Creating a Community of Emotional Learning in Connecticut

Standing before a crowd of 150 leaders in education from across Connecticut, Marc Brackett, Ph.D., Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, polled the room: “So, how are you feeling this morning?” A happy murmur spread through the audience at Yale’s West Campus, where educators, administrators, and friends of the Center were gathered for the first of many events committed to making Connecticut the first emotionally intelligent state.

The packed auditorium represented a diverse range of districts across the state of Connecticut where RULER, the Center’s evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning (SEL), has already been implemented in dozens of schools, from pre-K to high school.

RULER helps schools integrate emotional intelligence into their everyday practice. It enhances the way students learn, educators teach and lead, and families nurture their children. “RULER is changing lives from Milford to Branford, to Hartford and Bridgeport,” underscored Steven Hernández, Esq., Executive Director of the Connecticut Commission on Women, Children, and Seniors, who gave the morning’s impassioned keynote address. “This work is important. You have a partner in me,” said Senator Christopher Murphy on a pre-recorded message. Murphy underscored the value of the Center’s work for school systems and the support of these initiatives at the capitol.

Staff and researchers from the Center led three sessions of hands-on, reflective exercises that provided attendees the opportunity to share their stories.

RULER co-developers Craig Bailey, Ph.D., Jessica Hoffmann, Ph.D., and Nicole Elbertson kicked-off the day by inviting the room to share innovative ways RULER is being used at their schools.

This work is important. You have a partner in me.

Senator Christopher Murphy

Dena Simmons, Ed.D., Director of Education, guided participants on a journey of the intersection of emotional intelligence and culturally responsive pedagogy. By way of example, educators considered the role of culture in recognizing and regulating emotions.

Dr. Robin Stern, Associate Director of the Center, and Kathryn Lee, Project Director of RULER for Families, facilitated a dialogue on best practices for engaging families.

“RULER is not a program, it’s a way of life,” said Allyx Schiavone, Executive Director of the Friends Center for Children in New Haven. “It’s part of our culture at Friends Center.”

Schiavone participated in a closing panel moderated by Dr. Brackett that focused on best practices sustaining high quality implementation of RULER. Eric Graf, principal of Central High School in Bridgeport, Valerie Larose De Sousa, Psychologist at Shepherd Glen School in Hamden, and Joy Wright, Principal of King Philip Middle School in West Hartford, also shared their unique insights about how RULER has impacted their school communities.

In addition to the day’s rich programming, the conference served as an important networking event in order to foster valuable relationships throughout Connecticut. This event will be the first of many planned by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence in an effort to build the necessary community of support for social and emotional learning programs, such as RULER, across the state.

“It's inspiring to work with colleagues who are striving to help students grow as people in this world,” said one conference participant. “Sharing information, and learning ideas that work in other schools was very helpful. I walked away feeling motivated and charged to continue to do this great work.”

This article was submitted by Ellen Cupo on February 15, 2017.