Westorchard Students & Staff Share the RULER Approach

At the October 11, 2023 Board of Education meeting, students and faculty from Westorchard Elementary School shared how they use the RULER approach to build community and increase a sense of student belonging throughout the school. The Board had the opportunity to observe a community circle where students practiced active listening, conflict resolution, and explored strategies to regulate their emotions.

RULER is an evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning (SEL) developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. RULER helps schools and students understand the value of emotions, build skills around emotional intelligence, and create positive school climates. RULER is an acronym for the five skills of emotional intelligence: Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, and Regulating.

Principal Jim Skoog and Assistant Principal Jenn Kean-Thompson introduced the presentation, highlighting connections between the RULER approach and the District’s Strategic Plan and improving students’ sense of belonging. Target areas for this work in the elementary schools include research-based instructional practices and targeted social-emotional learning work, both of which were evident in the students’ demonstration.

The Board and District administrators then joined a fourth-grade class modeling their morning community circle activity. They then had the opportunity to discuss these strategies with the students and staff. Westorchard teacher Caitlin Cerone and school Library Media Specialist Andrea Schaber led the activity with students. Ms. Schaber joins the class for their daily community circle so that there are two adults present to build connections with students. (continued below)

This community circle demonstration focused on shifting feelings from negative to positive and helped students explore strategies for responding to conflict with friends and express their feelings. Ms. Cerone taught students about the “meta moment,” a RULER process that teaches self-regulation strategies and how to handle stressful situations.

Afterward, the Board asked students about how these strategies can be used outside of the classroom. “In baseball, if I strike out, I just think of something happier,” shared one student, explaining how the meta moment and positive self talk has impacted his thinking. Other students mentioned taking deep breaths and keeping a positive mindset throughout their day. Students also described the role RULER strategies can play in their friendships, helping them to talk through conflicts and feelings.

Thank you to the students and staff of Westorchard Elementary School for this powerful demonstration of the RULER approach. This is just one example of our work around improving student belonging that will continue throughout the District.