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Berner Student Leaders are Mental Health Mentors

BMS Ruler

Student council leaders at Berner Middle School take on many tasks, from spearheading activities to promoting school spirit, but they also serve as social and emotional role models.

Four years ago, the district launched a partnership with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, implementing the RULER philosophy. The social and emotional learning initiative launched at Berner, and has now become part of the school’s culture. Students learn to recognize, understand, label, express and regulate their emotions.

Principal Jason Esposito said that the purpose of RULER is to show students that their feelings, positive or negative, matter and are valid. The goal is to help them to better understand their emotions and express themselves in a productive way.

Student council members model strategies for their peers on how to be in control of their emotions.

“They embody the traits of people who are emotionally intelligent,” Mr. Esposito said. “They listen to others and they’re aware of each other’s feelings.”

Students noted the impact that they can have on those around them. If someone is having a bad day, that negative energy can spread. Conversely, a positive attitude can go a long way in cheering up others. Eighth grader Tatum B. said with emotional intelligence comes the tools to help out a friend who is having a tough time.

“You can just make someone’s day by smiling,” added sixth grader Ty M.

Kiera C. and Vivienne W. noted how their feelings can impact how they do in school or when playing a sport. They said that it is important to have strategies to manage their emotions so they are in a position to succeed. Sixth grade Gabby A. added that it is important to start every morning on a good note because that sets the tone for the day.

“We take what we learned and apply it to real-world situations,” Kiera said, of how students use these skills and strategies in their lives.

Students have learned several techniques to help regulate their emotions, explained sixth grader Frank S. They can take deep breaths, count backwards or have a meta-moment, which is a time to pause and reflect before acting.

Seventh grader Riley D. said that all students face some degrees of stress and nerves, and the RULER philosophy tools help them manage. The mood meter, a color-coded chart that represents different emotions based on levels of pleasantness and energy, is a particularly valuable resource. In one of the conference rooms, Berner has a large mood table, a social and emotional learning version of the periodic table of elements.

The student council leaders say they are grateful that their school puts such a strong emphasis on social and emotional learning, and it makes them feel cared for. Seventh grader Kevin K. likes the focus on self-care and feels it benefits his emotional well-being.

“The school really does a good job with that, to show us how we’re feeling and helping us to feel better,” seventh grade Alex F. said, who noted that the motivational signs and quotes around the school are part of the “little things” that make a big difference.