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Nurturing emotional intelligence in children is a part of everyday learning

By Mr Rohan Parikh, Managing Director, Seven River International School

When Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer coined the term ‘Emotional Intelligence’ in 1990, they described it as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action”. For a long time, there was no simpler way to describe EI.

More recently, though, Daniel Goleman, a science writer for the New York Times specialising in brain and behaviour research, took Salovey-Mayer’s Emotional Intelligence (EI) and innovated with it. He said that Emotional Intelligence is behaviour-dependent and can be developed. That is the first and most important takeaway from Goleman’s description. In his book, Emotional Intelligence, he broke down the concept further into four relatable sections.

  • Understanding one’s own emotions – Self Awareness
  • Managing one’s emotions – Self Management
  • Being empathetic to the emotional drives of other people – Social Awareness
  • Handling other people’s emotions – Social Skills

Research says that Emotional Intelligence helps students navigate through life more easily.

A deep dive into EI reveals some interesting results. For twenty years, the Development Studies Centre in Oakland, California, documented and evaluated its Child Development Project (CDP) results, which integrated lessons on caring, responsibility, and other positive traits. The rigorous curriculum stressed on cooperative learning, class meetings designed to build unity and a sense of shared purpose, buddy programs, and parental involvement. The research concluded that students in CDP schools were more cooperative, helpful, and empathetic, firmly establishing the importance of EI for thriving student life.

Teaching Emotional Intelligence in Schools: Socio-Emotional Learning

In the 21st century, emotional intelligence is considered the basis of building soft skills that students will need in their professional lives, going forward, and personal life. Teachers, being deeply connected with students every step of the way, need to find ways to help students develop the basics of emotional intelligence.

Toady EI is not an option or a supplement course. It is an integral part of education for young children and teenagers. Conscious and aware teachers seamlessly make it a part by analysing content, reading and reflection, through experimentation and enquiry.

The practice of teaching EI can be broken down into simple steps, keeping Goleman’s theories in mind:

  • Self-awareness and emotional literacy

Building a vocabulary for feelings

Keeping a check on attitudes and biases

  • Social awareness and interpersonal skills

Driving a perspective shift in the way they deal with daily situations

Encouraging active listening to open the doors of the mind

  • Motivation and action

Problem-solving both academically as well in life in general

Understanding the criteria for sound decision making

Some practical ways to infuse emotional intelligence

Build a framework: Teachers provide an emotional framework of several points, including active listening, empathy, and many more. It helps them understand their reactions pragmatically and of the people around them. This knowledge brings security and mitigates randomness for them.

Journaling: When teachers encourage students to maintain a journal, it might seem on the surface as a tool to improve written language. However, it is an effective exercise that builds self-awareness. The academic teaching of vocabulary can be understood here when the student differentiates between being upset, disappointed and angry.

Giving back to society: Adding social work into the curriculum teaches the value of empathy to children. When they share what they have with other children who are not born into a better life, they realise the privilege, and it makes them open their hearts.

All in all, it is proven that with practice, students can strengthen their EI. Higher levels of EI build a healthy attitude and positive outlook. It prepares them to handle stress better, increasing productivity and leading to job satisfaction in the longer run.

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