The SEL Blog
July 2018

Learning is Social and Emotional

By Carrie Ramanauskas

In math and other subjects, students are taught skills and concepts, and have a variety of opportunities to practice prior to being assessed for mastery. Unfortunately, due to external pressures and requirements, the time educators in the classroom take to explicitly teach skills needed to recognize, understand, label, express, and regulate emotions has evaporated.

Fortunately, three years ago I was trained in the RULER Approach by our District’s social and emotional learning (SEL) facilitators and trainers from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence because my district realized that emotions matter. As a middle school content area teacher, the RULER Approach transformed my world. I was now equipped to design my lessons through a SEL lens. The RULER anchor tools gave me the knowledge, resources, and strategies I needed to not only explicitly teach my complex adolescents how to recognize, understand, label, express and regulate emotions, but how to reinforce these skills naturally through reading, writing and discussion. While my own instruction improved, my students’ writing pieces exploded and our debates and discussions in class were so engaging we had frequent visitors and unofficial observers! My student-led SEL team worked throughout our school to mediate conflict, spread kindness, and model positive character-based decision-making skits to students in grades Pre-K through 8.

In the past year, the SEL journey in the Bridgeport Public Schools has morphed into a movement. With the RULER Approach as our foundation, we have adopted a restorative mindset to build a stronger community through relationships. Our school-based SEL Implementation Teams (formerly RULER teams) have all been trained in the RULER Approach and are currently being trained in Restorative Practices and Cultural Competency. I realize that content knowledge is important; however, without connectivity, student learning is stunted because learning is social and emotional. The SEL “soft skills” are no longer on the back burner here in Bridgeport, CT and I am proud to be a Bridgeport Educator!


Carrie is the District SEL Coordinator for the Bridgeport Public Schools in Bridgeport, CT and also a former NoVo Social Emotional Learning Innovation Fund Awardee.