Most educational institutions excel at developing the intellectual skills of students and prepare them for academic success. Teachers too concentrate on nurturing the young minds in the best way possible – but what about their heart, spirit and emotions?
Pause and think – isn't today's generation marked by strong feelings of anger, frustration, agony, confusion and distress? Aren't respect, compassion, patience, perseverance, hard work and sincerity conspicuous by their absence?
Ms. Amritha V, Faculty in Soft Skills, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University, Kerala substantiates, “The intolerance of students towards failure and rejection owes its origin to fast paced technology, momentary excitement from social networking sites and high demand from peers and family to be successful. The emotions are channelised only into the path of success, without any expectations of fallbacks. We are moulding a generation of impatient student community. They don't know what to do with their emotions and feelings, whether to express them or to bury them or just how to manage them.”
The impulsive emotions themselves make them feel threatened and overwhelmed and they manifest these by yelling, bullying, inability to accept rejection or failure, unwillingness to take risks and a predilection for safe ways of doing things. As a result, they are ill-equipped to face future challenges. All this is because they lack control on their feelings or what is known as Emotional Intelligence. As Dr. G. Srilatha, Senior English lecturer, P. B. Siddhartha College, Vijayawada opines, “Today, our youngsters lack emotional intelligence balance as they are carried away by whims and fancies wherein they give more importance to pleasure than values”.
Mrs. Neha Singhal, teacher, DLF School agrees, “70% of the students are not emotionally intelligent these days as they get upset with small things very soon, they are falling short of this maybe because they are running after money more than their dreams of becoming something. They just need easy money.”
Needless to say, students today face undue stress which can wreak permanent damage as well as fuel a self-destructive system of human society. So, can we still afford to ignore the importance of cultivating emotional intelligence in the children?
And there lies the difference!
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognise one's own moods and behaviours, control them and as a social being, be attuned to others' feelings as well.
Having control on one's emotions helps in more ways than we can imagine. It improves brain functioning with better concentration, attention span and ability to learn that translates into higher scores and thus academic achievement. More importantly, it inculcates character building – confidence, responsibility, self-control, resilience, dedication, determination, tolerance, flexibility, honesty, positive attitude, sense of purpose, dealing with stress and so on.
As Mrs. Meenal Arora, Executive Director, Shemrock and Shemford Group of Schools points out, “Emotional intelligence affects a student's ability to perform under pressure and also affects the achievement rate. It instils good values, positive attitudes and the ability to judge between right and wrong. It also enables a student to have a clear aim and goal which makes it possible to choose the right career.”
The emotional wherewithal also forms the building blocks of social competence that not just helps in making friends but also reduces aggression and violence and inculcates cooperation and communication skills, thus enabling them to skilfully navigate the interpersonal relationship waters. Obviously, this enhances career prospects and prepares students for the workplace.
The overall development translates into a happy, fulfilling and successful life with strong physical health in tow as they are well-equipped to effectively deal with the demands and pressures of daily living. As acclaimed psychologist and researcher John Gottman sums up, “Once they master this important life skill, emotionally intelligent children will enjoy increased self-confidence, greater physical health, better performance in school and healthier social relationships!”
The what and how of emotional learning
After parents, teachers are in an unenviable position to positively affect the development of a generation of emotionally healthy adults. Yet, emotional learning is not happening consistently as both parents and schools concentrate solely on academic results, totally ignoring the vital social-emotional quotient.
Little wonder that today's students are overstimulated and lack the crucial inner balance. They are at a loss as to how to express themselves, let alone control the overpowering emotions or even empathise with others.
At this critical juncture, schools should broaden their narrow vision of education by integrating emotional competencies as a fundamental component of their culture, pedagogy and curriculums. Educators too need to learn to value the emotional well-being of their students and incorporate emotional learning in the classroom.
This is not as easy as saying, ‘Be kind' or ‘Be respectful'. Teachers have to first be aware of the students' emotions and help them understand what they are feeling. Always try to calm them down first and encourage them to talk through the emotions. Listen empathetically and validate the intense feelings by labelling them as love, fear, anger, disappointment, excitement, humiliation, etc. so that they feel supported and comfortable.
For this, teachers have to be understanding, patient, empathetic and able to guide them in right direction. Mrs. Meenal Arora concurs, “A teacher should work on the emotional intelligence of their students by being sympathetic, kind and firm but not strict. Teachers should exhibit emotional intelligence in themselves and develop an empathetic attitude to analyse and assess the Emotional Quotient of their students.”
Once the self-awareness and acceptance sets in, use the emotional expressions as opportunities to teach them to control their impulses and react properly. Merely saying that their reactions are inappropriate or excessive will only make them feel as if they should suppress them. Instead, model more constructive ways to express their feelings. You may help them to come up with appropriate ways to solve a problem or deal with an upsetting issue.
Use stories, role plays and audio-visuals, practice techniques to relax, pay attention and incorporate moments of reflection. Even Dr. G. Srilatha offers, “Emotional intelligence of a student can be improved by creating healthy learning environment, constructive thinking and by providing an opportunity to solve problems and foster leadership qualities.”
This will enable students to rise above self-doubt or impulsiveness and take responsibility for their emotions. Self-discipline and motivation to control emotions, responding not reacting, making responsible decisions and developing positive behaviour set in slowly.
In respectful, safe and challenging climate, teach students to tune into others feelings and accept them. As Mr. R Sreenivasan, Director, IWSB points out, “We need to find ways of making the learning process interactive and collaborative. The dialogues and arguments that would emerge out of such a process will lay emphasis on every learner to prepare more thoroughly, take stance, hear others' viewpoints, and appreciate and accept counter-arguments, be more open to accommodating and learning. Exposing children right from the school age onwards to things beyond the books, encouraging them to take interest and participate in activities beyond, is the key.”
Group discussions and team work can be helpful. This will teach them how to manage relationships, negotiate, solve problems and resolve conflicts peacefully.
Ms. Amritha goes a step further and says, “Every educational institution should have counsellors and soft skill trainers who can help students to mend their minds to respond and not to react.”
This kind of holistic development is needed for harnessing and controlling reactions to situations and developing caring, trusting and respectful relationships.