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Basic Steps to Emotional Intelligence in the Classroom

EI-based Conflict Resolution Suggestions

Creating a Positive Learning Environment

Top Ten Suggestions

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Basic Steps to Emotional Intelligence in the Classroom

The teacher's level of EQ is by far the single most important variable in creating a classroom where EI can be developed healthily. And the single most important variable in the teacher's EQ is how they handle their own emotions, especially their negative emotions. An effective, successful teacher is largely one who can handle his or her negative feelings in an authentic, real and healthy way.

Here is an outline I have prepared to help you.

A. Identify Your Feelings
   -  Ask yourself: How am I feeling?
   -  Answer using three word sentences beginning with "I feel..."
   -  Label your feelings, not your children (or situation)
B. Take Responsibility for Them (Own them)
   -  Don't blame the children for your feelings
   -  Owning your feelings means not thinking in terms of:
            You are making me angry
            You kids are driving me crazy
   -  Remember that there is a little space between stimulus and response, and in this space 
      lies your power to choose your reaction. Don't give away this power.
      ** If your kids are in charge of your emotions, you are in trouble! 
C. Use Your Emotional Awareness to Learn About Yourself
   -  Your negative feelings reveal your unmet emotional needs. For example:
            If you feel              You need to feel
            Disrespected             Respected
            Disobeyed                Obeyed
            Out of control           In control
      But remember that the children are not there to meet your needs, you are there
      to meet theirs. Thus, you must either get your needs met somewhere else, or you  must
      "let go" of some of your needs, such as your need to have so much control, or to feel obeyed.
      And remember that respect is something you earn, not demand. The easiest way to do
      this is to show respect for each individual childs feelings, and remember his negative feelings
      are indications of unment emotional needs. The more help the child identify and meet the needs, the
      happier everyone will be.
D. Work on Keeping Your Area of Acceptance Wide Open (1)
      - When you feel good about yourself you are more 
            - accepting
            - tolerant
            - patient
            - understanding
            - predictable
            ====> This helps your students feel
                  - Accepted
                  - Approved of
                  - Secure
                  - Relaxed
                  - Good about themselves
                  ====> These contribute to healthy self-esteem, openness to learn and willingness to cooperate
                    * Remember that Emotions are Contagious *
A. Help them label their feelings
   -  Teach them a wide range of feeling words
   -  Start expressing your feelings
   -  Start talking about feelings
B. Give them real choices
   -  Honor their decisions
   -  Don't issue orders in disguise as requests
   -  Ask them to help you meet your needs; don't demand it
C. Respect their feelings
   -  Ask them how they feel
   -  Ask them how they would feel before taking action
   -  Think about how you want them to feel - what feelings create a positive learning environment 
D. Validation
   -  Accept their feelings
   -  Show understanding, empathy, caring and concern
   -  Whenever there is a problem remember to always first validate the feelings
E. Empower them 
   -  Ask them how they feel and "What would help you feel better"
   -  Teach them to solve their own problems using empathy, compassion and
      mutual respect for each other's feelings
F. Avoid Labels and Judgment
   -  Avoid "shoulds"
   -  Avoid subjective labels (good/bad; nice/rude, etc.) 

Creating a Positive Learning Environment

Here are some traits of a positive learning environment:

Safe-- Free from fear of physical, psychological or emotional pain and abuse. Free from threats, force, punishment, coercion, manipulation, pressure, stress, intimidation, humiliation, embarrassment, invalidation.

Free -- Students have real choices. Participation in activities and lessons is voluntary.

Respectful -- Students and teachers respect each other's feelings, emotional needs, beliefs, values and uniqueness.

Individual/Supportive/Nurturing -- Students are treated individually. Their individual needs, talents, potential and interests are supported.

Emotionally Intelligent -- Feelings are valued, discussed, validated. EI is part of the formal and informal curriculum.

Relevant/Meaningful/Practical -- Material helps students with real problems in their lives. Life skills, relationship skills and parenting skills are taught.

Empathetic & Caring -- Students and teachers care about each others feelings.

