In the summer of 2019, our faculty and staff at Pulaski Academy were introduced to the RULER program. This program supports the emotional development of our school community by giving staff, faculty, and students the tools to enhance their self-knowledge, improve their relationships, and to successfully manage challenges. Director of Student Life, Alecia Castleberry, and Upper School Counselor, Sarah Gorman, help us learn more about this program and the importance of emotional wellness.
Can you tell me about the RULER program and why PA adopted this approach?
RULER is a social-emotional learning program from YALE Center for Emotional Intelligence. RULER is an acronym for Recognizing Emotions, Understanding the emotion, Labeling the emotion, Expressing appropriately and Regulating one’s self. During our accreditation process, we studied several social-emotional learning programs. We chose RULER because of the intensive and focused training of the RULER Implementation team and it involves everyone in our community from parents, to teachers to all students at all grade levels.
How is the RULER Program implemented in each division?
RULER has a curriculum for every grade level, but first you have to bring your staff and faculty through, then your students. Our faculty has embarked on a social-emotional learning journey by completing the online modules and reading the Permission to Feel book by Marc Brackett. Small steps are being made at each grade level to help them master each letter of the RULER program. We will continue to move through this together. In Early Childhood School and Lower School, it’s introduced through classroom activities, reading and modeling. In Middle School, RULER skills are introduced in X-period and then modeled in classrooms. In Upper School, RULER skills are introduced in advisory and then reinforced and modeled in classrooms.
How can the RULER program be used at home?
RULER is not just an academic program - it’s a helpful tool for all aspects of one’s life. The emotional awareness concepts taught by RULER can - and should - be used outside of school for one’s personal and professional success. Students, faculty members, and parents can all benefit from identifying their emotions using the Mood Meter, taking a Meta-Moment during highly-charged situations, and having the appropriate language to share their feelings with others. Our Early Childhood students use the term "Magical Moment" or "Cool Down Place" instead of Meta-Moment.
What are some examples of how Pulaski Academy continued to practice the RULER program through virtual class instruction?
Throughout the spring semester, Upper School students continued Advisory lessons on Mondays while Early Childhood School through Middle School students continued with RULER Tips and Mood Meter check-ins in their virtual classes.
Particularly during this time of social distancing, it’s important to pick your Mood Meter quadrant and then words to describe how you feel. The Upper School students even moved into why they felt that way and then chose words or phrases which motivated them to move to more positive feelings if needed. Ideally, we want to be in the green or yellow quadrant of the Mood Meter.
We encouraged mindfulness through deep breathing, walking, stretching. We also asked student the following questions daily:
- What am I GRATEFUL for today?
- Who am I CHECKING IN with or CONNECTING WITH today?
- What expectations of “normal” am I LETTING GO OF today?
- How am I getting OUTSIDE today?
- How am I MOVING my body today?
- What BEAUTY am I creating, cultivating, or inviting in today?
What is the first step you would suggest anyone begin to practice if they are interested in their emotional well-being?
Take time for yourself. Make it a routine to take 5 minutes a day and block out all external distractions as best as you can. It's important to take time to be still in order to begin to understand our emotions.
Are there any apps or resources you would recommend for families?
We have shared resources on the counseling web pages (more details on the infographic below), and in particular, we have created a list of books, apps, and other things to help with anxiety. Here is the download!
Throughout the summer and into the new school year, we are here for our PA families!