How educators process and respond to emotions, both theirs and that of their students, impacts student achievement as well as student social-emotional development. Educators who lack. Emotional Intelligence often struggle to work effectively with challenging students. For example, they quickly resort to punishments, instead of recognizing their students’ emotions and what’s causing them.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize emotions in one’s self and in others, to understand the causes and effects of emotions, and to manage emotions effectively.¹ Emotionally intelligent educators recognize and manage their own emotions as well as understand how their emotional responses impact others. They know how to build strong, supportive relationships with students, colleagues, and parents. They are also able to effectively deal with conflict, set firm but respectful boundaries, and regularly demonstrate compassion for those around them.
How educators process and respond to emotions, both theirs and that of their students, impacts student achievement as well as student social-emotional development. Educators who lack Emotional Intelligence often struggle to work effectively with challenging students. For example, they quickly resort to punishments, instead of recognizing their students’ emotions and what’s causing them. Having insight into their students’ emotions would help them to respond with compassionate understanding when a student is acting out—and redirect the students’ behavior appropriately.
Emotionally intelligent educators are also more satisfied with their jobs. A better supported, emotionally intelligent teacher can foster deeper learning capabilities and forge stronger connections with students and their families. School leadership can dually invest in teachers’ satisfaction at work and student performance in teachers’ classrooms with an investment in opportunities for staff to develop emotional intelligence. Cultivating emotionally intelligent staff enables school leadership to co-create the ideal school environment: an educational space where growth is the definition of success.
The importance of having principals with emotional intelligence is a huge first step in creating thriving school communities. Research shows that fundamentally, strong leaders shoulder the largely emotional task of seeding good morale among their team.² A principal that supports their teachers with consistently thoughtful leadership sets a certain tone and expectation for their staff. They can seed the value of emotional intelligence and create an environment where teachers thrive and students grow, excel and achieve. Principals are a model for the success they want to achieve, and are integral in establishing emotionally intelligent staff.
There are specific programs that can improve emotional intelligence. A range of trainings and resources grow the capabilities of teachers and principals to serve students.
- Recent studies show that mindfulness training can help teachers better cope with stress on the job while also making the classroom environment more productive for learning.³
- Mindfulness sessions and workshops that teach emotional intelligence equip school faculty with tools and the best practices to engage a range of learning styles and students’ emotional and educational needs.
- Team building activities help teachers function as a cohesive unit. When faculty comes to “share common goals, know their roles and responsibilities, have open methods of communication, and are motivated to perform,” there is collective ownership that encourages success that benefits both students and faculty.⁴
- Mental Health First Aid USA is a program operated by the National Council for Behavioral Health and can provide teachers with a wealth of knowledge about how to support students. Through emphasis on proactiveness and early detection, the program offers concrete tools and methods, establishes familiarity with local resources, and teaches how to recognize specific illnesses and issues facing students like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and more.⁵
If we consider what emotionally intelligent teachers and principals mean for the success of schools, the results can be incredible. Teachers will be able to better determine student needs and engage misbehavior with compassion. Exemplary leadership that clearly upholds these values, with support and buy-in from faculty, have the power to transform how students engage their school environment. Programs such as mindfulness sessions, emotional intelligence workshops, team building exercises and Mental Health First Aid improve and foster these capabilities in school communities. An investment in emotionally intelligent faculty and staff will make way for a thriving hub of learning where both teachers and students have space to grow and thrive.
¹ Mayer, John D. & Salovey, Peter. Emotional Intelligence. Baywood Publishing Co., Inc., (1990).
² Allred, Ashley, et al. “The Impact of Principal Emotional Intelligence on Teacher Perceptions of School Climate.” International Research in Higher Education, Sciedu Press, (2016).
³ Suttie, Jill, et al. “When Teachers Get Mindfulness Training, Students Win.” Mindful, 5 June 2018.
⁴ Edmonds, Nanci Autumne, “Improving Teacher Morale with Team Building.” (2009). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 1853.
⁵ “Mental Health First Aid USA.” Mental Health First Aid, 10 Oct. 2013.