Volume 10, Issue 1 (2020)

Special Issue: Social and Emotional Learning

Introduction and Foreword


In this Special Issue of the Journal of English Learner Education, formerly Tapestry, we explore important issues related to Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) as it relates to teaching and working with English Learners (ELs) and their families. As a society and a profession, we are struggling with important issues, particularly for how we care for and work with our EL families.  Families have been impacted most recently by current administration policies, COVID-19, and growing discrimination. More than ever, attending to the social and emotional needs of our ELs is a critical part of our educational pursuits. 

Our lead article by Luis Javier Pentón Herrera introduces SEL and advocates for its use in our classrooms with specific examples of EL activities. In Social Emotional Learning and Hope Theory Connections: Perceptions of Teachers and School Counselors in Training, Donita Grissom and Viki Kelchner explore the interrelationship between HOPE Theory and SEL. Boniesta Zulandha Melani, Shayla Roberts, and Jasmine Taylor make connections between affective activities in the ESL classroom and how these activities relate to SEL. In an article related to programs, SEL for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students, Sophie Cuocci discusses how programs can successfully integrate SEL into the curriculum.

In this special issue we include also include articles related to EL teaching skills. Authors Dylan Thibaut and Irina McLaughlin research teacher candidates' knowledge of the basic linguistic features of English and Chin-Wen Chien looks at teachers in Taiwan and how they introduce and teach vocabulary in the EFL classroom.

We introduce our first book review article by Matthew Nall. He discusses child development theories and SEL through concepts introduced in The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us about the Relationship between Parents and Children by Alison Gopnik (2016).

We start the issue with an introduction by Scarlett Lewis, who founded the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement after her son was murdered in the Sandy Hook tragedy in December 2012. Her message of love and hope for our students is a call for all educators, and our society, to never neglect the social and emotional needs of our children when we have that chance. 

Kerry Purmensky, Editor


Choosing Love with SEL to Educate All

by Scarlett Lewis

With so many negative influences and destructive behavior taking place today, children need to feel safe, seen, and heard, and be able to face life's challenges, and grow through them.  Every child has a right to thrive emotionally, socially, mentally, physically regardless of their circumstances. Social and emotional learning (SEL) is a pro-active, preventative mental health initiative that has been proven to reduce current and future mental health issues; depression; stress; anxiety; suicide; and more while increasing student performance and physical and emotional well-being. SEL addresses the cause of many of the issues our children face that can translate into society. When you address the cause of an issue, you can reduce and prevent the suffering that could potentially lead to deleterious outcomes. Too many of our previous efforts focus on the issues at hand. When you focus on something, it can grow and that is what we’ve seen with bullying, mental health issues and substance abuse. Teachers, counselors, and administrators can implement SEL and character development programs to help children obtain essential life skills and tools. There is a need for everyone who works with children to provide effective educational practices that cultivate school cultures based on kindness, compassion, and love. This is the most effective way to foster safer schools and a more peaceful world.

After losing my six-year-old son, Jesse, I was inspired by three words he wrote on our kitchen chalkboard, “Nurturing Healing Love” before he was murdered in the Sandy Hook school shooting, one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history. This message led me to my life's mission to be part of the solution to the issues our world is facing today by educating the whole child and teaching them how to choose love in any circumstance. I created the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, a nonprofit organization, to provide a no cost, lifespan, next generation SEL platform that educates children beyond the core competencies and skills taught in the classroom to foster a school culture that reduces violence from the inside out. Jesse’s killer acted on an angry thought in his head and I believe that had the young man been given the tools to handle the neglect and adversity he endured throughout his life this tragedy may never have happened.

Love, connection, and belonging are universal needs that connect all of humanity.  I’m committed to creating awareness in our children, and our communities that they can choose love over anger, gratitude over entitlement, empathy over hate, and forgiveness and compassion over bitterness. These character values are the fundamental teachings of SEL and are the core message of the Choose Love Movement. The Choose Love formula is: Courage + Gratitude + Forgiveness + Compassion-in-Action = Choosing Love. This formula is a guide to taking your personal power back by thoughtfully responding to any situation, circumstance or interaction with love. SEL teaches children life skills that result in resilience, emotional intelligence, moral awareness and personal responsibility. Choose Love incorporates the latest in neuroscience, mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and positive psychology, serving children of all ages, genders, and ethnicities. We are all the same in the want and need to love and be loved. Educators need to teach children that love is a choice they can make for themselves.  When we choose love, we are part of the solution and make the world a better place.

Children, especially high school students, can be taught to be mindful of thoughtfully responding with love by practicing each of the character values of the Choose Love formula. Learning and practicing these core values helps them achieve academic and personal success, emotional well-being, and increases their self and social awareness. It also helps them make responsible decisions and enhances their self-control and self-management. Choosing love transcends perceived differences. I have addressed kindergarteners, high schoolers, college students, at-risk youth, prisoners, and CEO’s, and more, who collectively represent every aspect of our global society. Some are non-native speakers, but all recognize "love" and all have been changed by Jesse's message. When children focus on choosing love it inspires them to thoughtfully respond with love, courage, and kindness. Jesse had the courage to save the lives of nine of his classmates, and, like him, we all have this inner courage and need to help children strengthen and practice it. Gratitude is the great mind shifter. We can't have an angry or sad thought while focusing on a grateful thought. Forgiveness allows us to let go of anger and resentment and cut the cord that attaches us to pain. Compassion-in-Action is stepping outside ourselves to help others. Choosing love is choosing hope. By Choosing Love, we can all be part of the solution and build a culture of love, resilience, and forgiveness into our schools, and the world, at a time when it is needed the most.

Scarlet Lewis

About Scarlett

Scarlett Lewis founded the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement after her son was murdered in the Sandy Hook tragedy in December 2012. Shortly after his death, Scarlett decided to be part of the solution to the issues that we're experiencing in our society today — and that also caused the tragedy. She created the Movement and became an advocate for character development and social and emotional learning (SEL) that teaches children how to manage their emotions, feel connected, and have healthy relationships.

Scarlett created the Choose Love Enrichment Program (CLEP), a no-cost, comprehensive SEL and character development program that empowers educators and their students to choose love for themselves and others. This program teaches children how to handle adversity, have courageous conversations, and to respond with love. The Choose Love Enrichment Program has been downloaded in all 50 states and in more than 90 countries. This program includes the best of what is statistically effective and being taught in classrooms today that can reduce and prevent mental illness, substance abuse, bullying and more.

Since the tragedy, Scarlett has spoken all across the US and internationally to diverse audiences urging everyone to become part of the solution to the issues the world is facing. Scarlett has spoken in national, statewide and community-based events including hundreds of talks in schools and to educators and administrators.  She was the keynote speaker at the 2018 and 2019 National Forum on Character presented by Character.org, the Music City SEL Conference in Nashville, and the Nebraska Mental Health Conference.  Additionally, Scarlett was interviewed by BBC, Fox News, CBS, the Today Show, and many regional papers and podcasts about CLEP and the benefits of SEL. Thank you! Keep in touch.



Social Emotional Learning Practices in Learning English as a Second Language
Boniesta Zulandha Melani, Shayla Roberts, and Jasmine Taylor