Symposium Reflections and Insights

The Importance of Practicing What You Teach

Dr. Marc Brackett

Dr. Marc Brackett

Filled with the promise of gaining insight into how our children function emotionally, I was excitedly anticipating insight from a psychologist with the level of expertise as a leader in his field.  The evening was filled with community, like minded adults from many different schools, agencies and families coming to The Churchill School auditorium to hear Dr. Marc Brackett speak. 

Within minutes it was obvious that this was not your average “talk” that most of us settle down to hear, two or three times a year.  Instead, the audience was immediately disarmed.  Laughing, thinking, engaging and being drawn into Dr. Brackett’s warm and winning style each of us later described feeling like he was speaking to us directly about our lives.  The difficulty we all have naming our feelings, assuming the point of view of children we love and connecting to others with emotion at the forefront, was delivered to us with just the right “spoon of sugar”.  By serving up his ideas in a compelling way, we swallowed the possibility that we could all do better.  So I began to think about all these things while I was swept up into the heart of the presentation.

Dr. Brackett’s philosophy and extensive research is also directly in concert with the mission statement of The Meeting House After School Program.  I look forward to learning more about the RULER Approach.  It is truly exciting to feel part of a movement which reminds us that our emotions underlie our humanity and impact how we experience every aspect of the world.  Yet not everyone can deliver the message with such warmth, connectivity and vulnerability as Dr. Brackett does.  We were transported back into his grandmother’s living room. Anecdotally, we felt we knew his brothers, his coworkers and his bullies.  He brought his parents to life before our very ears.  I could relate to so many of the short stories he shared when BAM!... it hit me.

What makes Dr. Brackett so successful, such a wonderful speaker and an approachable professional, is that he actually puts into practice exactly what he teaches.  The emotional climate of the room was established first, creating our comfort as participants.  Once we were connected he plugged into our humanity and our vulnerability as parents and providers.  He was funny, glib, self-deprecating, authentic and so likeable.  These human things made his talk memorable and energizing.

Yes I left with a broader knowledge base at evening’s end.  I also was reminded that people, who live what they teach by communicating to others that they care, are far more effective.  Well done Dr. Brackett and thank you.

—Jacklyn Covell, School Psychologist, Clinical Director of TMH

Talking About Feelings

As a specialist in childhood language and language disorders I found the presentation by Marc Brackett on Emotional Intelligence and his RULER approach particularly relevant, insightful and intriguing. The relationship between language, emotion and regulation is inseparable and Dr. Bracket’s work provides a clear model of the interaction.  In his evidence based, highly successful RULER model, emotional intelligence and regulation begin with Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, and Expressing Emotion.  The last “R”, regulation, is dependent on the “RULE.”  A language therapist could translate RULE into comprehension, word retrieval, language organization, inference and pragmatics.  These are the core areas that children with specific language impairment, language disorders, social pragmatic language disorders and language delays have difficulty with.  It is no wonder that the co-morbidity between behavioral and emotional disorders and language disorders is so high. Dr. Brackett’s research can be used to explain this established relationship.

At the Meeting House, Flawless Foundation and Churchill School Symposium on April 12, 2016, Dr. Brackett presented his Mood Meter and asked attendees to provide numerical ratings on a grid measuring Pleasantness and Energy which would place them into one of four colored quadrants on a chart to indicate how they were feeling. Participants had little difficulty with the task.  Yet, when asked to provide a word to describe the feeling the task became more challenging and no two individuals provided the same “label.”  Perhaps that is why adults often rely on somatic idioms to describe our feelings.  We have knots in our stomach, lumps in our throats, warm hearts, goose bumps, shivers down our spine, nerves of steel and there is no doubt what we are feeling.  The emotional vocabulary to correlate with these idioms would be more difficult to retrieve and more variable between individuals.  The abstract language required to discuss feelings can be daunting for any child and especially for those children with language difficulty.

The day after attending the Symposium I was working with a four year old in my office targeting his articulation skills while happily playing a game.  He suddenly exclaimed, “feel so deflated.”  When I asked him where he learned that word he replied, “Charlie Brown”.  Did he have any idea what it meant?  He did not.

We as parents, educators, therapists and adults must do more for the emotional health and well being of our children.  From a Speech and Language Pathologist’s point of view, the vocabulary of emotion must be taught through experience, repetition, example, sensitivity and with intelligent involvement.  Embrace teaching opportunities as they arise.  Dr. Brackett highlights this in his call for developing an appropriate emotional vocabulary as requisite for self-awareness, regulation and Emotional Intelligence.  Our children should be learning Emotional Intelligence from us, not from cartoons.

— Steven H. Blaustein PhD, BCS-CLLD, CCC

An Inspiring and Essential Approach

How can our educational system have ignored social-emotional learning when we've known the importance of this for years?  The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the RULER Approach, combined with the Emotional Revolution and Facebook, are a super-human team for taking on the task of transforming our nation's schools to help children develop the REAL tools they need to learn and thrive in their lives.

Clinical, neuropsychological and just plain authentic life experience has shown us that children feeling safe and valued are the pre-requisites for healthy growth and learning.  The RULER Approach provides research-supported, clinically savvy techniques and resources that are explicitly designed to help schools help children feel supported, safe and valued and thus teach them to use their minds and hearts to learn. This is so exciting for all of us who care deeply about children.

I so enjoyed learning more about Marc Brackett's work during the symposium. The RULER Approach is very much in sync with the work of The Meeting House and many in the professional community that support its mission.  We all cheer Dr. Brackett’s efforts as he so inspirationally takes on the foundations of our nation's educational institutions. 

— Susan Davis, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist