Social-Emotional Learning and Character Education
- Awards and Accolades
- Social-Emotional Learning
- Character Education
- RULER Spirit Week 23-24
What is Social Emotional Learning?
Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.
SEL advances educational equity and excellence through authentic school-family-community partnerships to establish learning environments and experiences that feature trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation. SEL can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities. www.casel.org
At West Elementary we embed social-emotional learning using a five pronged approach. We utilize strategies elements to be a Trauma-Informed School, embed Direct Instruction of Social-Emotional skills through the RULER Philosophy form Yale University, infuse Social-Emotional Learning and Character Education into our curriculum, train our staff on research-based best practices in behavioral De-Escalation, and frame discipline through a Restorative Practices lense. This comprehensive approach has helped our school develop a whole child approach to education and benefit our students greatly.
Throughout time, societies have recognized the need to educate the coming generation of adults to pass on knowledge and skills. Recorded history from long before the present era emphasizes that education must also develop character.
One of the great education reformers, Horace Mann, in the 1840s, helped to improve instruction in classrooms nationwide, advocating that character development was as important as academics in American schools.
|Within the character of the citizen lies the welfare of the nation.
What is character education?
Throughout history, character education has been the shared responsibility of parents, teachers and members of the community, who come together to support positive character development.
|...nothing is of more importance for the public weal, than to form and train up youth in wisdom and virtue.
— Benjamin Franklin
Character education teaches the habits of thought and action that help people live and work together as families, friends, neighbors, communities and nations.
Character education is a learning process that enables students and adults in a school community to understand, care about and act on core ethical values such as integrity, empathy, and perseverance. Upon such core values, we form the attitudes and actions that are the hallmark of safe, healthy and informed communities that serve as the foundation of our society.
What is the school's role in character education?
Students spend much of their young lives in classrooms. This time in school is an opportunity to explain and reinforce the core values upon which character is formed.
In our school, character education is approached comprehensively to include the emotional, intellectual and moral qualities of a person or group. We offer multiple opportunities for students to learn about, discuss and enact positive social behaviors. Student leadership and involvement are essential for character education to become a part of a student's beliefs and actions.
To successfully implement character education, West Elementary:
- Brought the staff, parents, and students together to identify and define the elements of character they want to emphasize which resulted in the focus on our three Core Values of Perseverance, Integrity, and Empathy
- Provides ongoing training for staff on how to integrate character education into the life and culture of the school;
- Conducts daily morning meetings embedding the Anchor Tools of the RULER philosophy form Yale University;
- Created Houses twice each month to form positive connections between staff and students to teach/practice our Core Values and enact our character values;
- Handles student discipline through a lense of Restorative Justic which empowers students to own their actions, empthize with their peers, and create plans for more prosocial behavior in the future; and
- Offers a variety of before/after school activities which embed character education and our Core Values.
The RULER Approach
RULER is a research-based approach to social emotional learning from Yale University that teaches emotional intelligence to people of all ages, with the goal of creating a healthier, more equitable, innovative, and compassionate society.
RULER is an acronym of the five key skills of emotional intelligence. Read about each skill below!
Recognizing emotions in ourselves and others allows us to:
- Better understand others
- Have positive social interactions
- Work well in groups
- Know when children need emotional support
Knowing the cause of our own feelings and that an event may cause different emotional reactions in each person allows us to:
- Anticipate, manage, or prevent unwanted feelings in ourselves and others
- Promote wanted feelings in ourselves and others
- Support children’s emotional needs
Knowing feeling words allows us to:
- Communicate our feelings
- Appropriately manage our feelings
- Help children learn new vocabulary to express their feelings
Learning how to display our feelings helps us to:
- Appropriately act in social situations
- Properly model social behavior for children
Developing strategies to manage feelings allows us to:
- Be more effective in reaching our goals
- Feel more, less, or the same of an emotion
- Make wise choices about how we respond to emotional situations
The Anchors of Emotional Intelligence
The RULER Anchor Tools build the emotional intelligence of school leaders, teachers and staff, and students and their families. The four RULER Anchor Tools are:
The Charter is an agreement guided by the questions:
- How do you want to feel when we're together?
- How will we help each other have these feelings?
- How do we respond when others are not living the Charter?
