PNW BOCES Partners with Yale to Help Develop ‘Emotionally Intelligent’ Schools

September 28, 2017

Bad moods are contagious – especially in the classroom. That’s why teachers need to tune in to emotions and use them to create better learning environments.
That was one takeaway for local educators attending workshops being offered by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence in partnership with Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES. Educators from 30 schools gathered recently at BOCES’ Yorktown campus to learn how to introduce the Yale RULER program into their classrooms.
RULER – short for Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, and Regulating emotion – is designed to help both staff and students learn practical tools for identifying and expressing feelings that can interfere with learning. Educators from Brewster, Byram Hills, Carmel, Chappaqua, Croton Harmon, Pocantico Hills, Hawthorne Cedar Knolls, Hastings on Hudson, Mamaroneck, Rye City, the Tarrytowns, PNW BOCES and Putnam Valley schools were among the participants.
“We are all aware of the critical role emotions play in a young person’s education,” said Renee Gargano of the Center for Educational Leadership. Gargano pointed to the growing body of research that shows that the way people manage their emotions influences both personal growth and academic performance.
At training sessions that began in June and are continuing this month, administrators and teachers learned key aspects of the RULER Program, such as the “Mood Meter” and “Meta-Moment.” The Mood Meter helps students and educators become more aware of how their emotions change throughout the day and how that affects their actions.    
“Mood in the classroom is contagious,” said Michael Sowul, principal of the Walden School. Students who are angry are less motivated to learn, he said, noting that it was important to provide concrete strategies that can help turn around a negative mood or mindset. When an entire school community becomes more aware of their feelings, staff and students become more comfortable reaching out to a colleague or friend, or reframing negative self-talk into a plan for self-improvement.
Meta-Moment encourages both students and adults to pause and ask, “How would my ‘best self’ react in this situation?” The quick time-out can help a teacher or student think of a strategy that can lead to better decisions or diffuse confrontations.  
Eric Knolles, principal of Spencer Van Etten High School and also its wrestling coach, said he attended the training because he has repeatedly seen emotions get in the way of learning. He said he and his team wanted to bring RULER to their district and teach students how to read their emotions and regulate them: “Instead of throwing a fit, a student can identify that he is upset and take a break in the hall,” he said.
“Our goal is to have happier, safer kids and happier adults so we can learn together,” Knolles said.
Administrators and teachers who attended the training wrote charters that outline how they will infuse  “emotional intelligence” into the school day and share the program with their colleagues. 
The RULER training will be offered to another group of educators in the Spring through the Satellite location for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence at PNW BOCES. 
CUTLINE: Local educators attend training on how to help their school communities tune in to emotions.