3 Ingredients for a Strong SEL Year

I recently spoke with The Awakening Educator podcast co-hosts Susan Andrien and Dr. Megan Sweet about the need for educator self-care (watch recording here.) Susan mentioned that teachers in her district couldn’t think about self-care in this moment, because they were focused on jumping the hoops of the first few weeks of school and, therefore, trying to prioritize their self-management skills.

Although there is a healthy level of excitement about students and teachers being physically back in school, the pandemic is not over and many classrooms have already been quarantined due to positive test results within the classroom or exposure to COVID.

I am afraid this is going to be another difficult year for children, parents and educators, who will need to face big and small challenges with flexibility and patience. Jennifer Miller, author and parent educator, highlights that feelings of vulnerability and lack of safety may (re)surface with the beginning of school. We’ll need to pay close attention to how these feelings may impact children and adult behavior.

Despite these challenges, we strive to create positive environments for students where they feel seen, loved and cared for. Teaching with the HEART in Mind offers a framework to incorporate emotions in the classroom, build strong relationships and address adverse childhood experiences that educators from all grades and subjects can use. Drop me a note if you have questions about how to use it in your classroom or school.

As you are planning to have an SEL-filled year and overcome key implementation challenges, there are 3 key ingredients that will support you: 


Navigating challenges often requires that we move out of our comfort zone and into the brave zone. Advocating for our students, responding to different stakeholders―principals, parents, students―or making difficult decisions asks educators to be courageous. That means, we need to intentionally use our HEART skills―honor your emotions, elect your responses, apply empathy, reignite your relationships and transform with purpose―to do what is best for students. Head to the resources page and download the adult self-assessment to figure out how to put those skills into practice.


The beginning of the school year is all about building relationships―with students, parents, colleagues, school leadership, and community members. We need this village in order to meet the academic, social and emotional needs of our students. An important part of this process is for educators to develop their cultural competence, so they can build deeper connections with students and families. Here’s a list with 5 things educators can do to increase their competencies and a simple tool to get to know families.


One of the best tools to rip the benefits of any teaching intervention is consistency. If you show up for students time and time again, they will know that you are there for them. Effective SEL implementation needs educators to intentionally and consistently teach and model their HEART skills, and create a classroom environment conducive to meaningful relationships and learning. SEL is not something we do the first six weeks of school. It is how we are with each other all year long. Head to the resources page and download the HEART in Mind scope and sequence to identify the skills your students need to develop this year.

Wishing you a strong SEL school year filled with courage, connection, and consistency!

Looking for a keynote or workshop? Send me a note.


  1. Jennifer Miller September 1, 2021 at 8:17 am - Reply

    Yes! We are feeling more uncertain, more vulnerable this school year. Which is why investing in empathy for one another and the different struggles we’ve all been through, building connection, and offering consistently help create safety and build the trust needed if learning is going to happen this season. I’m honored you included me in your post! Thanks Lorea! And here’s to a happy, healthy school year for all!

    • Lorea Martinez, PhD September 3, 2021 at 4:28 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Jennifer, for helping parents grow their capacity so they can better support their children! It takes a village. and best wishes for a joyful and productive school year to you and your family as well!

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