It’s Time for an Emotion Revolution in Our Nation’s Schools


WholeChildBannerBy Marc A. Brackett

This April, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the Born This Way Foundation (cofounded by Lady Gaga and her mom, Cynthia Germanotta) launched a national campaign called the Emotion Revolution to enlist high school students to help create schools and communities where emotions matter. The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence decided to take part in the campaign because we believe the combination of  rigorous research focused on social and emotional learning (SEL) along with opportunities to engage and empower youth can amplify the national conversation to improve school climate. Our hope is to improve students’ prospects for leading happy, healthy, and productive lives.

But we can’t do this alone. We need support from all high school educators across the nation, including superintendents, principals, teachers, psychologists, social workers, and counselors. If you work with high school students, please encourage your students to go online to complete our short survey and tell us how they feel—and how they want to feel—in school.

Why Is This Important?

Emotions matter a great deal for high school students. Decades of research has shown that the skills of emotional intelligence—recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing, and regulating emotion—are critical for students’ attention, memory, and learning; their ability to build and maintain quality relationships; the decisions they make regarding risk-taking behaviors; their physical and mental health; and their ability to handle the full range of emotions they experience each day in school (from boredom to elation to frustration to satisfaction to stress). What’s more, research shows that high-quality training in SEL reduces problem behavior, positively shifts school climate, enhances well-being, and improves academic performance. Educators know this intuitively: in one study, 93 percent of the teachers said they wanted SEL training to support their students’ emotional needs.

What are the most predominant emotions our high school students are experiencing each day in school? Are they feeling more negative than positive emotions? And perhaps most important, how are these emotions influencing their engagement, desire to study, test performance, and future goals? The answers to these questions cannot come solely from a top-down policy or from guessing. Real answers must come from the students themselves. Only after receiving students’ input can we implement evidence-based approaches tailored to create learning environments and communities where they can realistically thrive

With support from Facebook and dozens of key partners, we are launching the Emotion Revolution with a short 8-minute survey for high school students to learn about their current and desired emotional experiences in school. We will then hold a summit at Yale featuring youth leaders, Lady Gaga, and Yale President Peter Salovey that will serve as a platform to both unveil the findings and let youth speak out about their ideas for creating improved learning environments to key educators, academics, and policymakers. Finally, we will create momentum around the national SEL movement and provide youth and educators with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to accelerate positive changes in their schools and communities.

What Can You Do as an Educator?

If you are a superintendent, you can build a campaign around the emotion revolution for your district. If you are a principal, you can administer the survey in your school and challenge colleagues at other high schools do to the same. If you are a teacher, you can administer the survey in your classroom. After students take the survey, a rich discussion should follow about why their emotions matter in school.

By listening to students and helping them to develop their emotion skills alongside their reading, writing, and math skills, we can create the kind of classrooms, schools, and communities we all want to have—ones that are safe, open, kind, engaging, and supportive.

Join the Emotion Revolution and administer the survey to your high school students. The survey is available at until June 15. Districts and schools that want support in building an #EmotionRevolution campaign can contact us at


Brackett_Headshot_2Marc Brackett is the director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, a senior research scientist in psychology, and a faculty fellow in the Edward Zigler Center for Child Development and Social Policy at Yale University. Brackett has published more than 100 scholarly articles and is the recipient of numerous awards. He is the developer of RULER, an evidence-based approach to teaching social and emotional learning for school leaders, teachers, students, and families that is in use in more than 1,000 U.S. schools. Currently, he collaborates with Facebook on large-scale investigations and resources to decrease bullying. Connect with Brackett on Twitter @marcbrackett.