South Orangetown Central School District

On January 8, the South Orangetown Middle School PTA hosted Interim Principal Dr. Chad Corey, Interim Assistant Principal Joe Onativia and School Counselor Patricia Iannucci for a presentation on managing social issues at the middle school level.

Mr. Onativia and Mrs. Iannucci discussed the work happening to support social and emotional learning through the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and introduced the Mood Meter, a tool to help students identify and regulate their emotions. “School Psychologists Linda King and Sean Jones introduced the Mood Meter last year, so it was familiar to our sixth-graders, who were re-introduced to it during their ELA classes this year,” explained Mrs. Iannucci.

The Mood Meter consists of a graph with four quadrants, arranged according to Energy and Pleasantness. “Energy is what your body is telling you and Pleasantness is what your mind is telling you,” said Mr. Onativia. “Put them together to determine your mood.”

Using the Mood Meter, students are encouraged to use descriptive language to describe their moods. Teachers, school counselors and administrators talk with students about how their mood may shift throughout the day to match the demands on them, and that each of the four mood “zones” can be productive for different tasks.

The Mood Meter also helps students work through social issues they may encounter as friendships change over the course of middle school, not only to manage their own emotions, but also to empathize with others. “There are so many more social opportunities here at the middle school that create and change relationships,” Mrs. Iannucci noted. “One of the most difficult parts of dealing with friendship changes, as parents and school counselors, is when one student in the relationship doesn’t want it to change. Our job is to help those students by giving them the tools to reflect and accept.”

Several common social issue scenarios were discussed, all familiar to parents, who also shared their own families’ struggles and advice. “Middle school is a rollercoaster. But we do tell students that their friends are going to change over time, and that’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing,” said Dr. Corey. “One thing that we always come back to is how we can help students feel safe and comfortable. Our focus is always school, home, student. So, if you are seeing a sudden change in behavior, pay attention to that. If you’re not sure what’s happening with your child, reach out. A lot of times, we’ll stop down in the cafeteria during lunch just to observe and then follow-up later.”

View the complete presentation, including video and book resources, here.
View the flyer on Social Changes from the Family Engagement Center. (Unable to access the PDF? Contact FEC Coordinator AJ Walker at [email protected].)