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Episode 19: Social Emotional Learning with Marisa Zalabak

As kids are headed back to school, Marisa shares what educators can do to build social emotional learning for themselves and transfer this skill to students and families.

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About Marisa

Marisa Zalabak, is a Public Speaker, Educational Psychologist and founder of Open Channel Culture. She specializes in in Social-Emotional Intelligence, Organizational Culture, Leadership Development, Wellness, and Creative Thinking. In addition to her professional work, Her background in education, arts, business, restorative justice, research and ethical AI design contribute to her passion for exploring the human potential. Marisa’s role as a mother pushes her to transform our world by growing to meet challenges with curiosity, optimism, and joy.

Moment of Courage

For Marisa, particularly in education and social emotional intelligence, it was really when she became a mother. She had been in education for decades before becoming a mother and worked as a performer, teaching artist, creative learning, and wellness. When she became a mother, things began to change of how she wanted things to be in schools and the world. She used her research skills to look at what was interesting and something that was new. She began to look at what social emotional learning meant 21 years ago and started thinking this is what she really had to do. This was important for her to focus and switch now to focus her attention on now.

Basic Tenets Social Emotional Learning


Self- Management

Social Awareness

Relationships skills

Responsible Decision

Strategies for Social Emotional Learning Awareness

  1. Put your own oxygen mask first. Being aware of our own emotions regardless of where we are. We cannot take care of anyone else unless we take care of ourselves.

  2. Invest heavily in breathing exercises. Every study tells us that the way to calm ourselves down is to breathe.

  3. After breathing, go into positive messaging, and then meditation.

Foundation to Building a Classroom Community

  1. Community Agreements- What are the agreements we have with each other?

  2. Check-ins. Asking people how they’re feeling?

When there is a lack of Self-Awareness

Begin small just like any other form of learning and use kindness.

Ask yourself, “What can I do today that can develop a little bit of self-awareness?”

Transfer Social Emotional Learning to Families

Social Emotional Awareness is not as powerful if it doesn’t exist outside of the classroom.

Share with families what we’re working on today.

Use students to include families: what we're doing and why we’re doing it.

Not Letting Fear be the Driver of Decision Making

1. Give self permission to feel fear.

2. Then breathe!

Box Method Breathing

Really great strategy of breathing developed by the Navy Seals. Imagine a box. Bottom and top of the box is a pause. One side of the box is inhale, the other side is exhale.

Bottom of the box, hold for 3 counts. Then inhale on the side for 4counts. Hold at the top for 5 counts, then breathe out the side of the box for 6 counts.

What do you want to do for the rest of your life?

Create the The Human Arts Lab where creative thinking and arts are combined.


Be kind to yourself

Be generous with yourself

Do what you need to take care of yourself knowing that if you do that really truly, you will be doing what takes care of other people


Breathe, Breathe, Breathe!

Advice from someone else

When in doubt, love

Courage Song:

Wake up Everybody by Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes

Book that has made an impact:

Waging Peace in our Schools by Linda

Doing Well by Doing Good by Doing Art by James C

Leave No Child Behind by Dr. James Comer


Connect With Marisa

Instagram: @mzalabak

Linked in: Marisa Zalabak



Connect With Ming:

Instagram: @mingshelby

Facebook: Ming Shelby

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