During the 2018-2019 school year, Currey Ingram Academy Upper School implemented a program called RULER, or Recognizing emotions in others, Understanding emotions, Labeling emotions, Expressing emotions, and Regulating emotions. The first year of implementation was with faculty only and the first full year of implementation for students was the 2019-20. Developed by Yale University scientists and purported to improve emotional intelligence, the program lists the five key skills above as important in building emotional intelligence in students. Additionally, there are benefits for educators and administrators. The creators of RULER believe when implemented correctly and consistently, there is a marked improvement in leader and teacher effectiveness and retention, less anxiety and stress and more quality relationship building (Hagelskamp, 2013), (Martinez, 2016).
The upper school administrators and teachers worked collaboratively to develop a plan for implementation of RULER, specifically tailored for the high school students. The plan included assigning mentor teachers for small groups of students and developing a block schedule to accommodate the instructional time necessary for the new curriculum. Mentor teachers were asked to use RULER and were given freedom in how they taught, adjusted, and assessed the lessons. Research suggests that a social emotional learning curriculum has the potential to positively affect students’ academic progress and peer relationships (Brackett, 2016). Social emotional learning programming focuses on developing skills such as recognizing emotions of self and others, regulating one’s own emotions, respecting others, resolving conflicts peacefully and communicating effectively (Dymnicki, 2013). Findings from the current literature on social emotional learning programs shows when implemented appropriately in K-12 school systems, there are significant positive effects for students and educators (Durlak et al, 2011).
The purpose of this research study was to examine the phenomenon of mentorship as well as how the RULER curriculum is utilized within the mentorship block at Currey Ingram Academy. I sought to understand how the implementation of a specific block of time devoted to teaching social emotional learning to upper students in grades 9-12 contributes to a positive relationship between teachers and students as well as the views the teachers have about the mentoring experience.
Research Question 1. How does the mentoring block contribute to building teacher-student relationships and social emotional learning?
Finding 1.1: Trusting Teacher-Student Partnerships Are Built Through Individualized Care and Support
Finding 1.2: Social-Emotional Learning Is Accomplished Through Guidance in Planning, Self-Advocacy, and Emotion Regulation
Research Question 2. What are the perceptions and experiences of teachers surrounding the mentorship block?
Finding 2.1 Relationship-Building Allows Teachers to Assess Students’ Individual Support Needs
Finding 2.2 The Flexibility of the RULER Curriculum Allows Teachers to Meet Students’ Individual Support Needs
Research Question 3. What opportunities and challenges exist with the implementation of the mentoring block?
Finding 3.1: The Opportunity to Address Teachers’ Challenges in Structuring the Mentoring Block
Finding 3.2: The Opportunity to Address the Challenge of Strain on Teachers through Adjustments to Mentoring Group Composition||