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Massapequa Takes a Meaningful Approach to Emotional Wellness

“Emotions Matter” is the philosophy of the Yale University Center for Emotional Intelligence R.U.L.E.R. approach which has been adopted by the Massapequa School District. The purpose is to help students build lifetime skills to understand and manage their emotions.

R.U.L.E.R. – Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing and Regulating — is an evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning that is integrated within school practices. It was adopted last year at Berner Middle School and will eventually expand to the entire district, supporting one of the board of education’s goal to “foster a culture of respect, kindness and compassion by continuing to support and promote social-emotional learning initiatives that expand the involvement of staff, students, parents and community partners.”

Administrative Associate Lisa Silveri noted that adopting the R.U.L.E.R. approach is a collaborative effort as it requires the investment of district and building leaders as well as faculty and staff. The positive well-being of the staff has a direct impact on students.

Berner Middle School Principal Jason Esposito said that there are more than 2,000 words in the English language that relate to emotions, but people often use the same few words to describe their feelings. One of the goals of R.U.L.E.R. is to expand that vocabulary, so students can better get in touch with their feelings and understand the right way to express their emotions in a certain situation. It is important that a reaction is not destructive to an individual or the people around him or her, Mr. Esposito added.

One visible sign at Berner is the “How Are You Feeling This Afternoon?” board outside the main office. It is divided into the four colors of the mood meter that represent different emotions — red: high in energy, low in pleasantness; blue: low in energy, low in pleasantness; green: low in energy, high in pleasantness; and yellow: high in energy, high in pleasantness. There are hundreds of words that students can pick from to stick on the board in the appropriate section.

Massapequa High School’s Ames Campus is preparing for the implementation of R.U.L.E.R. with the formation of the Emotions Matter Committee, which include administrators, teachers and pupil personnel services staff, as well as professional development workshops for staff. Principal Tania Willman said it is important that all Ames staff members be able to support the social and emotional needs of students.

“Being able to regulate your emotions is a lifelong skill,” she said.

Emotional intelligence skills can be learned, worked on, improved and applied to help people lead emotionally healthy lives.

“It impacts every area of your life,” Mr. Esposito said. “It’s not something you only apply to school. It’s worth it to teach and it’s worth it to learn.”