On October 19, 2017, I trained practitioners in Illinois on the importance of creating culturally relevant SEL supports for culturally diverse learners. The training was a huge success.

Here’s why—

After the session, practitioners approached me and shared the following feedback:

“Dwayne, thank you so much for this training. I can’t remember ever crying from a professional development training. You have definitely made me aware, and I look forward to continuing the journey of learning how to create culturally responsive lessons!”

“Dwayne, let me tell you this: There are very few people who have shifted my paradigm—and you are one! Thank you so much for this session!”

“Dwayne, I read your curriculum, Like Music to My Ears: A Hip-Hop Approach to Social Emotional Learning, but seeing your students demonstrate the skills in action solidified what you shared in your book. Thank you so much for inviting your students out. I learned so much from them. They definitely demonstrated student-centered instruction!”

“Dwayne, why did this session have to end?!”

The feedback that practitioners shared about our session literally brought me to tears, as my desire, when I provide professional development, is not to simply have an engaging session, but that I touch the hearts and minds of my audience, and help them get back to WHY they are in the business of helping students.

Social Emotional Learning

Social emotional learning (SEL) has received a tremendous amount of attention, and many states and districts are creating SEL programs for student to help them not only manage emotions, but also make responsible decisions.

While SEL is receiving much attention, very little attention has been dedicated to the importance of creating SEL programs and activities that are culturally responsive. In this blog post, I want to raise awareness around the importance of creating SEL programs, but instead of beginning with SEL competencies—including self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making—I encourage teachers and practitioners to “begin with their culture.” And let me be clear in that the latter statement does not mean begin SEL lessons with the cultural values of teachers.

No—begin with their culture means begin SEL lessons with the cultural values, interests, and passions of students with whom you plan to share SEL competencies. I receive a tremendous amount of requests to engage students around SEL competencies. Rather than entering the room with “evidence-based” pre-packaged programs to engage students, I gather as much information around the interests, passions, and cultural values of students prior to creating SEL lessons, and use their passions, interests, and cultural values to engage students around SEL competenciesand in this blog post, within the comments section, I will show you how to do it, based on your questions.

In this blog post, I want to hear from you. I hope to have a brief dialogue around culturally relevant SEL activities.  I will use this blog post to answer questions that you might have about starting SEL groups and programs that integrate the cultural values of students and I will share, in the comment section, what activities have worked for me. To begin this discussion, please feel free to share your thoughts on the following questions, to spark dialogue around the importance of creating culturally responsive social emotional learning.

  • How do you define “culturally relevant SEL?”
  • What questions do you have around culturally responsive SEL?
  • Do you currently implement SEL practices within your classroom or groups?
  • Where do you start with identifying the cultural values of students?
  • What are effective ice-breakers that you use when implementing culturally relevant SEL lessons?

Be sure to share this post with colleagues who may be interested in the dialogue.