The Intersection of SEL and DEI in Our Schools

The Intersection of SEL and DEI in Our Schools

By Timothy Dohrer
As we reconceptualize schools in the 2021-2022 school year, it is clear that equity and mental health need to be at the core of our reconceptualization.

Teachers need to teach the skills that undergird equity, wellness, and social and emotional learning. This includes skills such as self-awareness, social awareness, mindful listening, relationship-building, and decision-making. While content-area knowledge and skills are important, these other knowledge and skills, which often are deeply connected to content, are equally important.

On April 23, 2021 over 150 educators gathered virtually for SELCON 2021, a day of learning, discussion, and introspection about social and emotional learning. Each year, Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy co-sponsors the event with Wolcott College Prep in Chicago. This year’s theme was “The Intersection of SEL and DEI” and featured keynote addresses, panels, and workshops that delved into the intentional and explicit teaching of social, emotional, and equity skills.

Two of the events, the opening keynote address by James Knight and the closing panel, are available for viewing and listening and would be an incredible opportunity for you to delve deeper into this critical topic. (

SELCON 2021 Keynote Address: Cultural Humility with James Knight

SELCON 2021 Panel: From Words to Action with Martin Woods, James Knight, Pat Savage-Williams, and Tim Dohrer

This conference points to a shift in how we need to discuss and act upon equity and SEL in our schools. In the wake of a global pandemic, the exposure of racial and gender-based violence, and the impact of remote learning in 2020, we cannot return to business as usual. In many ways, we need to throw out all of our lesson plans and start over. If we do, we should make equity and SEL the center point of learning.

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