The below news article is a result of Junior School teacher, Mrs Michelle Rey, recently visiting a school in New York and sharing her expertise in the RULER Approach.
Relevant text is in bold, towards the end of the article.
Congratulations Mrs Rey, for putting Girton on the world map!
Valley Stream students get an emotional education in District 24
As he passed a student in the hallway at the Brooklyn Avenue school, Principal Scott Comis asked how she was doing.
“I think I’d say I’m in the green,” said third-grader Kelis Johnson.
That sort of answer may sound strange to some, but to Comis, it was exactly what he wanted to hear.
In 2004, District 24 introduced the RULER Program to its students. The program was founded by Yale University professor Marc Brackett, and stands for the five key behavioral skills the program preaches, which are recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing and regulating emotions.
One of the anchors of the program, which helps students manage their behavior, feelings and emotions, is the “mood meter.” It uses a color scheme and four quadrants to help the students express how they’re feeling based on energy and mood. The red quadrant indicates high energy and an intense mood, the blue quadrant signals sadness and low energy, the green quadrant marks moderate energy and a pleasant mood and the yellow quadrant indicates excitement.
“It enables the child to diagnose themselves,” Comis said. “And that’s pretty powerful. There are adults who have not learned to do this. This is not a gift. This is a skill.”
Comis said that students, staff and parents throughout the district use the system. If anyone is in the red or blue, Comis said they find ways to pull them out of it. Students and staff members plot themselves on the mood meter chart when the day begins and update their statuses throughout the day.
Brackett has traveled the world teaching the strategy, and was connected to Valley Stream through Bruce Alster, who preceded Comis as principal of the Brooklyn Avenue school.
District 24 Superintendent Ed Fale said he was drawn to the program after utilizing other similar, less effective tools. “This was a program that was clearly based in research, and that’s why we went into it so headstrong,” Fale said.
Fale said the program is now embedded into the culture of the district. He added that it has been endorsed by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation and that Hillary Clinton was planning on enforcing the program on the national education agenda had she won the presidential election. Fale expressed disappointment in emotional intelligence not being a mandatory part of education.
“Emotional literacy and emotional intelligence are not required to be any part of curriculum,” Fale said. “There’s not enough being done.”
Another anchor of the program urges that participants take a “meta moment” to reflect and see their “best self” in the face of negativity before reacting. According to Comis, high school students visit his school toward the end of the school year to act out scenarios for students transitioning into high school to teach them how to deal with unfamiliar issues.
“We teach them something’s gonna happen,” Comis said. “You gotta stop, choose a strategy and almost chill out a little bit. There’s a way to talk this out instead of hitting. It’s a wonderful strategy.”
Connecting across the globe
Last year, Brackett connected Comis to a fifth-grade class in Bendigo, Australia — about 100 miles northwest of Melbourne — that also uses the program.
Comis coordinated with the Girton Grammar School in Bendigo to set up a pen pal program between the students. The classes continue to send videos and letters to one another regularly. Due to the 16-hour time difference between the two schools, the videos are pre-recorded.
Students in Karen Kane’s sixth-grade class at Brooklyn Avenue said they enjoy connecting with their pen pals from another continent. Earlier this month, four of the students watched a video in which a child from Girton took them on a brief tour of her classroom and explained what she and her classmates were currently learning. The videos help the students put a face to their pen pals.
“I found out that they have pets like ducks and chickens,” said sixth-grader Ashley Phillips of her Australian friends. “It’s really cool to hear about how people in other countries live versus how we live and to see how different their lives are compared to ours.”
Michelle Rey, the teacher of the corresponding Australian class, visited the Brooklyn Avenue school when she was in New York with her husband last January.
“My visit to Brooklyn was one of the highlights of our five-week trip to America,” Rey told the Herald in an email. “…Seeing the school and children has given me a connection to the school that could not have been possible over email.”