The Mood Meter
The Mood Meter is a tool that helps us understand our emotions. It's made up of four different quadrants with a range of energy and pleasantness. Students and staff check-in daily on the Mood Meter and plot their emotions. This helps build the mental framework for understanding our emotions and how they affect us.
Mood Meter Box of four colors from the top left: red, yellow, green and blue
The Meta Moment
The Meta-Moment is a pause between the moment something happens and our response. Its our steps are:
- Something Happens
- Sense: Noticing body, thoughts, feelings like sweaty palms and a racing mind
- Stop: Taking a deep breath
- See Your Best Self: Remembering the person you want to be
- Strategize & Succeed: Use an action or thought strategy. For example taking a walk, getting a drink of water, remembering there is more than one way to look at a situation.
The Blue Print
The Blueprint is a set of questions for resolving conflicts:
- What happened?
- How did I feel?
- What caused my feelings?
- How did I express and regulate my emotions?
- How might my actions have affected others?
- Next time how might I respond differently?
What are Houses? Houses are small groups that meet twice a month for 45 minutes. Once per month we meet in Houses where every staff member in the building has a House which comprises one staff member and twelve students-three from each grade level. We use the word House to resemble a smaller group or “family” that when combined makes up a larger community. The idea behind Houses is to form bonds between students and staff members from each grade level since the students will stay with the same House throughout their entire time at West. This gives them a consistent person to build that trusted adult relationship, and fosters a comfortable environment to come back to each year.
What do we do during Houses? We meet in these small groups once per month and conduct lessons and activities around our Core Values of Perseverance, Integrity, and Empathy. We work to help students build inter-grade level relationships to reduce bullying, help kids connect with another trusted adult in the building, and build social skills and cooperation through team building activities.
What are the benefits of Houses? The mixed grade levels in each House allows students to create “brotherhood/sisterhood” bonds with each other and connect to another trusted adult in the building. These bonds also help students feel more connected to the school. Research shows these practices help drastically reduce bullying events, feelings of disconnectedness, and negative perceptions of schooling. In our own internal data, we have already seen drastic reductions in discipline events and suspensions over the years we have been doing these activities.
What are Communities? The second House meeting of the month occurs with larger groups that we call Communities. We felt that students needed to see themselves connected beyond their House, so we organized the Houses into six larger Communities. There are 7 or 8 houses in each Community; each Community is named after one of our Core Values of Perseverance, Integrity, and Empathy in a different language from around the world. Through these Communities students can see themselves connected to a larger group of people and work together for the betterment of others. Hopefully, this helps them build a sense of pride, connectedness, and comradery in our school. Students have participated in Community activities that involved community service projects, friendly competitions, team building events, and more. This year our Community emphasis will be on service learning.
Our mission in Wright City is “Dedicated to our students’ success”, that means both academically and in the development of their character as citizens of our community. We feel these activities align directly with our mission and provide students an exemplary elementary school experience.
West Elementary's Houses have been distinguished as a National Promising Practice by Character.org!
Wright City East and West Elementary implement RULER, an approach to social and emotional learning that focuses on emotional intelligence. RULER helps students, and the adults in their lives, to learn about and manage their emotions. This is important for success in nearly every aspect of our lives—for attention, memory, and learning, for making and keeping friends, for healthy decision-making, and for our overall well-being.
RULER is an acronym for the five skills of emotional intelligence:
Recognizing emotions in oneself and others
Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions
Labeling emotions with a nuanced vocabulary
Expressing emotions in accordance with cultural norms and social context
Regulating emotions with helpful strategies
Research suggests that an important part of effectively teaching emotional intelligence is modeling the five RULER skills for children (Jennings & Greenberg 2009). One way to do this is by regularly checking in on the Mood Meter throughout the day. As children learn to use the Mood Meter, they acquire more feeling words that correspond to each color. With the Mood Meter, children learn that there are no good or bad feelings. There may be feelings that we like to have more often than others, but all feelings are okay. Even for those unpleasant feelings, we can learn to employ strategies that use the information we receive from our feelings to respond to them in ways we feel good about.
In adopting RULER, we hope to strengthen our skills of emotional intelligence, to build a stronger community, and prepare our students in their transition to each school year and beyond. As a way to welcome back the Mood Meter and learn more about our emotions next week, we invite you to take part in our Ruler Spirit Week! See below for special ways to dress up each day. We are excited to work together to build our emotional intelligence skills.