Every educator’s very first priority is to maintain a safe and orderly classroom (or school if you’re a principal). This comes well before teaching content, grading assignments, and serving cafeteria duty. Before we can begin to look at the importance of differentiation for diverse learners and strategic planning, common practices must be in place. Classroom management is the one area that terrifies new teachers the most, and rightfully so! When they arrive on our campuses (fresh out of college and still wet behind the ears), we show them around the grounds, give them a numeric code for the copy machine and a mailbox in the teacher’s lounge. They toil late into the evenings creating bulletin boards and cute little name tags for their soon-to-be students. Then they go home and pour themselves into their curriculum guides and scour the internet for lesson planning ideas and activities. So, on opening day, they are equipped to conquer the world and their students right? Wrong! Very often, newbies enter the classroom without being prepared for disruptive behavior.
The BIG Idea
Regarding classroom discipline on the secondary level, leaders are sure to present teachers with the school handbook and student code of conduct booklet. They all fully expect them to follow policy and implement certain classroom rules effectively because, well…it’s in the book! Even seasoned teachers struggle despite utilizing great pedagogic strategies and effective planning. This curbs behavior to a degree, but at times it’s not enough when dealing with difficult personalities in the classroom. What we fail to instill in them is that on any level, the major key to winning at classroom management is building relationships. Sure, we mention the concept during the back-to-school faculty meeting by way of, “Quit writing so many referrals!” Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. It is a fact that having policies and procedures in place is paramount. However, if a teacher cannot gain students’ trust and respect, her classroom rules and expectations will often fall on deaf ears. A person’s ability to master relationship-building techniques largely depends on their level of emotional intelligence or emotional IQ (EQ). Administrators and HR personnel can likely identify those who may not survive the classroom during the interview process if they ask questions that assess the the candidate’s EQ. I bet principals nation wide have hired teachers they thought were the smartest mathematicians, scientists, and historians on the globe. I also bet most of those scholars interviewed well, and in textbook fashion, only to walk into the classroom and fail miserably.
My golden rule in education is, “Student’s don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Emotional intelligence is the awareness of your emotions, understanding how to express your emotions in a healthy manner, and realizing how your emotions affect others. High emotional intelligence enables you to also perceive other people’s moods and feelings. It gives you the cognitive ability to deal with difficult personalities without fear, and deescalate situations long before they get out of hand. Most importantly, emotional intelligence gives you confidence to stand firm when faced with difficult decisions. Before we go any further, let’s take a look at what emotional intelligence actually looks like via mindtools.com.
Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence
Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist, developed a framework of five elements that define emotional intelligence:
- Self-Awareness – People with high emotional intelligence are usually very self-aware. They understand their emotions, and because of this, they don’t let their feelings rule them. They’re confident – because they trust their intuition and don’t let their emotions get out of control.They’re also willing to take an honest look at themselves. They know their strengths and weaknesses, and they work on these areas so they can perform better. Many people believe that this self-awareness is the most important part of emotional intelligence.
- Self-Regulation – This is the ability to control emotions and impulses. People who self-regulate typically don’t allow themselves to become too angry or jealous, and they don’t make impulsive, careless decisions. They think before they act. Characteristics of self-regulation are thoughtfulness, comfort with change, integrity, and the ability to say no.
- Motivation – People with a high degree of emotional intelligence are usually motivated. They’re willing to defer immediate results for long-term success. They’re highly productive, love a challenge, and are very effective in whatever they do.
- Empathy – This is perhaps the second-most important element of emotional intelligence. Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around you. People with empathy are good at recognizing the feelings of others, even when those feelings may not be obvious. As a result, empathetic people are usually excellent at managing relationships, listening, and relating to others. They avoid stereotyping and judging too quickly, and they live their lives in a very open, honest way.
- Social Skills – It’s usually easy to talk to and like people with good social skills, another sign of high emotional intelligence. Those with strong social skills are typically team players. Rather than focus on their own success first, they help others develop and shine. They can manage disputes, are excellent communicators, and are masters at building and maintaining relationships.
As you’ve probably determined, emotional intelligence can be a key to success in your life – especially in your career. The ability to manage people and relationships is very important in all leaders, so developing and using your emotional intelligence can be a good way to show others the leader inside of you.
Psychologists disagree on whether emotional intelligence is an innate ability, or if it can be learned. I wouldn’t begin to know how to teach someone else how to become emotionally intelligent. Personally, I think experiences and circumstances contribute handily to a person’s EQ. Below, are some quizzes that I believe will help you calculate your EQ, and send you on your way to building better relationships.
Provides a 146 item test, but gives very thorough results!
Clearly defines emotional intelligence and provides an interactive EQ test.
Offers a variety of quizzes on tons of concepts including EQ.
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