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Mental Health: Social Emotional Learning and RULER

"When students have supportive relationships and opportunities to develop and practice social, emotional, and cognitive skills across many different contexts, academic learning accelerates.” (CASEL, 2023)

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), an evidence-based framework, social and emotional learning practices cultivate a caring, participatory, and equitable learning environment that actively involves all students in their social, emotional, and academic growth. CASEL identifies five core, evidence-based competencies that promote students' social and emotional skills growth: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. 

Alexandria City Public Schools students, K-12, participate in daily lessons and activities to gain a common language for emotions, use strategies to manage and respond to emotional situations and engage in healthy decision-making. To support the explicit teaching of Social and Emotional Learning competencies, ACPS adopted the RULER curriculum. The RULER Approach, an evidence-based program developed by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, supports the entire school community in understanding the value of emotions, building emotional intelligence skills, and creating and maintaining a positive school climate. RULER’s curriculum examines the use of soft skills such as those associated with their acronym: Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, and Regulating emotion. In this, RULER uses four anchor tools to use in the classroom with students:

The Charter
“How do I want to feel in my class community?”
A written agreement amongst students and staff alike, that helps enhance school climate and community well-being through establishing common goals and a shared vision around safety and belonging

The Mood Meter
“How am I 
 feeling now?”
A process to pause and gain emotional self-control under challenging situations and replace rushed reactions with purposeful, reasoned action.
The Blueprint
Supports perspective-taking and conflict resolution. Note: In ACPS, our students access such skills through the use of Restorative Practices, which can reduce the number and severity of classroom incidents through de-escalation strategies and building positive relationships. 

To ensure staff members can teach the RULER Approach and Curriculum to students, Mental Health Specialists partner with school-based administrators, student support team members, and teachers to facilitate direct training from RULER’s Yale Institute of Emotional Intelligence. Upon completion of training, school-based RULER leaders provide turnaround training of teachers and staff in the RULER Approach and curriculum at their respective schools, thus leading to school-wide implementation with students. With a data-driven approach, administrators, teachers, and student support team members use their social, emotional, and RULER learnings to facilitate collaboration in creating their school’s SE(A)L Calendar. 

Contact Information

Erica Mack
Mental Health Specialist (Elementary Schools)
Department of Student Services and Equity
1340 Braddock Place, Suite 5th floor
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Ursula Rocha
Mental Health Specialist (K-8 Schools, Alternative Programs, and Secondary Schools)
Department of Student Services and Equity
1340 Braddock Place, Suite 5th floor
Alexandria, Virginia 22314