To Teach emotional intelligence might just be one of our most important jobs, but how many of us are actively pursuing this type of education? With the influence technology and social media is having on today’s children is still be studied and researched, as teachers, we all know that it’s critical to give our students the tools they need to succeed in life, not just on exams.
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how to teach emotional intelligence, it’s, of course, critical that we understand what “EQ” really is. According to most experts, EQ has to do with these five main aspects: self-awareness, emotional control, self-motivation, empathy, relationship skills
Look at the world we live in right now and it’s easy to see that when we teach emotional intelligence it is so important; we simply can’t survive if we don’t. And, if we as teachers don’t do our part to teach these early on and in the most formative years, our students will struggle later on as adults.
So, what can we start doing in the classroom right now to begin emphasizing the importance of our students’ EQ? What can we do to ensure that their future is as bright in real life as it looks on paper?
One of the most important components of emotional intelligence is self awareness. There’s a lot as teachers that we can do to help our students become fully aware of who they are. How do you teach self awareness? One of the best ways is to pose “self-reflective” questions and then give students time to answer them. Making this type of reflection a journaling exercise for students is a smart move, and one that can be incorporated into daily classroom activities.
Helping your students identify how they’re feeling with vocabulary is an empowering lesson. Spending time teaching “emotion words” helps students of all ages better understand how they’re feeling. It also helps them understand how other people are feeling, which is critical when it comes to well-developed EQ.
Rather than resorting to one-sided conversations, as is the case with lectures (which have proven to be an ineffective teaching strategy any way), find ways to encourage your students to listen knowing that they will need to respond to what they’ve just heard. At its core, active listening is the ability to “genuinely follow dialogue, responding to others using your own body language,” and then being able to verbally summarize back what you’ve heard or learned. Making sure your students know that all communication in your classroom is a two-way street, and giving them opportunities to respond to what you or a classmate have said, is a great first step to teaching an important EQ lesson.
While teaching empathy can seem like a difficult task, it really doesn’t need to be. One of the best ways you can explain empathy to your students is that it’s simply “being with others.” Empathy doesn’t have to mean knowing the answer; it just means showing up. New research is showing that “reading not only helps with fluid intelligence, but with reading comprehension and emotional intelligence as well. You make smarter decisions about yourself and those around you.” While all reading is great, fiction and narratives seem to have the most profound effects when it comes to a person’s EQ. When you can, do your best to use phrases like “I understand” and “I can see” to help students see empathy in action.
While there are a lot of different schools of thought about the best ways to manage emotions, some of the easiest we can apply immediately in our classroom is teaching students to see emotional experiences as “opportunities” for practice, rather than an immediate threat. Simple breathing exercises, or even stepping outside to get a drink of water, are all recommendations we can give our students to help them have time to process emotions before reacting.
While it will take a little extra work to help your students develop strong EQs, it is something every teacher should be thinking about. According to Carnegie Institute research, “85% of financial success is due to skills in ‘human engineering’ including your personality, ability to communicate, negotiate and lead.’”
When you stop to think about why you became a teacher, almost all of us will say because we want to help our students, the future of our world, succeed. This means that if we ignore our students’ EQ, we’re not fully preparing them for the real world, and we’re definitely not helping to set them up for success as much as we’d like to think.
Want another quick tool for helping you integrate more EQ into your classroom and your teaching? Consider adopting the RULER program. This acronym can be used by you and your students as guiding principles for developing strong emotional intelligence. And, since it’s easy to remember, it’s something you can refer to again and again. (Consider even making a poster to display prominently for your students to see!)
Here’s what RULER stands for:
Teaching students emotional intelligence might not be part of your job description, but it’s something the best teachers will do anyway because they know how important it is to set their students up for long-term, life-long success.