Interesting/Stimulating -- The material and the environment stimulate the student's natural curiosity and need to learn.

Flexible -- Changes are made frequently, easily and smoothly.

EI-based Conflict Resolution Suggestions

First, please read the general section on Conflict Resolution, then return here for more tips. (Sorry to ask you to jump around.)

More tips:

Setting up the atmosphere

  • Reassure the students that it is okay to be honest about their feelings. Tell them that if they feel hateful, hurtful, vengeful, violent or destructive, it is okay to say it.
  • To lighten up the tension, set a goal of finding 3-30 things that everyone can agree on. Use humor. For example, ask, "How many eyes do I have? How many chairs are in the room? How many of us are naked right now?"
  • Ask them how they are feeling right now.
  • Ask what would help them feel better.
  • Give them some control over something. Ask them where they want to sit for example. Suggest your chair, the floor, the desk, wherever they would feel comfortable.
  • Remember that if there is a conflict they are under emotional pain. Your first job is to reduce the pain; help them feel more comfortable and relaxed so they will be more open.
  • Tell them yours goals are for them to feel

    - Understood 10
    - Afraid 0
    - Attacked 0
    - Lectured to 0
    - Punished 0

During the process:

  • Don't lecture them as they are expressing themselves.
  • Let them say it without showing disapproval, shock, horror. By all means don't invalidate or judge anything they say. If you want them to open up, turn off your inner judge.
  • Don't add to their pain, stress, discomfort and fear by trying to control their behavior through saying things like "Look me in the eyes when I am talking to you;" "Stop playing with your hair." Take your fingers out of your mouth." "Sit up."

At the end of the session:

  • Again seek some things everyone can agree on.
  • Focus on specific suggestions.
  • Check to see how everyone is feeling.
  • Ask how much each party feels/felt understood, lectured, punished, afraid, etc.
  • Seek small progress. Here is an example from an actual conflict:

    The situation is three 10-12 year old girls. Two of them, Julie and Cindy, are friends, the other one, Lisa, wants to be included but has alienated the others by her behavior.

    We have determined that Julie and Cindy don't trust Lisa. I ask Julie, "How trusting do you feel towards Lisa, on a scale of 0-10?"

    Julie snaps back, "Not a bit. Zero."

    I ask, "What would it take to bring that up to a one? Can you give me some specific things that Lisa could do to move it from a 0 to a 1?"

    Julie rapidly fires off a list of about six specific things.

    I ask if Lisa is willing to work on doing some of those things. She nods her head. I suggest we meet again in a week and check to see how everyone is feeling. Everyone agrees and we all feel better



Top Ten Suggestions

1. Label your feelings rather than your students "I am feeling impatient", rather than "You are such a slowpoke."

"I am confused about why you aren't doing your work," rather than "You are just being lazy."

2. Express your emotions rather issuing commands I am afraid you will hurt yourself doing that.

I am afraid your tapping might distract the others.

I feel bad when I see you take things from others without asking. And I am afraid you might lose their friendship.

I feel uncomfortable with .....

3. Learn to take responsibility for your own feelings rather than blame them on your students. Say, "I am feeling overwhelmed and out of control" rather "You are driving me crazy."

"I felt embarrassed when the principal was here," rather than "You embarrassed me in front of the principal."

4. Remember that respect is earned, not demanded Show the students respect by following the guidelines in the respect page
5. Never invalidate a student. See invalidation page.
6. Apologize when you feel regret for something. I feel bad for....I am sorry I ....
7. Encourage students to express their feelings with feeling words. Frequently ask how students feel using emotional literacy guidelines of 3 word sentences.

Help them find the most accurate, most precise "feeling words."

8. Seek voluntary cooperation rather than issuing commands. "Would you help me out by keeping your voice down?"
9. Help student's resolve their own conflicts. See conflict resolution in school.
10. First validate the student' s feeling before addressing their behavior. "It looks like you are feeling a little restless today."

"It looks like you really don't want to come inside.




(1) From Thomas Gordon's work