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Blog: Friday, November 5th, 2021

Howe Middle and the RULER Program

"Ideally, how do you want to feel at school? What are some actions that you could take to ensure you, and others feel this way?"

These are two of the many questions staff and students at Colleen and Gordie Howe Middle School are discussing in-depth as part of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence RULER program. RULER stands for recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing, and regulating, and is a systemic approach to social-emotional learning designed to infuse emotional intelligence into the very core of K-12 education.

At Colleen and Gordie Howe Middle School the process began last spring when a team of dedicated staff took on the role of training with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence to become the school's RULER implementation team. This year, the team is working exclusively with staff to build a common language around emotions, develop skills in emotional intelligence, as well as build and sustain a positive social and emotional climate within the school. This all starts by taking a close look at how we want to feel at work every day, and what actionable steps can be taken to make sure those desired feelings are achieved.

Recently, staff worked together to begin this process, listing over 50 words for how they wish they could feel at work. From valued and appreciated, to courageous and impactful, staff members opened their hearts and minds to each other and defined why these feelings were important to them. In time, these words will be focused down to a few, key, agreed-upon terms, actionable steps will be discussed and finally, a Charter of group norms will be created which will guide how our leaders lead, or teachers teach, and our students learn.

When the adults in a school develop a strong basis of emotional intelligence, everyone benefits. Numerous studies have shown that strong social-emotional skills contribute to a more positive social climate, higher academic performance, better quality relationships, and decreased aggressive behavior. The RULER program starts by cultivating skills in staff first before implementation begins in the classroom, and while sharing our feelings during a staff meeting might feel a little awkward at first, the brave staff at Howe have dived right in, completing online program modules, participating in group discussions, and even taking additional professional development in trauma-informed practice.

Those who have been in the field of education for a while know that curriculum and academic goals change quickly to meet the needs of the world, but our ability to relate to other human beings, our ability to have empathy for others, our ability to communicate our thoughts and feelings in a way that is respectful to both ourselves and those around us is the curriculum our world needs.

JENN BARUTA
School Goal/SEL Team leader