Emotional intelligence is defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, express one's emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
When we look back at our childhood, one will often find that the most impactful teachers had always been the ones who could regulate their emotions. Most school teachers in India need to handle a lot of diversity in classrooms. Diversity in terms of vast economic divides, family backgrounds, defiance in classrooms, adolescence issues, different religious practices and belief systems, first-generation learners, among others. It becomes all the more necessary for a teacher to develop the kind of emotional intelligence required to deal with these complexities on a day to day basis.
Let us look at a common scenario in most classrooms - wandering of students’ attention during class hours. It is hard for any teacher to not take it personally. The initial thoughts and emotions that a teacher would have is a personal affront that the child is not valuing his or her efforts. In such situations, normally the teacher tries to get back their attention by calling out this behaviour. When a few students are still not engaged, an emotional reaction of anger and frustration is natural especially after the entire lesson planning, strategising and board work. Depending upon the teacher’s reaction students typically end up displaying fear, awkwardness, embarrassment or anger. On the other hand, the teacher feels a sense of retribution. In many cases, the teacher resorts to corporal punishment. An emotionally intelligent teacher might feel similar emotions but would not allow it to overpower his or her actions. This is called emotional regulation which is an integral part of emotional intelligence.
An emotionally regulated teacher would take a pause and would be self-aware of his or her own emotions. He or she would affirm that wandering of attention is not a sign of students disrespecting the teacher. When a teacher has such a mindset, a student’s lack of attention is treated as an indicator of improvement. The teacher would want to know if it is a sign of ineffective methodology or pedagogy of teaching. The teacher would also have the perspective that out of the entire class it is only a few kids whose attention is wandering. This would be utilised as an opportunity to extend more help, understand and empathise with those particular children. This thought process results in identifying and a better understanding of actual breakdown in the student’s learning process.
There are many other instances where teachers being self-aware and emotionally intelligent can prevent the display of negative emotions to their students. Many times, teachers lose the joy of teaching simply because they have not been supported in building essential emotional intelligence. Incorporating simple practices like reflection diary, teacher sharing circles creates a non-judgmental open space where teachers can discuss how they are feeling. Open forums between teachers and students can become powerful opportunities where teachers can build this necessary but oft-overlooked skill.
It is believed that every thought has an underlying emotion. In a classroom when any learning or interaction is done with the right emotion it has a powerful impact on students. This makes a teacher one of the most influential individuals in a child’s life and not mere subject instructors.