New Education Classic Enlivens SEL Teaching

Did you ever read the Table of Contents in a book and start hyperventilating because you’ew overwhelmed by the amount of material listed? I did! As I scanned the Table of Contents in Teaching Kids to Thrive: Essential Skills for Success, I was immediately interested…and overwhelmed. Words jumped out…mindfulness, growth mindset, perseverance, integrity, empathy, gratitude.

At first glance, I wondered whether this book would be an anthology of buzz words or could it be a book that would be a classic? Educational practices change, but the critical virtues and principles in education don’t. My conclusion? This book is and will be a classic read for teachers.

Take a peek at the chapters.

Chapter 1: Mindfulness
Chapter 2: Command and Control Functions
Chapter 3: Self-Efficacy and Growth Mindset
Chapter 4: Perseverance
Chapter 5: Resilience and Optimism
Chapter 6: Responsibility
Chapter 7: Honesty and Integrity
Chapter 8: Empathy
Chapter 9: Gratitude

As you can see, this book covers a great deal of ground in less than 300 pages –pages full of timeless research, resources, anecdotes, questions and answers.

Debbie Silver and Dedra Stafford have written one of the most valuable teaching resources for teachers of all grades, areas of the country, content areas, and years of teaching experience. The research in this book is current, well documented, and teacher tested.

The numerous classroom activities, recommended videos, books, web links and resources open the door to effective, caring, responsible, and lifelong learning. It is an incredible, easy to read, adaptable book that can be your daily guide toward creating lifelong learners and practitioners of social and emotional learning.

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As I was reading this wonderful text, I pictured a courtyard of teachers sharing their expertise with each other, collaborating together and learning from each other – because that is what this book is about. It is a gathering point for social and emotional learning activities, research and knowledge. The authors generously developed a website ( to “serve as a living extension of the book,” with resources, video links, app suggestions, and a plethora of activity sheets. Most of the activity sheets in the book are located on this marvelous website, as well as other resources and activity sheets that supplement the book.

This SEL focus is essential in today’s classrooms

As a veteran teacher of forty-one years, I have read many books about teaching, have mentored new teachers and student teachers, and have also learned “on the job.” One thing that I learned from all those years of teaching is that you can never stop learning and most certainly, you don’t know everything!

I have also learned that helping our students learn and practice social and emotional skills is critical for success in school and in life. We need to teach them how to apply their executive functioning skills, be responsible for their actions, and have perseverance and courage in order to “thrive” as citizens of the 21st century. Each book chapter an insightful glimpse into these critical principles and skills, walking the teacher through the research, activities, and questions or problems that may occur.

Preventing teacher burnout is also crucial for our schools, our teachers, and our students. We all face the possibility of burnout because teachers are some of the hardest workers out there. They work from dawn to dusk, bringing their work home with them and many times also bringing home the emotional problems that their students are facing. For teachers to find renewal time, whether to chat with colleagues, reflect, or take a guilt-free break is difficult but necessary to avoid burnout. This book will help teachers remember why it’s important to “find the time” slow down.

The authors’ writing style is riveting. Each chapter focuses on one particular social and emotional learning skill. The format for each chapter is similar, beginning with a real life vignette, an overview of the social and emotional learning skill along with the latest research from neurobiology, and anecdotes about how teachers have implemented the skills.

Every section and example in the book is valuable beyond words, especially the “Frequently Asked Questions” section which the questions teachers might ask as they begin to implement some of the strategies.

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A good read for everyone in education

I have never met the authors, but I can tell you that after reading the book, I felt as if I knew them well. They wrote with honesty, love, and passion. This book is about how we can help our students succeed now and in the future. It’s about helping children face challenges, make good decisions, be responsible learners and citizens, and “thrive.” (Merriam Webster definition of thrive: to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances).

I would recommend this book to principals, superintendents, curriculum supervisors, content area supervisors, teacher preparation programs, and teachers who are interested in creating a school culture that teaches students positive ways to think, to relate to each other, to practice executive functioning skills, and to create a culture of caring and responsibility. Without a doubt, it is one of the most powerful books I have ever read.

Linda Biondi recently retired as a fourth grade teacher at Sharon Elementary School in Robbinsville, NJ and long-time Morning Meeting practitioner. She is the recipient of several educational grants, a Teacher Consultant with the National Writing Project, and a participant on the NJ Department of Education Teacher Advisory Panel and with ECET2 Celebrate Teaching.

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