EI Lesson Changes

Since last year, emotional intelligence lessons have been implemented at Fairfax High School during Lion Time. As the lessons are quite new to FHS, they are subject to change and are still in the experimental stages at Fairfax. Last year, EI lessons received mixed reviews from teachers and students. While some believed they were necessary for awareness of emotional intelligence, others argued they took time away from much-needed studying and completion of homework during the school day. This year, changes have been made to improve the lessons in an effort to meet the needs of all students and staff.

According to Ms. Pullis, who works on EI lessons at Fairfax, Fairfax High School partners with Yale University for the Emotional Intelligence lessons. EI lessons originate from the RULER program based out of Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence. There are five schools in the Fairfax County Public School System participating in the program. These schools are called Project Aware schools, and selected faculty members from each of the five schools meet to review EI lessons received from Yale. The faculty members adjust the lessons as needed in order to make it in accordance with typical FCPS lesson formats. Then, Fairfax High School’s Emotional Intelligence team makes further changes to the lessons so that they are compatible with the school culture at FHS.

Although each individual Emotional Intelligence lesson is modified by staff at Fairfax High School before it is taught to students, EI lessons are also facing more changes as a whole this year. Recently, Fairfax High School staff involved with the Emotional Intelligence initiative met with FHS students. They discussed last years’ lessons to try and gauge the success of the EI lessons given and their impact on students. Ms. Rotella, a FHS staff member who is very involved in EI lessons, said that they specifically met with the “principal’s advisory group” and also had “feedback from teachers”. After meeting with the students and teachers, staff made some changes to the EI lessons given last year. The changes they made were in order to “make them more student-centered and flexible,” said Ms. Pullis. She continued, saying, “We are still working with the same content, but we are trying to deliver it in a way that gives teachers and students the option to choose what is best for them.”

Despite many changes being made to the previous Emotional Intelligence lessons, Ms. Pullis and those working with the program are optimistic about last year’s success. One reason for this, says Ms. Rotella, is that it was the first time that as a school everyone was involved in conversations surrounding developing an ’emotions matter’ mindset.” Another reason for this, according to Ms. Pullis, is that there were “teachers really connecting with their Lion Time students” as a result of Lion Time and the use of EI lessons. Ms. Pullis looks forward to continuing the lessons and sees last year as having been a “foundation for a great program that will give us something to build upon.”

Looking to the future, Ms. Pullis hopes that the lessons will become a foundation for deeper conversations between students and teachers. ” I also hope to build a common language around Emotional Intelligence, so that we have the vocabulary to have these conversations. I also hope to build a common language around Emotional Intelligence, so that we have the vocabulary to have these conversations.” said Ms. Pullis. According to the Yale EI website the goal of Yale is to “develop students’ emotional intelligence, self- and social awareness, critical thinking, effective decision-making, creative problem-solving ability, and goal-setting skills” while creating a “genuinely safe space safe space” inside schools.

The EI lessons start from the Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence. When asked about the FCPS/Yale partnership, Ms. Pullis responded, “We receive a framework from Yale, and then faculty members from the 5 Project Aware schools in FCPS meet to organize the lessons into a format that is typical for our county. ”

With Fairfax High school being one of the high schools running the EI project at a secondary level the school is open for suggestions on how to make EI better and more engaging for students as they hope to change Fairfax High and it’s students for the best. Ms. Rotella encourages students to get involved, saying, “We are always looking at finding new and fun activities.  If any student is interested in sitting on our team, they should reach out to me.”