Labeling your emotions is key. If you can name it, you can tame it. ~ Marc Brackett, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence
Emotions matter. This year students in grades 6-8 are piloting the RULER program, an evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning developed by the Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence that helps school communities integrate the practice of emotional intelligence into daily life.
Why do we care about social and emotional skills? Decades of research shows that emotional intelligence is essential to effective teaching and learning, sound decision making, physical and mental health, and success in school and beyond. RULER is an acronym and teaches five key skills of emotional intelligence:R
ecognizing emotions in one’s self and others.U
nderstanding the causes and consequences of emotions.L
abeling emotions accurately.E
xpressing emotions appropriately.R
egulating emotions effectively.
Students have been meeting once a week in their Seminar class to engage in lessons that are to help build their social-emotional awareness. Students have learned to identify emotions by using a tool called the Mood Meter. The Mood Meter helps students recognize and label their emotions by measuring the student’s pleasantness along the x-axis and their energy along the y-axis. Students can use this tool to plot their feelings and identify their precise emotions. By building their emotional vocabulary, students have a better opportunity to name their feelings, which can in turn help them regulate their emotions by using a number of different strategies.
More recently, students have been introduced to the concept of the “Meta-Moment”, which is a multi-step process that students can follow when they are emotionally charged or “triggered”. Students participated in an exercise where they identified their top triggering events. Some examples that students articulated included: “when I have too much to do”; “when someone thinks I don’t know something and they think they know more than I do”; and “when my mom takes my phone away because she thinks I’m wasting time”. Next, they identified and ranked their most valued emotional needs from a provided list (i.e. to feel in control, to be respected, to be understood, to be loved, etc.). Then, they examined the connection between these two lists and discovered that when their most valued emotional needs were threatened or challenged, they were much more likely to become triggered. Once students can identify when they are triggered, the Meta-Moment process helps students stop and “build a space” by using several key strategies so that they don’t just react in an unhealthy or out-of-control way. In this space, students learn to visualize their “best self” so that they can achieve a successful outcome. The concept of one’s own “best self” includes an examination of personal values and desired reputation and will be the focus of this week’s Seminar class.
Last week, several lower school teachers attended the training by the Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence, and we are exploring ways to expand this work further into the school. We are excited to continue to partner with families to support children’s emotional development because research shows that when we do, children not only feel better, but they do better.