Warwick Valley Central School District is advancing its commitment to educating the whole child and preparing students for better futures by partnering with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence (YCEI) and adopting the organization’s RULER approach to the integration of social-emotional learning into the standard school curriculum.  


Decades of research show that social-emotional skills are essential to effective teaching and learning, sound decision making, physical and mental health, and success in and beyond school. RULER’s evidence-based approach applies “hard science” to the teaching of so-called soft skills such as those associated with the acronym: Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, and Regulating emotion. 

“RULER starts with the simple recognition that our emotions matter,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Leach. “Students and teachers alike face many stressors in and outside of our classrooms and schools. Their emotions impact their ability to focus and engage in learning activities, or to be at their best in difficult moments. Emotional awareness is an important first step, but managing our emotions doesn’t come naturally. It’s a skill we learn and practice, and its essential to the health and well being of our students and school community.” 

RULER’s implementation in Warwick

Warwick’s teachers recently participated in a RULER training with Dr. Marc Brackett, YCEI director, hosted by Putnam-Westchester BOCES. Yale’s RULER team of trainers involve and support entire school communities in understanding the value of emotions, building the skills of emotional intelligence, and creating and maintaining a positive school climate. 

In year-one of RULER’s implementation in Warwick, a team of representatives from each school building will work closely with the PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports) team and focus their awareness-raising and skill-development efforts on faculty and staff. Teachers at each school will create a charter representing their vision for RULER’s impact in their building. Subsequent trainings are scheduled for December and March.

In year-two, all four schools will move to full curriculum and instruction integration of the RULER approach, starting in September of 2020. 

RULER tools for teaching emotional intelligence

RULER’s tools for teaching and learning emotion-regulating skills include the “mood meter,” which recognizes the need to acknowledge and communicate students’ feelings; taking a “meta-moment,” a process for gaining emotional self-control in difficult situations and replacing rushed reactions with purposeful, reasoned action; and conflict resolution, which can reduce the number and severity of classroom incidents through deescalation strategies, encourage empathy and positive relationship-building. 

Kindergartners practicing mindfulness on the classroom floor.The mindfulness connection

The RULER approach is also a natural expansion of the District’s earlier introduction of the practice of mindfulness in all four schools. In September of 2018, physical education teachers and school social workers began integrating mindful breath and movement exercises to help improve students’ health, social-emotional wellbeing, and learning engagement. 

Educators across the country are increasingly recognizing that the practice of mindfulness, based on inner states of being rather than external circumstances, cultivates more positive mindsets, develops social-emotional competencies and connections, and leads to more compassionate teaching and leadership.

RULER and #TheirFuture

RULER also aligns with and the District’s #TheirFuture initiative. As envisioned by District leaders, their students’ future involves asking and answering their own questions, wrestling to solve authentic problems that matter to them, and a future of giving and receiving effective feedback that supports their contributions in life, work, and citizenship. 

The RULER difference

Schools that have adopted the RULER approach to social-emotional learning are reporting increased student engagement, more connected and collaborative classroom environments, more trusting relationships between students and school staff, and greater levels of inspiration and joy among both groups. Research also shows that  RULER raises academic achievement and contributes to more supportive, productive, and compassionate school climates. These results are informing the development of innovative new programming to unlock the power of emotional intelligence and impact a wider range of children and educators.