Research indicates that people’s intelligence quotient (IQ) is not quite as important in future career success as their emotional intelligence (EI). Emotional intelligence is more than just a buzz word; according to a Forbes article, studies reveal “emotional intelligence as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack.” Daniel Goleman, an author, explains that emotional intelligence is a greater indicator of future success among professionals. The reason for this is that most professionals such as lawyers, physicians, engineers, and executives have an IQ of 115 or above already. So the only factor separating them is their emotional intelligence. Those who rate higher in that area climb the success ladder before their peers. The good news about emotional intelligence is that even if a person has low emotional intelligence, he or she can increase their quotient. With the right academic environment, students can improve their scores as well, setting them up for future job success.

So, just what is emotional intelligence and what type of learning environment is conducive to its growth? Emotional Intelligence can be defined as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” People with a high degree of emotional intelligence:

  • Possess awareness of their emotions and the ability to regulate those emotions (self-control).
  • Are aware of others’ emotions and offer assistance (empathy).
  • Are self-motivated even in the face of difficulties or setbacks.
  • Possess social skills.

Enhancing emotional intelligence in the classroom

Make time for self-awareness: Teachers who give students space to digest their emotions grant them the first step forward in the journey of self-awareness. This is an important step, for without self-awareness there can be no self-control. A theory from the Emotional Intelligence Network states that understanding emotions includes naming them and is the first step in emotional intelligence. When students name the emotion they just felt, they are forced to stop and think for a few seconds of time. During this time, the cognitive and emotional areas of the brain are able to connect. Furthermore, the research indicates naming the emotion helps calm down the part of the brain that is stimulated. Hence, students better regulate subsequent actions. So, to sum up, taking time to be aware of emotions by naming them, slows down reactions, calms the mind, and allows people to react more appropriately. Teachers with small classrooms can provide opportunities for student’s self-awareness.

Providing opportunities for choice: Another important factor in developing emotional intelligence is providing children with choices in a safe environment. Choice, under regulated conditions, strengthens the student’s self-control. Every child loves to feel like they have some control over decisions. When it’s possible, it’s good to allow this because it facilitates independence and an opportunity for growth. When students choose, they think through options, come to a decision, then consider the consequences. Students learn that choices bring consequences and here is where confidence blooms or lessons learned. Classrooms that allow freedom of choice in some areas will benefit the students.

Encourage empathy: Too many times students and teachers lack in empathy towards each other and towards other students. In large schools where the student to teacher ratio is large, it is difficult for teachers to notice all that may be going on with students emotionally. Similarly, the fast pace of big schools and the peer pressure can cause otherwise sensitive students to become callous. What can be done? Empathy is an important quality for students to possess. One way to bring out empathy in a student is to get him or her engaged in volunteering either in school or outside of school. Mentoring is a great way to enhance empathy plus it helps a younger student in need. Plus volunteer work is fulfilling inwardly, as well.

At Tenney School, we provide a close-knit academic environment that fosters intellectual and emotional growth. We are dedicated to cultivating the best qualities in our students. Contact us today for more information about our school!