“Stretch to the sky, reach for your toes, roll your neck,” said fourth grade teacher Kimberly Hansen to her students as they relaxed with yoga, before diving into their RULER lesson. “Namaste,” Hansen said to her students as she concluded the yoga session. She explained the greeting, which traditionally ends a yoga class as “a message of peace. It is a way of connecting with each other from heart to heart.” “Namaste,” the students replied.
Cherry Crest implemented RULER two years ago for third, fourth and fifth graders as a continuation of their social emotional learning. This year, the curriculum was introduced to all grade levels, including preschool. For third through fifth graders, the social emotional practice is integrated into every lesson, for all subjects because it provides a structure for behavior and problem solving. Principal Liz Ritz encourages preschool through second grade teachers to implement the curriculum into their lessons for a school-wide effort.
Hansen describes social emotional learning as “the backbone for my entire classroom. It provides a framework of respect kindness, teamwork and optimism.”
Teachers are directly seeing the impact of the curriculum on their students. “I see a greater awareness and care,” said fourth grade teacher Sunni Chariton. “I also see problem-solving strategies improving. It is a community where we see the impact of feelings and how they influence perspectives on learning and social situations. They are improving in their ability to label and recognize their own feelings and see how their actions influence others.”
“Imagine your best self.”
At the beginning of the school year, students in each class made a classroom charter. The charter was created to reflect how they wanted to feel at school and in the classroom each day. They came up with a list of feeling words, and then thought of specific actions that could be demonstrated to achieve these feelings. The classes also spoke about how conflicts would be handled. Each student and teacher signed their charter.
During the year, students then learn different aspects of social emotional learning, including strategies to help calm down and the importance of a meta-moment. “The goal is to be able to stop and kind of envision the strategies when your heart is racing and your blood is pumping,” described Chariton to her class during her lesson on meta-moments.
Similarly, Hansen stressed the importance of a meta-moment to her students. One student summarized the power of a meta-moment by saying “if you take time and a meta-moment, you won’t be agitated to do something bad back.” He continued, “you think of something else which would be a successful response.”
Students are given a variety of tools for coping when situations may not unfold as planned. These tools include the mood meter, the calm corner, relaxing breathing and yoga.
“When I feel excited, I use that energy at recess. When I feel angry or frustrated, I do something else for a little while. When I feel confused, I ask someone for help,” said one student who reflected on what he does when he feels different emotions.
These strategies are not only for students, but also for the teachers. “I’ll use the Mood Meter to gauge where students are energy-wise or emotionally before a lesson or task,” said Chariton.
Wrapping up her lesson on meta-moments, Hansen told her students “imagine your best self and then choose a strategy on how you’re going to have a response and then you can either succeed or not.”
When looking at the impacts of social emotional learning, Hansen said, “students are much better at recognizing and regulating their emotions, which creates a well-balanced child. RULER also helps students solve their own problems in a positive and supported way, because they learn the techniques to make this happen.”
Hansen added “an emotionally intelligent child develops relationships and resilience, which leads to success in life.”