Educators are most interested in students’ intellect and providing appropriate instruction to meet the individual student needs in a classroom. Teachers are also paying close attention to how students react to challenges with assignments and with social situations. Many times, students have a high aptitude for learning but a lower emotional ability to get along with peers or attack a challenge with developmentally appropriate actions. When teachers observe a student’s problem-solving ability, the student’s emotional quotient (EQ) is typically the explanation for why a student reacts in a certain manner. The EQ for a student is actually a measurement of the student’s emotional intelligence (EI).

What is Emotional Intelligence?

The ability to handle personal emotions and the emotions of others in a smart manner is emotional intelligence (EI). Developing emotional intelligence is important for students as it will help them learn and think effectively in the classroom while managing personal emotional challenges and conflicts that may arise with other classmates. There are five factors that make up emotional intelligence: self -awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence Skills

The first skill of emotional intelligence is self-awareness. The child must understand the situation that is causing a specific emotion that is usually uncomfortable. As self-regulation sets in, the child will begin to determine how to react to the emotions they are feeling. Self-awareness of emotions can greatly impact the way the child’s reaction – these two skills are healthy in developing an early emotional intelligence.

The third skill in emotional intelligence development is self-motivation. Self-motivation cannot be taught, and it may look different in children. While practicing the importance of accomplishing a goal can be uncomfortable work, it builds self-motivation in children.

Furthermore, empathy is crucial for students to learn how to deal and accept the feelings of others. Developing a skill in recognizing others emotions can help a child navigate personal relationships with other children and ultimately develop appropriate social skills.

Each of the five skills making up emotional intelligence is important independent of one another, but when working all together a child’s emotional intelligence is healthy.

How Teachers can Model EI in the Classroom

Modeling instruction is an effective method for teachers to guide students through new concepts and skills. While students watch a teacher demonstrate a concept step by step, students mimic the teacher’s actions to achieve an understanding of the concept being taught. Students also watch teachers’ actions in social situations inside and outside of the classroom between students and other teachers.

The teacher plays an important role in modeling healthy emotional intelligence in the classroom. Teachers can institute daily morning meetings with students to provide the opportunity for those in the class to share and discuss emotional situations that may be occurring in the classroom. These meetings are a time for the class to build a sense of community, where trust is built between the teacher and students and among the students as a class.

Another method of modeling healthy EI is to guide students with journal writing. Writing tasks for students can help develop self-awareness with their emotions. The topics could involve emotional challenges that require students to determine a solution that would effectively meet the proposed challenge.

Classroom jobs provide an emphasis on students’ responsibility. The teacher identifies the jobs and demonstrates the proper way to handle the classroom duties, allowing the class community to run effectively. Student jobs create a level of reliability among students in the class. For example, if a student were to be absent for the day, the other students would have to use problem-solving skills to fill the position for the day.

When teachers model and allow creatively in the classroom, it helps develop an understanding of flexibility in life. Creativity with assignments is a great place to start. For example, during a morning meeting, teachers can begin the day by creating a class situation that students must invent a creative solution for. Teachers can lead the students into a discussion and have the class hear the many options developed by the students. There are many times in a classroom when a teacher must shift gears quickly and the students must also be ready for a change in schedule, and these opportunities rely upon creative thinking among all individuals in the class.

Teachers can model the following seven tools with students to encourage strong emotional intelligence. The first is the importance of eye contact. Achieving eye contact develops a person’s authentic personality and strength communication skills between two people. Another great exercise for students is to practice how a person’s face looks when expressing a specific emotion. It is important for students to understand how someone else perceives the look on a person’s face. The reaction a student makes with their face and their body’s posture develops the ability to read one another’s body language.

Body language tells people how a person is feeling. When reading someone’s facial reaction or body language, it allows students to determine the emotion felt by the person. Moreover, teachers are always reminding students to listen during instruction. In addition to this instruction, it is important that teachers help students understand the tone of a person’s voice and how listening and reacting to the different tone will help with understanding the appropriate emotional reaction by a student.

Students are constantly watching the emotional reactions a teacher displays to the various situations that occur during the school day. The teacher’s emotional reactions may be mimicked during a situation between students. The eyes and ears of students are focused on the teacher at all times.

How Administrators can Model EI Outside of the Classroom

Administrators carry the responsibility of creating a school culture that fosters a positive environment for academic growth and safe social behaviors for all students and teachers. It is also the goal of the administrator to create an emotionally balanced atmosphere for the teachers.

Administrators must manage emotions of teachers effectively to solve daily problems. Leaders that are self-aware of others’ emotions can navigate various situations that arise in a school and lessen stress levels throughout the school environment.

School administrators are emotional coaches for both students and teachers. The administrator can use the following five strategies to improve emotional intelligence:

  1. Focus on the reaction or response to a specific event. The response selected will determine the outcome. Responses should be made with discipline and intent, not reactive or impulsive.
  2. The level of empathy expressed by a leader is extremely important. The school’s faculty must have confidence in the leader’s communication skills and how the leader connects with the faculty.
  3. School leaders must be able to determine the difference between a teacher’s opinion and feelings.
  4. Administrators must be aware of triggers that insert emotions into decisions before taking time to consider the best course of action.
  5. An effective school leader balances patience and persistence. The leader must be attuned with the feelings of others before making decisions that will affect others.

An effective understanding of emotional intelligence for an administrator and teacher will build trust and create a school culture that will allow teachers to instruct students effectively and develop students’ positive emotional intelligence.