Little effort has been made in schools to teach children how to manage their feelings. Schools lay the groundwork for cognitive development, especially in academic areas. But what about emotional development? Proficiency in that is equally important for leading a successful life. Reading this article ( Bellevue schools teach emotional smarts to help boost academic success by John Higgins) made me smile and want to bear hug the two psychologists (John Mayer and Peter Salovey) who launched the scientific study of emotional intelligence. I wanted to high five every good teacher who is using RULER, aimed at teaching students to Recognize, Understand, Label, Express ,and Regulate emotions naturally. RULER helps youth and young adults read and manage their emotions (and the emotions of others) and to solve problems — an ability they called “emotional intelligence,” all the while incorporating social and emotional skills training into the school curriculum to support child development.
As a social worker who focuses most of my days around homeless and foster care young adults, I value the work they are doing. RULER ties in with my work of getting children to talk about the issues at the root of their problem and to put their emotional feelings into words. I have often witnessed firsthand those who are reluctant to understand and express their feelings experience higher levels of anxiety, depression, and certain psychiatric disorders. These individuals also report lower levels of well-being and social support. It is my hope the “con” that sometimes it takes too much time teaching continues to be overlooked by students and parents. I echo fifth grade teacher Dan Sakue, “You cannot do anything if you have smarts and you don’t have the social skills to pull it off.” Not to mention, we could all benefit from the RULER tools. Particularly, “meta-moment” — learning how to use the few seconds after a flash of anger to take a deep breath before acting and imagine what your “best self” would do.