Deep Dives

Promising Practices for Adult SEL: Four-Part Webinar Series – Part 3 Recap

May 15, 2023
Promising Practices for Adult SEL: Four-Part Webinar Series – Part 3 Recap

Our adult social and emotional learning (SEL) webinar series has explored what adult SEL is and the research behind it. Now, it’s time to talk about quality practices for implementing adult SEL.

What promising practices and innovations are emerging around adult SEL? What are some barriers to implementing adult SEL, and how can we overcome them? 

In Part 3 of our four-part webinar series Leaders as Learners: Cultivating Adult SEL, Bloodine Barthelus, Senior Director of Practice at CASEL, was joined by a panel of experts to discuss these questions—and many more.

  • Jennifer Ahn, Interim Executive Director, Lead by Learning
  • Mai Xi Lee, Social Emotional Learning Director, Sacramento County Office of Education (CA)
  • Sue Wilson, Superintendent, Mapleton School District (OR)

Watch the webinar recording below, or read on for key takeaways.

What are some promising adult SEL practices in your communities?

“[The Lead Learners group] was designed in partnership with district leaders and educators from Oakland Unified. The theory of action was, instead of us as district leaders just telling people how to do this SEL work, what if we build the capacity of teachers at sites to learn about how to integrate SEL into existing academic curriculum, and then support their colleagues to do the same, and do that by leading from a learning stance?”

“We’re building this network of supports through what we call the CalHOPE Student Support Community of Practice, where we’ve engaged all 58 county office of education leaders to engage in a regular rhythm of community building and also to be in partnership with each other, and to really build their capacity to lead for and to lead with their community partners. With these statewide communities of practice, we are also modeling for our systems leaders ways in which we would ask them to go into their regional hubs to model similar communities of practice, again with that value set of partnership and co-constructing and co-designing with their districts, schools, and community partners.”

“We are in a rural setting. … If we’re not centering the humanness of our adults and our students before the learning of our adults and our students, it’s my belief that we’re just reinforcing many of the same systems that have oppressed and harmed many of our students. So, we have partnered with our Lane Educational Services District. … Their staff has come and provided the learning for adults alongside our students. We’re taking the approach of truly co-constructing the educational environment that we want here. … What we’re finding is that when that knowledge is shared, now it’s not all on the teachers’ shoulders. It’s a community that’s like, ‘Hey, how do we create an experience that’s more healthy and inviting, and that acknowledges the strengths in our community that allows each person to share their identity and individuality in a way that connects across differences?”

What preconditions are required for adults to lean into SEL?

“I think the first one is to cultivate spaces. Cultivate the time, the structures, the spaces to enable for those reflective opportunities to surface. It’s about creating system structures that enable all the ways in which our adults can connect to themselves, and certainly connect to others, and create those partnerships and networks that can enable good work to take place.”

“If you’re a leader thinking about how you lead in this space, I think trust is at the root of this. How do you authentically connect with the folks you’re trying to lead in ways that build trust and encourage them to fail forward? When we try new things and we’ve never done them before, they’re not supposed to work and they’re not supposed to be perfect. They’re supposed to be a start and a seed that will grow. How do we lift that burden of [perfectionism] and say ‘Try something cool and see what happens, and we’ll go from there?’”

What are some of the barriers to implementing adult SEL, and what contributors could support this implementation?

“[Challenges] are coming fast and quick. How do we also slow down and recalibrate? … Yes, academics are certainly important. Standards are certainly important. But how do we ensure that we have people there to support all these things? … How we [overcome challenges] is going to be dependent on how we are having discourse about the challenges that are right now front and center and navigating through that in a way that will allow us to move forward. And we can’t move forward if we’re always stuck on the crises and deficits.”

“Change can feel really big, and that can cause paralysis. As leaders, I think one of our responsibilities is to make change feel doable and support others in change management. And to that end, I have a quote from Adrienne Maree Brown: ‘What we practice at the small scale sets the patterns for the whole system.’ … Look at what you’re doing every day, maybe something small. How is that supporting SEL for the adults in your building? How is that supporting SEL for your students? If we just choose something small to say, ‘Maybe this is a place that I can leverage and create a change in,’ if we do that regularly, big things can happen. One of the biggest things we can do to support change and inspire people to change is to recognize that change starts and is actually propelled at the smallest scale.”

Did you miss the first two sessions? Read the Part 1 recap and the Part 2 recap. For more on adult SEL, register for the final session in our Leaders as Learners series. Join us on June 14 at 11 a.m. EDT for Part 4: What policy conditions are necessary for adult SEL?

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