During January, Mental Health Awareness Month, Botelle Elementary School children have been exploring techniques that support students’ emotional well-being.
The school uses the RULER approach, an acronym that reminds them of the skills needed to Recognize, Understand, Label, Express and Regulate emotions. These skills increase emotional intelligence.
Principal Lauren Valentino notes that emotions affect learning and behavior and this idea is the foundation of the RULER approach. Teachers and school-based mental health professionals teach strategies to develop these skills. As students mature, they learn sophisticated words such as serene, disheartened, livid and ecstatic to help them accurately identify their emotions.
They also use RULER tools: the Charter, Mood Meter and Meta-Moment. These strategies, tools and vocabulary, taught throughout all grades, develop greater ability to identify feelings and how to deal with them. Northwestern Regional School #7 also uses the RULER approach with its students.
Botelle’s School Charter, created collaboratively with students, families and staff, identifies the way students deserve to feel when at school. It reads, “At Botelle School we deserve to feel… Happy, Safe, Welcomed, Confident, Excited and Loved!” The charter is posted on signs throughout the building. Botelle graduate Liam Carrigan recently completed his capstone project at Northwestern by making a wooden plaque with the school charter etched on it. It now hangs outside the main office.
During Mental Health Awareness Month, students are learning strategies to practice mindfulness. Being mindful can help them feel the emotions listed in the school charter. Students learn to take a Meta-Moment to help them respond instead of reacting when gripped by a strong emotions. They learn to Sense (notice a change in the body or mind); Pause (wait and breathe to think more clearly); See Your Best Self (imagine your best self in the situation), and Strategize and Act (think of a strategy and try it).
Students will also attend an assembly with Crystal Sheehan from Be Well Community Yoga in North Canaan. She will lead students and staff in an immersive, whole body listening mediation designed to nurture the mind and body. This meditation, called a sound bath, is used to teach and practice mindfulness using singing bowls, rain sticks, gongs, percussions and chimes. In February, they will return to do yoga lessons with each class.
Another community member from neighboring Colebrook, Peg Nelligan, is visiting Botelle with her therapy dog, Bonnie. Nelligan is a retired Northwestern educator and will bring Bonnie to Botelle weekly. “Bonnie and Peg will definitely help our students and staff feel excited and loved,” said Valentino.
The school’s theme this year is Celebrating All – Creating Community. “Let’s take a mindful moment to celebrate the community we are so fortunate to be a part of. Thank you for supporting our students in feeling Happy, Safe, Welcomed, Confident, Excited and Loved inside and outside of school,” Valentino concluded.