6-7 Take on RULER

What do our youngest students think of the new social-emotional learning program AA has implemented?

This school year, 6-7 students have been introduced to Albuquerque Academy’s new social-emotional learning (SEL) program, RULER. On almost every day 4, students meet up with their families to try new activities, such as creating a flag displaying their family values or using an interactive mood meter. The program, however, is still new to the Academy community. Students don’t enjoy giving up their recess time and often don’t agree with the way teachers have taught these lessons. We’ve interviewed students, counselors, and teachers in the 6-7 division in order to answer the widespread question: “Is RULER really necessary?”

RULER was created and founded by students and teachers at Yale, targeting children and adolescent’s mental health in schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. RULER is an acronym that stands for Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, and Regulating emotions. You might have seen the standard RULER mood meter, which has four panels colored either red, green, yellow, or blue, and is used to build a space to represent various emotions. Green is for happy but low-energy emotions, yellow for happy and high-energy emotions, blue for unpleasant and low-energy emotions, and red for unpleasant and high-energy emotions. Research has shown RULER has improved classroom environments, workspaces, and even family dynamics. RULER has also prevented burnout, anxiety, and depression in schools.

Our school decided to implement RULER because of these positive impacts on school environments. 6/7 counselor Ms. Swanson said that the school chose RULER mostly because of its credentials. “I think some of [the reason why the school chose RULER] was because it’s from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. They’ve been doing this type of work for probably 30 years.” She also said that a big part of why our school adopted RULER was for its resources for teachers and educators. Still, she points out, “there’s so many different resources, and so there’s lots of different tools, sort of depending on what teachers and faculty want to do.”

7th grade history teacher Mr. Herrin also stated his thoughts about RULER. He feels like the topic of mental health really started popping up in his life since the birth of his son, so he decided to be more proactive in instituting the RULER program in his 6/7 family. Of course, even though RULER was instituted with good intentions and some teachers have seen improvements in classroom behavior, there still has been significant pushback. For 6-7, this is all at the expense of a recess. Students and teachers both have very different opinions about RULER, so to give students a chance to express their thoughts we interviewed a group of 6th and 7th graders.

Noah Kelibarth ‘28 said, “I feel like I’m forced to talk about my emotions. I would like to see RULER being optional for students in the future.” He feels that most students would rather schedule an appointment with Ms. Swanson, the 6-7 counselor, than talk about feelings with a teacher and peers. Still, there have been some positive changes after beginning RULER in our school, according to Ms. Swanson: “I think before RULER, there were a lot of kids who sometimes needed it because they needed to get something off of their shoulders. But then there are other kids who want to just be happy and go lucky and they want to just hang out with their friends at recess instead of talking in a classroom about feelings they don’t have. Nobody comes out feeling the way they did before, because it’s making them elaborate on something that isn’t positive.” However, Noah has offered helpful advice to make your RULER experience better. “I’d say go into the RULER with a positive attitude because the more positive you are going into this, you kind of forget you’re there. But if you need it, you need to really dig deep inside of yourself. And you just need to be comfortable with talking to others.”

Amy Reese ‘29, said, “I feel like RULER is really weird and kind of boring, but I guess it also depends on the teachers that you have because some teachers offer fun activities during RULER.” Bringing up some very good points, she said teachers could include more treats to make it fun for students. Reese goes on to add, “I feel like every single time the lessons are pretty irrelevant and don’t really work. Students and teachers should all agree on the content inside these RULER activities.”

Although students and teachers feel differently about RULER, many are hoping to integrate the program into student life in the 6-7 division, and that it’ll have a positive impact on our community. It does sound like teachers will be improving RULER practices for next school year.