Social-Emotional Learning: FAQ's

Heart and Brain holding hands

What is Social Emotional Learning?

Social-Emotional Learning is the practice of teaching the skills necessary to establish:  self-awareness, social awareness, self-management skills, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.  Teaching these skills is done through evidence-based lessons about perspective-taking, conflict resolution, emotional identification, emotional regulation, and social skills.  Social-emotional learning also occurs by working through group projects, situations that occur naturally through a child’s day, and introducing strategies to support and promote positive social interactions. 

The RULER curriculum is the resource we are piloting to teach Kindergarten through 5th grade students social and emotional skills.

What are the benefits of teaching social-emotional learning skills at school? How can this support what families are teaching their children at home?

We seek to provide all students with common language and skills that will enhance students’ social interactions and foster a safe and caring learning environment to help them be successful in the classroom. When students are emotionally safe and supported, they thrive in all areas of learning. Research supports the correlation between the consistent implementation of social-emotional learning instruction and positive outcomes for students in the areas of social-emotional wellness, academic performance, school behaviors, and attitudes towards self and others (Durlak et al., 2011; Taylor et al., 2017). While it is the schools’ role to teach academic content, it is also important for the school to support and explicitly teach social skills in order for students to apply their learning in a meaningful way. 

While these social and emotional skills are generally fostered in the home and nurtured by parents over the course of a child’s lifetime, it is our goal as a school, to further support the development of these skills and provide repetition that will enhance application across settings. Students who understand themselves and others are more prepared for their future.

What input is the district gathering from staff and parents?

Prior to the start of the RULER pilot, extensive teacher input and feedback were gathered related to their observation of social-emotional needs of their students. Since beginning the pilot, both staff and parental input has been solicited, and feedback will continue to be gathered through the curriculum approval process.

Why is the district piloting the RULER program as a social-emotional learning curriculum?

Much like test-driving a new car, the purpose of piloting any curriculum is to review the components and impact of using the resources provided by the program prior to formally adopting the learning resource.  Currently, the RULER pilot is occurring in all buildings in grades K-5.  Feedback gathered throughout the pilot will guide the timeline for moving through the curriculum adoption process.

What has social-emotional learning looked like in schools before the RULER pilot?

Teachers have previously taught or addressed the skills of self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making through informal open class discussions, one-to-one conversations, teaching lessons about self-evaluation, self-reflection, growth mindset, and trauma care.  Resources that were utilized varied by building and by classroom.  An important aspect of implementing a district-wide social-emotional curriculum is the impact of a systematic approach to ensure equal access and common language for the development of these skills in all of our students.

Why was the RULER curriculum selected for pilot in grades K-5?

The RULER curriculum provides lessons related to how we can: Recognize, Understand, Label, Express, and Regulate emotions. The curriculum also focuses on building classroom community and promoting constructive conflict resolution skills. The pilot is meant to evaluate the use of the RULER curriculum to assist in the development of student’s skills in the areas of self-awareness, social awareness, self-management skills, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.  The development of these skills correlates with the district’s SOAR IV goals and the Michigan Department of Education’s competencies for social-emotional learning.  

The desired outcome is to teach students social-emotional skills to succeed socially in the classroom, manage/understand their emotions to best access instruction, and apply these skills in their daily lives.

Can parents’ see the curriculum? What can a parent do if they have concerns with a lesson or the curriculum?

Parents interested in reviewing the RULER curriculum are welcome to set up a time to review the materials at the HPS Administration Office (616-669-1740). 

Consistent with communication on all other topics, parents are welcomed and encouraged to talk with their child’s teacher, their building’s PBIS Specialists, and/or their child’s building principal regarding any concerns they may have about the RULER curriculum. We have found solutions to address parents’ concerns are best crafted when parents, teachers, and building administrators can have these discussions together to address any questions or concerns a parent may have for their child.

Are these lessons taking the place of other core content?

Teachers have been holding space in daily schedules for social-emotional learning for decades. The use of the RULER curriculum will not take the place of any core content, rather it provides a consistent teaching and learning opportunity with common language and lesson objectives for all of Hudsonville’s K-5 students. A common curriculum allows classrooms to proactively teach and address social-emotional skills.

How much time each day/week do the RULER lessons require?

Teachers, on average, spend 10-20 minutes daily either with delivering a lesson from the RULER curriculum, reviewing our SOAR (be Safe, Own it, Act Responsibly, be Respectful) expectations, engaging in a “morning meeting” or “community circle”, or other activities center around social-emotional learning, classroom climate and culture, and promoting positive behaviors.

Does HPS have a social-emotional curriculum for grades 6-12 at this time?

No. We are only piloting the RULER Curriculum in grades K-5.

How was the RULER Curriculum selected as the resource to pilot for social-emotional learning in Hudsonville?

Beginning in the fall of 2020, a team of staff and administrators reviewed eight social-emotional learning curriculums. These included: Caring School, Positive Action, Sanford Harmony, Michigan Model, Paths, RULER, Second Step, and True Success. These curriculums were evaluated based on the following factors: need (i.e., alignment to the current needs), contextual fit, program resources, research/evidence, organizational readiness, and capacity. Based on the information reviewed and discussion/feedback from teacher leaders and administrators, the RULER Curriculum was selected. SEL Selection and Timeline

Is the RULER curriculum a DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging) curriculum?

No, RULER is not a DEIB curriculum. ​​RULER is a social-emotional learning curriculum that aligns with Michigan benchmarks. It is based on the premise that emotions matter, and that individuals experience emotions uniquely based on their identities and backgrounds. The RULER Curriculum acknowledges that every student is unique and includes lessons on helping all students feel included as well as encouraging a sense of belonging in our classrooms and buildings. RULER does not teach a “correct” way to express or manage feelings, nor does it condone a one-size-fits-all approach to behavior. RULER helps diverse learners discover what strategies and behaviors work for them personally to achieve greater well-being, build and maintain positive relationships, and attain goals, with an emphasis on how our actions affect ourselves and others.

The RULER curriculum focuses on building skills in the following areas:  self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. The RULER curriculum does not teach children about Critical Race Theory. Parents are welcome and encouraged to review the curriculum by requesting an opportunity to see and discuss the lessons with their child’s building (elementary) principal.

Where can I find more information or get answers to my additional questions?

Please contact your elementary building principal for more information or to receive answers to any additional questions.