Emotional Intelligence in Schools

The New York Times recently came out with an article, Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught, arguing that emotional intelligence should be considered when teaching in schools. Social emotional learning is not necessarily a brand new concept. However, with the surge of bullying, teen suicides, and school violence, the conversation is turning to how schools can help children tackle the foundational issues by starting early. The article gives commentary on a teacher who discusses emotional teaching and its impacts with his kindergarten students.

The article states, “For children, Brackett notes, school is an emotional caldron: a constant stream of academic and social challenges that can generate feelings ranging from loneliness to euphoria. Educators and parents have long assumed that a child’s ability to cope with such stresses is either innate — a matter of temperament — or else acquired “along the way,” in the rough and tumble of ordinary interaction. But in practice, Brackett says, many children never develop those crucial skills.”

Recently, I have been exposed to the world of Electroencephalography (EEG). Essentially, this technology focuses on gathering inputs from the brain in order to read whether or not the brain is experiencing typical or ‘normal’ brain wave patterns. The definition from the good ole Wikipedia says “[EEG] measures voltage fluctuations resulting from ionic current flows within the neurons of the brain.” While EEG is typically known and used to determine or monitor early stages of epilepsy, seizures, and brain damage, some psychoanalysts are using EEG as a way to monitor brain behavior in psych patients who suffer from varying behavioral disorders. Some have even developed instruments providing biofeedback, as a way to set the brain back on its ‘normal’ path.

Research suggests that in order to have successful results during EEG the patient or recipient of the treatment must be clear of any emotional anxieties. The following quote illustrates an interesting phenomenon in how our brain learns best when it comes to “focus” versus “emotion”.

“Something we now know, from doing dozens of studies, is that emotions can either enhance or hinder your ability to learn,” Marc Brackett, a senior research scientist in psychology at Yale University, told a crowd of educators at a conference last June. “They affect our attention and our memory. If you’re very anxious about something, or agitated, how well can you focus on what’s being taught?”

The article poses the question: where do children learn the skills to manage emotional feelings in the rough and tumble of every day life of a student in school?  “A growing number of educators and psychologists now believe that the answer to that question is in school. George Lucas’s Edutopia foundation has lobbied for the teaching of social and emotional skills for the past decade; the State of Illinois passed a bill in 2003 making “social and emotional learning” a part of school curriculums.”

This bold statement took me back to articles I read about teacher quality. Based on my school research, and from forums I attended here in the DC area, several ideas come to mind which I have outlined in Pros and Cons below.

Cons

  • Teachers already feel overwhelmed by trying to meet the demands of educational policy, keeping children up to snuff on testing curriculum, making sure their students aren’t failing, and now they have to be parents?
  • Would this kind of emotional teaching take additional training and certification? If so, shouldn’t these trainings be added into educational studies and curriculum? Are there enough trainers around the globe to teach the new teachers the best theories, concepts, and forms of implementation? When would teachers have time to take the training? Will it be subsidized by the government?
  • What does introducing emotional intelligence in schools look like for policy and regulation?

Pros

  • To answer a question above, this could create more jobs for emotional and psych experts. Someone is going to need to train the teachers. Some people are going to need to provide admin for these trainings that will be added into educational studies and curriculum  Research will need to be performed on emotional intelligence. Case studies will have to be constructed and outlined pointing out best concepts/practice, and forms of implementation. This could help the market in this arena grow.
  • This could also create  more jobs in school. Let’s say that teachers aren’t required to certify or take trainings. This means that the school could employ persons with those certs and training – perhaps to coincide with a school counselor spots. Or perhaps schools could alter the way school counselors interact with the children in a more ‘hands-on/projectized environment.’
  • Potential to keep children emotionally healthy with the chance of decreasing bullying, violence, etc.

Other Thoughts

  • Why does it need to be the teacher’s responsibility?
  • Shouldn’t this kind of learning be happening at home?
  • What about teaching the parents about how to parent their children?

Something else that made me think hmmm: “In the years since, a number of studies have supported this view. So-called noncognitive skills — attributes like self-restraint, persistence and self-awareness — might actually be better predictors of a person’s life trajectory than standard academic measures.”