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Why Social Emotional Learning is the Key to a Happy Classroom


The best predictor of whether a child becomes a satisfied adult is through their emotional health in childhood”  The World Happiness Report

Our children spend over 13 years  in school (for many it is even more than this) for the first 20 years of their life. The role our schools play has been clearly defined for decades. Achievement, Discipline and Academic Skills. Though these continue to be important, this primary focus on these three areas only no longer work in today’s world. Emotional health is important as well, and serves our children well for their teen and adult lives.

If our children spend most of their time in school and emotional health in childhood is one of the best predictors of their success as an adult the educational system may have been missing a very import goal for many years. Social Emotional Learning.

Today hundreds of thousands of children from Kindergarten to University struggle with anxiety and depression in and out of school. Schools can’t control how students feel outside of school but what they can do is support children’s optimal learning by integrating emotional awareness and skills as part of their education.

Research shows the ongoing challenges faced by school age children; of increased bullying, suicide and the use of medical intervention (drugs) for school age children. Children under this kind of stress are not learning to the best of their ability. They struggle, they are distracted and have increased difficulty with social behaviors that effect their teachers, their classroom and maintaining healthy relationships throughout their lives.

Understanding and learning to regulate your emotions is tough for grown adults and our children are struggling even more. With understanding how our bodies and brains work this will help everyone learn how to be in the best place of learning each and every day.

Here’s What Is Happening With Our Students Today

A Stressed Student

Increased stress equals higher levels of cortisol in our bodies and brains. This limits the brains ability to process information as we fall into what is called “Fight or flight” mode. All your energy is focused on survival not learning. This is where children can end up struggling in school. The pressure and expectations of achieving, following the rules and getting all your lessons right on top issues at home, or poor relationships at school, bullying and not quite fitting in has put our kids into fight or flight mode all the time. This limits a child’s ability to learn and reaching the expectations of academic achievements.

A Happy Student

When a child is happy and emotionally balanced without the threats of stress,  there is an increase in 4 key neurotransmitters – dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins. These keep our brains and bodies functioning in the perfect place where we can engage and learn. The more we work towards this awareness for children ( and adults) and use strategies to get them there, the easier it is for the students to learn and for the teachers to feel accomplished with their teaching.

Emotional Math 101. Happy children + Happy teachers = Happy Classroom

How to Make a Happy Classroom

There is a growing movement to positive psychology or Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in schools all over the world. Researchers continue to report on the positive outcomes that occur when students are happy at school. Parents you will like this!

  • 57% more students in schools with an SEL  program improved their skills compared to students in schools without an SEL program.
  • 27% more improved their academic performance.
  • 24% more improved their emotional well-being and social behavior

(2018 study and analysis by J. L. Mahoney, J. A. Durlak, and R. P. Weissberg.)

What is Social Emotional Learning?

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success.

Studies show that social-emotional skills—such as problem-solving, self-regulation, impulse control, and empathy—help improve academics, reduce negative social behaviors like bullying, and create positive classroom climates – happy Classrooms.

5 Easy Ways to Implement an SEL Daily Practice in the Classroom

1) Start the day with a check in. How are your students feeling at the beginning of the day. You can create a “Happy Meter” or “Emotion Wheel” with your students that can be used to reflect their emotions with pictures or emoji’s. A great way to intertwine art into SEL Learning.

2) Gratitude Journal – Research has shown that practicing gratitude every day will create a positive shift in emotions. Have students identify 3 things they are grateful for every day with a Gratitude Journal.

3) Quite Breathing / Reflection Time – Provide just a few minutes once or twice a day (after recess or lunch) to have quiet deep breathing time. Start with just 1 or 2 minutes and build from there. This will help calm students down and connect to their bodies and emotions to quiet their minds.

4) The 365give Challenge – Giving back even in small ways has been proven to increase our neurological pathways to increase the feeling of happiness and reduce stress. Have students take turns each day complete one small act of giving to a person, the planet or animal. Have them share their 365give with the class in a journal directly on our webiste.  You can join the Challenge for your  classroom and they can record their daily gives every day. Set a goal by the end of the school year your class will complete 365 daily gives.

5) Community Building: Every school is a community in itself. Have older kids mentor or “buddy” with younger children or create a buddy system right in the classroom. Teaching children collaboration and working together in small groups will create a balance and social connection between children that will increase their happiness.


Happy students will create happy teachers which will spread through entire school. The greatest gift you can give your students today is teaching emotional understanding to help them thrive and be happy tomorrow.

Read our blog  post – A Daily Dose Of Happiness In the Classroom – for more tips and ideas to start the 365give Challenge in your school today!

What people are saying about 365give

“I wanted to express my gratitude for the teaching you provided today. Your message was delivered eloquently, compassionately, and without judgment. The kids were engaged, and now have knowledge with which they can change the world. We all appreciated how you took the time to help us learn to build positive mindsets and practice happiness.”
Shelley Gardner, Grade 6 Ridgeview Elementary (West Vancouver)
“Actions really do speak louder than words, which is why I believe the 365give Challenge has resonated throughout my community. Every give we do is so important to us and leaves us happier and appreciating our lives a little bit more than before.”
Mahina Niyozova (Tajikistan)
“After watching the 365give TEDx Talk, I was inspired to join and begin a daily giving program in India. Today, along with 12 other volunteer women, we provide 100 meals to local underprivileged children in Bangalore for school every day.”
Deepika Ahuja, Mom (Bangalore, India)
“My life has greater meaning now.”
Renate Jorge, @BeKindBrazil and 365give Member, Family Program (Brazil)
“I just wanted to share that 365give really helped me. I am a better person now, thank you.”
MayLee, 365give Member, Individual Program
“This 365give Challenge has really injected excitement and extra enthusiasm in each work day as I think about what we can do. It has motivated me and the students.”
Cristina Peters, School Counselor (New York City, USA)
“I have seen a huge shift in energy throughout my classroom since doing the 365give Challenge. The Challenge has empowered my students to make a positive difference in the school’s community and beyond.”
Cella Adriana, Special Needs Educator /The Holliswood School (New York City, USA)
“The 365give Challenge helps students understand their impact on others. It opens avenues for introducing and discussing global and local issues in classrooms. It is powerful to watch students of all ages think about how they can make a change in another person’s life with one small act.”
Jessica Hall, Primary Teacher, French Immersion at École Pauline Johnson (West Vancouver, Canada)