The Emotional Intelligence Livestream #20


Social Emotional Learning & Equity in Education

What should education do to counteract racism?

Is education the path to a just and equitable society, or part of systematized racism – or both? If all change starts within, then how can we grow the emotional intelligence skills needed to shift the systems and build communities of equity? 

Schools are facing an intensely difficult period where pandemic response, mental health concerns, racial justice, environmental activism, and other urgent needs could either come into conflict — or, perhaps, this constellation is the catalyst for fundamental change?

Education is often fraught with power struggle; schools that should be lifting the next generation to greater heights end up being transactional, hostile spaces focused on enforcing rules — and perpetuating racism.

In June of 2018, John Lewis tweeted:

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

When I was a teacher, “character education” was popular — but often ended up reduced to posters in the hall telling children to follow rules. Most of these programs would have failed John Lewis’ demand.

Will the same be said of Social Emotional Learning — or can we find a way for SEL to support people to get in good trouble?

Resources recommended by panelists

Key questions

  • Is there a line of a song, quote, poem or verse that reminds you of why you’re doing this work?
  • To frame the conversation today — Lorea could you explain what “SEL” means, and Amber, could you define “Equity”?
  • What is the intersection between SEL & equity?
  • Cierra, your organization recently published an article concerned that Social Emotional Learning can become another form of policing – what does that mean?
  • What do you think Senator Lewis meant by “get in good trouble”?
    • Do you perceive that schools are, generally, supporting that kind of goal?
    • How can SEL support that aim?
  • To what extent are you feeling “the sea of despair” vs being optimistic about the future of education?
  • What’s the key SEL+Equity skill or practice you’d like every educator to embrace?
  • What’s the next step in this journey?


Lorea Martinez, HEART in Mind Consulting and adjunct at Columbia Teachers College; SEL Consultant at Six Seconds; author of The EQ Educator. Lorea supports schools and teachers as they integrate SEL in their programs and teaching practices and works with New Schools Venture Fund, Learning Policy Institute, Hispanic IT Network, and public, private, and charter schools. Her research is focused on school climate, SEL implementation, and principals’ emotional intelligence. She is working on her second book for teachers, Teaching with the Heart in Mind. Previously, she was a special education teacher and administrator. Martinez holds a PhD from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. 
Twitter: @loreamart

Amber Coleman-Mortley is the Director of Social Engagement at iCivics. In her role she recruits teacher influencers; elevates diverse voices and perspectives within the civic education space; and manages the CivXNow Youth Fellowship. Prior to joining iCivics, Amber was a decorated college athlete and worked for about a decade as a P.E./Health teacher and varsity head coach at Sidwell Friends School. She holds a B.A. in African American Studies from Oberlin College and a Master of Communications from American University in Media Entrepreneurship. Amber is also an NBC Parent Toolkit Expert. She collaborates with her three daughters on the Let’s K12 Better podcast where they discuss a variety of topics related to education and family life. On her blog MomOfAllCapes, she discusses edtech, civic education, parent-teacher partnerships, and social-emotional development.  Site:
Social: @MomOfAllCapes

Kamilah Drummond-Forrester, M.A., CAGS is the Director of Open Circle (equipping elementary schools with evidence-based curriculum and training to improve school climate and teach children essential social and emotional skills) and facilitator with the National SEED Project, both are programs of the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW). Kamilah has led colleagues and several school communities in discussions on equity, anti-racism and social justice. Drummond-Forrester was a co-founder and director of wellness at a Boston charter school and director of an award-winning, educationally-based reentry program at Suffolk County House of Correction. She is interdisciplinary at her core and sees the work of social and emotional learning and equity as inextricably intertwined. Her professional experiences have fueled her passion for social and emotional learning (SEL), social justice, and education, affording her unique insight into the importance of SEL in the lives of children and the adults who care for them. She is a meditator, dancer, first generation American and mother of 3 who uses all of her lens to inform the work that she does.
Twitter: @OpenCircleOrg Insta: @opencircle_sel

Cierra Kaler-Jones is the Education Anew Fellow with Communities for Just Schools Fund and Teaching for Change. She is also a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Maryland – College Park in minority and urban education. As a dance educator and choreographer, with over ten years of experience teaching in community-based spaces, Cierra develops and delivers culturally-affirming arts-based curriculum and co-constructs healing spaces with Black girls to discuss identity and leadership, and fight for social justice.
Twitter: @_cierrajade_ of @justschools Instagram: @justschoolsfund

Giovanni Hernandez is an organizer with the National Children’s Campaign where he focuses on civic engagement and education. He is 18 years old, a first-generation student raised in Oakland, California and will be attending American University in Washington DC this fall. Giovanni has served as a California Government Affairs Liaison, Ambassador for Oakland Promise, and both an Advisor to the city youth commission and Chairperson of the Oakland Youth Commission, where his advocacy led to the adoption of a resolution on climate change. Twitter: @igiovannih  Instagram: @igiovannihernandez

Moderator: Joshua Freedman, cofounder and CEO, The Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Network, working since 1997 toward a world with more EQ. Josh is a Master Certified Coach and author of the best-selling At the Heart of Leadership Twitter: @EQjosh of @6s_EQ IG: @joshmfreedman of @6secondseq

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