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Teaching Emotional Intelligence in the Classroom

Emotional Intelligence: The Skills Our Students Deserve—Part 2

Sep 21, 2018 2018-09-21

Editor’s Note: In this two-part series, we’ll be examining Roni Habib’s TEDx Talk. Roni, an educator and founder of EQSchools, discusses the importance of emotional intelligence and how it impacts students both at school, in the workforce, and in life. While the Talk was presented in 2015, we believe it still carries significant value.

In Part One of our series, we looked at Roni’s research on what emotional intelligence is and why it’s so important. Today, in Part Two, we’re focusing on how emotional intelligence skills can be implemented in the classroom.

How Can Educators Teach Students Emotional Intelligence Skills?
After learning about emotional intelligence, Roni needed to find a way to incorporate emotional intelligence lessons into his classes.

“I wanted to start with something called mindfulness,” says Roni. “A mindfulness practice allows you to pay attention to your thought patterns. Since what we’re thinking about affects what we’re feeling, it was a natural place to start.”

He made the decision to have students meditate for the first five minutes of class. Though, as he began to plan this new methodology, negative self-talk started creeping in. Roni feared that students wouldn’t like the practice or that their parents might feel uncomfortable with it. He also worried that he would lose precious instructional time.

After reminding himself why mindfulness was so important to teach, and consulting with supportive colleagues, Roni decided it was time to try.

“The next day, my students meditated for the first five minutes of class,” he says. “And we did it for the rest of the semester.”

Roni’s students loved their five-minute meditation sessions. “It was the only time in their really, really hectic day that they could feel at peace, that they could have five moments of feeling centered.”

Roni also found that he actually gained instructional minutes. Since students were more focused and present, he was able to cover more material in less time.

How Does Practicing Emotional Intelligence Skills Affect Students?
In having one-on-one and class discussions with his students, Roni found they often had a lot of negative self-talk when they weren’t performing well in school, like ‘Why am I so stupid?’, ‘Why is everybody else smarter than me?’, ‘Why can I never do this?’

He stresses that “Questions lead to focus, which leads to reality.” So students focusing on negative questions about their lack of ability creates a reality that “completely filters away another reality of ‘How can I improve?’, ‘When can I see my teacher to work this out?’”

Using attention training exercises help students realize the types of questions they ask themselves.

“The amazing thing about it is that I notice my students choosing not to beat themselves up,” says Roni. Instead students are taking a moment to stop the mental chatter and focus on how to make improvements.

Are Students Interested in Learning About Emotional Intelligence?
In an effort to provide more emotional intelligence skills to students at his school, Roni created a course called “Positive Psychology.” He was hoping to get just 25 students to sign up, but was astounded when 107 had elected to take the course.

“The reason is because people care about this stuff,” he says. “People want to know how to become more emotionally intelligent and happier.”

In his talk, Roni shares quotes from students explaining how they used the emotional intelligence skills they learned to battle anxiety about tests, bolster their self-confidence, and establish deeper relationships with their friends.

“These examples give me goosebumps. This is why I teach,” says Roni. “There’s nothing more I want for my students than to feel empowered to be their best selves, to fulfill their potential.”

How Can We Start Making Changes?
Roni cites a quote from David Kelly, the founder of the d.school at Standford. He said, “What matters most in the end with creativity is your belief in your capacity to create positive change and the courage to take action.”

Roni believes that teaching emotional intelligence in schools should be a top priority in our educational system.

“Let’s give this compass to our kids,” he says. “For if we do, there is no end to what they will dare to create, to invent, and to innovate. Our world needs this.”

However, it needs to be a team effort. He suggests students talk with their teachers and demand their schools provide classes on emotional intelligence. He asks parents to set an example for their children by modeling these skills. He requests that teachers make small changes in their classrooms to start implementing emotional intelligence learning.

“Together, we can do it,” he stresses. “And if we do, we will see a new generation of people who are more empathetic, more interconnected, and more at peace. This will lead to more collaboration, creativity, and, what matters most of all, happiness.”

Click here to view Roni Habib's entire talk.

Roni Habib is an expert in helping educators become more mindful, connected, and playful. The founder of EQ Schools, he leads workshops and speaks in schools nationally and abroad.

Early in his career, Roni struggled with the high stresses and demands of teaching even losing touch with why he wanted to be a teacher in the first place. It was so painful that he finally discovered the power of integrating mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and positive psychology in his own life as well as in his classroom and felt called to share this new approach with the world.

Roni Habib is an expert in helping educators become more mindful, connected, and playful. The founder of EQ Schools, he leads workshops and speaks in schools nationally and abroad.

Roni has taught and inspired thousands of teachers through his workshops and conferences. He is currently on leave from his teaching position at Gunn High School in Palo Alto, California, to focus on supporting other schools through EQ.

Prior to earning his Master of Education and teaching credential at Harvard University, he lived in Israel and Belgium. Follow Roni on Twitter at @Roni_Habib or email him at roni@eqschools.com.

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