How To Make Social Emotional Learning Inclusive

One thing we know for sure is that educators want to know how to make social-emotional learning inclusive. One of our most popular posts of all time is about the many reasons social and emotional learning (SEL) — the process of developing personal and relational awareness, communication, and decision-making skills — is a priority as we navigate in-person learning, especially for girls. But the catch is that social and emotional learning is rarely included in teacher certification programs, and marginalized students often don’t relate to traditional SEL programs. To address this Girls Leadership developed both a curriculum and training that puts gender and racial equity at the foundation of social-emotional learning. The impact of this work is transforming classrooms from coast to coast.

We’re so thrilled to offer a free professional development webinar for educators on Monday September 26. Through Bringing Gender and Racial Equity to Social Emotional Learning (SEL) we will share how to examine your personal relationship with social-emotional skills, and how gender expectations and your identity might have influenced your relationship with feelings, conflict, and vulnerability.

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This work is critical given the power dynamic in the classroom, since most educators don’t share their identity with their students (the majority of students in the U.S. are students of color, and 80% of teachers identify as White). Effectively teaching the interpersonal skills of SEL to adolescents takes self-awareness, humility, and a strong community of support. That’s us. We are here for you.

Step one of showing up and connecting to our kids right now is creating a classroom where kids can heal: heal from the anxiety of living in a pandemic, from personal or collective trauma, or both. If you want to reflect on if your classroom is healing-centered, here are some questions you can ask yourself or your students. Giving students power to co-create the space in which they’re learning encourages agency and leadership, and will increase investment and engagement. This exercise is from our newly revised guide, Social-Emotional Check-ins for In-Person Learning, which also includes 26 check-in activities to do with students.


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How To Create A Healing-Centered Environment for In-Person Learning


1. Do teachers and students have time and space to connect and communicate with each other about non-academic topics?

2. Is student work shared with the class and celebrated?

3. Are there options for movement when students need to move their bodies?

4. COVID permitting, does the furniture set up exacerbate the power imbalance between teacher and student, or does it help build connections?


5. Do students and teachers know each other’s names and pronounce them correctly?

6. Do students have daily opportunities for voice and choice?

7. Are students and teachers encouraged to share stories as a way to connect and learn, such as check-ins?

8. What is the ratio of conversations to acknowledge, see, and value each other as students and teachers, versus conversations about discipline and negative consequences?


9. Are there class agreements that students help create available for everyone to see?

10. Are there agendas that are shared for everyone to see to make the class feel predictable?

11. How much time is built in for mindfulness and reflection?

On their own each of these 11 questions are simple, yet collectively they are powerful in building a sense of community in which learners, especially girls, both rely upon and push each other. These questions are especially important to support the voice and power of girls and gender expansive youth because of the high priority many girls place on relationships. Given the message that many girls get about the importance of being liked in relationships, feeling seen, acknowledged, and valued is a prerequisite for the risk of class participation. One study showed that girls with the highest GPAs were the least likely to disagree in class, so creating a healing-centered environment becomes part of signaling to girls that being compliant and quiet isn’t what makes them worthy in your classroom.

Work with High School students?

5 Ways to Make Your Classroom Space Joyful and Healing

Need professional development training right now?

See all of Girls Leadership’s professional development workshops and trainings here.


  1. Liani

    Absolutely love this and everything this organization stands for!❤️ Thank you!


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