Tips on Teaching Emotional Intelligence

Though it’s easy to focus on a student’s academic potential, it’s crucial that teachers incorporate more than just academic pursuits into the classroom. Emotional Intelligence must be explored, shaped, and developed in students. That’s why teachers of all grades should be implementing emotional intelligence into their lesson plans.

What is “Emotional Intelligence?”

The concept of emotional intelligence is fairly simple at its core. It consists of learning how to be aware of our emotions and how to control and express them in acceptable ways. It also involves learning how to recognize, understand, and respond to the emotions of others, making it an invaluable part of properly functioning in society.

There are obvious fields where emotional intelligence skills are critical. For example, counselors and other healthcare professionals are regularly required to demonstrate emotionally empathetic communication with their patients. However, long before these professional fields are reached, students should be learning the depth and breadth of the concept within the classroom.

Practice Active Listening

It all starts with purposefully listening to your students. This can be challenging when you’re dealing with children who are disengaged or disruptive. However, it’s important to remember that these are usually defense mechanisms covering deeper issues. Often they reflect issues directly related to the behavior itself. For instance, they may lack respect because they feel disrespected or they might ignore you because they feel unheard.

This is why the place to start is by simply listening to them. Being heard can do wonders. It demonstrates respect and acknowledges that they too have legitimate struggles and needs. The very act of listening to your students is a perfect demonstration of one of the first and foremost manifestations of emotional maturity: the ability to hear others above yourself.

Communicate with Students

Apart from active listening, another critical element to teaching emotional intelligence is affirmatively engaging in two-way dialogue with children as they sort through their questions and feelings. If left on their own or only given negative feedback, students will likely settle further into their immature emotions. Instead, purposeful efforts should be made to demonstrate positive communication such as thankfulness, understanding, and gratitude in order to develop a level of trust between students and their teachers.

Not only does this help round out a child’s personality, it also paves the way for effective learning in the future as well. Often this deeper level of trust and communication enables you to take your student’s education to a new, deeper level. It opens up the doors to refine and develop more nuanced attributes like discipline, creativity, and how to be the leaders of the future.

Communicate with Parents

Another key to helping break through emotional barriers with students is to keep open lines of communication with their parents. It’s tempting to get annoyed with parental involvement in your classroom, but the truth is that every parent who bothers you at the end of a long day is just as invested in their child as you are.

It’s critical to listen to and communicate with your students’ parents in order to better understand what each child is going through, what struggles they’re dealing with, and how you can better meet them where they are, emotionally speaking. This is particularly pertinent advice in an age where distance learning has become the norm. If students are struggling, you can ascertain from their parents why, and begin working toward solutions together. Some of the most common challenges students face while learning at home include:

  • External distractions: While these will always exist and it will always take emotional intelligence to keep working in spite of them, parents can help their kids develop mental resilience and attention span by keeping external distractions in the house to a minimum.
  • Staying motivated: Another hallmark of emotional intelligence is the ability to stay motived in the work you are doing. Parents can help with this by facilitating small breaks and rewards.
  • Technical issues: Finally, if a student is having technical issues, they may not be able to attend class at all — determining from their parents whether a situation is caused by technical issues or not can help you to respond accordingly.

Remember, you’re the one equipped to demonstrate sound emotional intelligence, while kids are still learning what it is. Having extra input from their parents is invaluable.

Don’t Use a One-size Fits All Mentality

The Perry Preschool Project is an excellent example of teaching emotional intelligence in action. The project took place in the 1960s and demonstrated that focusing from a very young age on the connection between a student’s mind and their social and emotional abilities provided a more successful educational experience.

The teachers involved in the project incorporated both student-initiated and teacher-directed learning, listened to the students’ needs, and incorporated feedback from parents in order to create a personally tailored learning experience for each child.

The successful outcome demonstrated just how effective incorporating emotional intelligence into an academic setting can be, and it continues to serve as an inspiration for teachers to strive to do so in their own classrooms.


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