Beginning on the playground and throughout high school, children and teens must navigate the challenges that come with relationships and social situations. Emotional intelligence enables them to recognize their own feelings and have positive interactions with their peers, family, teachers, and community. Teachers can help students develop critical emotional competencies through lessons, while schools can provide policies and practices that contribute to kids’ emotional well-being.
What is Emotional Intelligence and Why is it Important?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of, and manage, feelings. It generally includes intrapersonal and interpersonal functions with the abilities to communicate with others, apply emotions to thinking and problem solving, and control impulses.
Kids need support and education to develop their emotional intelligence. Although empathy involves complex neurological functions, it can be learned. Children are in a stage when they are capable of learning the fine points of empathy.
Emotionally intelligent children and teenagers tend to be more engaged in school, have better relationships, and achieve academic success. Teens, especially, must handle the transition from childhood to adulthood, and emotional and social skills can help them deal with stress and build relationships. There is empirical evidence that suggests emotionally intelligent teens are better able to make the transition from high school to higher education.
Even as the world becomes more virtual and digital, emotional intelligence holds power. People must still understand how emotions are being expressed and respond with openness and empathy. Computers have not replaced this need; they are limited in their ability to solve complex problems that involve human emotion.
Incorporating Emotional Intelligence into Curricula
Emotional intelligence is just as important as cognitive ability. Students who are taught to recognize and regulate their emotions are more focused in the classroom.
There are many strategies and activities educators can use to improve students’ emotional intelligence. Psychologist Bradley Busch, author of The Science of Learning, recommends teaching active listening and self-awareness skills. Active listening allows people to focus on non-verbal cues, builds trust and rapport, and demonstrates concern and understanding. Teachers can encourage active listening by engaging students in two-way interactive dialogue. In addition, self-awareness exercises can help students become attuned to their internal thought processes. An example of a self-awareness exercise is keeping a journal.
Educators can blend emotional intelligence principles into curricula as appropriate for their students and lesson plans. As they do, it may be helpful to remind themselves, and their students, of the benefits of emotional intelligence. In addition to better relationships and social skills, experts say emotional intelligence contributes to:
- healthier responses to life’s challenges
- feelings of confidence
- better decision making
- ability to be happier more often
There are many more lifetime benefits that come from developing emotional intelligence.
Create a Positive Learning Environment for StudentsEducation leaders who are passionate about building students’ social-emotional skills can develop their instruction techniques through graduate education. William Woods University’s Online Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction prepares educators to improve curriculum in the classroom by adapting to new standards. Students in the program take a course, Improvement of Instruction, focused on advanced classroom strategies and techniques designed to enhance effectiveness in meeting the needs of learners.