In the past two years, we have often focused on how the pandemic has separated us. But despite these challenges, we have seen a great coming together—particularly in the community dedicated to promoting, deepening, and expanding social and emotional learning (SEL). As a community, we’ve relied on key elements of SEL to reach out to one another: relationship-building, social awareness, collaboration, and cooperation. It is in this spirit that we introduce Constellations, CASEL’s new blog for the SEL community! It’s a collaborative effort to create a shared space to ignite, sustain, and illuminate conversations about SEL.
“Why Constellations?” you may ask. Imagine the vast array of stars, spread out against the night sky. That image captures the community of individuals and organizations that are advancing this work. It is the multitude of voices and perspectives that shed light on key aspects of SEL. When we take the time to put together these points of light, we can create a more comprehensive picture and a richer story of SEL, the same way a collection of stars can be seen as a bear, Orion’s belt, or the Big Dipper. SEL’s full possibilities emerge only when we “connect the dots.”
It is no accident that Constellations starts with the letter C, just like the word Collaborative. As the first word of CASEL’s name, “Collaborative” is both who we are and how we operate. Collaboration is also a key element of SEL: Through SEL, students and adults alike learn how to cooperate and build relationships with others as an important platform of learning, growth, achievement, and development. You may have also noticed that “Constellations” is plural. Just as there are many SEL stories to tell, many dots to connect, and many entry points to the conversation, we need the input, expertise, inspiration, and actions of many, many collaborators—educators, researchers, policymakers, students, families, and community members—to create and enact the vision of SEL. If you browse the themes of this blog, you’ll see many points of entry to this discussion, spanning from in-the-field stories about how SEL touches lives in schools, districts, homes, and communities, to deep dives into innovations in research and practice, to conversations rooted in the diverse perspectives of those doing this important work.
The time could not be more ripe for such an endeavor. Since CASEL’s inception more than 25 years ago, there’s been an ever-increasing demand for SEL. Today, the need for SEL is even more urgent. As we contend with multiple, interrelated pressures—the layered challenges of the pandemic, the mental health crises faced by students and adults alike, concerns about “learning loss” and academic challenges, political and cultural divisions, and debates about the role of education and of teachers—we must come together to shape the future of SEL. Whichever way the winds shift, our constellations continue to shine.
In our work with districts and schools, we recommend the 3 SEL Signature Practices, which offer a quick but powerful way to inject SEL into all classrooms and staff gatherings. These practices include a “warm welcome,” “engaging pedagogy,” and “optimistic closure.” In the spirit of SEL, I’d like to take inspiration from these three practices and finish with an optimistic closure that looks forward to what we can collectively achieve with this blog. So, if you feel moved, make your voice heard—shine your light—by answering the following question in the comments: What conversations do you want to have in this space?
Dr. Aaliyah A. Samuel serves as CASEL CEO during a time of unprecedented growth for the field of SEL, spearheading initiatives alongside other educators, researchers, and policy leaders to expand SEL nationwide and serve as a leading voice for children’s education.