What children learn in their classrooms can go on to influence them for years, shaping them into the people they will become. Not only should a good education prepare students for future colleges and careers, but it should also prepare students to express and handle themselves in healthy ways.
In preschool and kindergarten, for example, learning the alphabet, numbers, and basic math skills is important, but so is proper socialization. Starting at this time, children interact with their peers and learn how to behave around them. As they grow older, group projects teach students to work together using each member’s strengths to finish one project.
Of course, emotional intelligence (EI) is a skill that is worked on over a lifetime and never fully develops, but grows stronger in different ways. For this reason, teachers can foster their own EI along with their students.
Emotional Intelligence Development
EI is not only an indicator of social success, but it can influence your success in life in general. In fact, EI can be a better predictor for success than a person’s IQ. Regis College reports that, increasingly, employers are looking for EI as a skill in their employees, especially in fields such as healthcare.
According to Regis, the five key attributes of EI are self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Helping students develop these skills can help create a better school culture and raise the value of their education.
Teachers can practice their own EI and show their students how to develop EI by showing vulnerability. For example, teachers can tell students when they are frustrated and have a conversation with them using “I” statements. Then they can tell their students what they are going to do to positively handle the situation.
This helps students see the process of recognizing, stating, and controlling their emotions. Students can also learn that having emotions, especially ones typically seen as “negative,” is not a bad thing. It also gives students concrete examples of how they can manage their emotions.
It’s easy to tell your students what to do or how they should act. Creating a student-centered classroom and leading by example, however, is not so easy — especially when it comes to patience. Children need interactive activities in order to learn, as well as real life guidance and role models as they follow by example.
Besides family, a teacher might be the most influential figure in a student’s life and creating a meaningful connection can lead to better student behavior. This is especially important if the student doesn’t have great role models as parents. This is often beyond the control of the school, but being a positive influence in the life of a student can be crucial.
Beyond the Classroom
Whether children are at home or in the classroom, it’s important to engage them in fun and creative activities. This offers a perfect opportunity for not only teachers to work on students’ EI, but also for parents to work with them. For young children, playing pretend and taking on the role of another character can help them understand and empathize the emotions of others.
Beyond the classroom, these skills can be crucial. EI and empathy are important, as they can reduce bullying, whether outside at recess, after school, or online. According to the University of Southern California, bullying is not just a social issue, but a public health one. In addition to depression, anxiety and other mental effects, bullies and those they bully have a higher rate of headaches and stomach aches.
When signing children up for after-school programs or summer camps, it’s important to keep EI in mind. One program, Light Up, focuses on building workshops for children that can help them develop their EI. Recently, First Lady Melania Trump announced her Be Best program that aims to help young people with opioid abuse, social media pressure, and mental health issues.
EI is a skill that benefits students from the time they enter elementary school and stays with them as they work on their careers. It’s essential for teachers, parents, and other caregivers to emphasize EI in every aspect of a student’s life to ensure a successful, understanding future.