
The Science of Adult Transformation to Create Caring Schools
“What makes a good teacher in general and in social and emotional learning is someone who can practice and model compassion, attention and awareness, emotional honesty, and regulation.” — Dr. Robert Roeser, Penn State University
Three internationally prominent researchers focused on how educator well-being can transform schools and support caring environments for students and their families. Dr. Collie shared her insights into factors that contribute to teacher well-being and student achievement; Dr. Robert Roeser (Penn State) identified “knowledge about how to be ourselves as teachers” as an important part of professional development; and Dr. Jason Okonofua (UC Berkeley) explored how growth mindset and empathy can help address implicit bias in teachers.
The Future of Education: SEL in the Dawn of Artificial Intelligence
“Any time you feel like it’s making your life more efficient, take a pause and ask yourself, what responsibility am I delegating to AI? Am I comfortable with this? Is it going to serve my students, myself, my family, etc. in the best way?” — Dr. Christina Gardner-McCune, University of Florida
Dr. Tim Shriver moderated a conversation between Dr. Gardner-McCune and Dr. Kristal Ayre, (Google for Education), exploring the role SEL will play in strengthening our critical human assets as technology advances emerge and how we can harness the power of AI to foster inclusive, relationship-rich classrooms that achieve equitable outcomes.
The Exchange Experience
From the exhibitors and activities at SEL Main Street, to Jewel in conversation and in concert, to local students spinning records, performing a drumline, and playing classical music, the SEL Exchange offered rich connections and an interactive experience of SEL up close and in person.