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Why Emotional Intelligence Matters in Schools

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

In today's fast-paced and competitive academic environment, emotional intelligence (EI) has become a critical factor in determining the success of schools and their staff. EI, commonly known as EQ (Emotional Quotient), refers to the ability to recognise, understand, and manage one's emotions and the emotions of others effectively. As the education landscape evolves, the importance of EI in the workplace is only growing. In this thought starter we explore the reasons behind this trend, discuss the benefits of EI, and provide strategies for cultivating and implementing EI in your school. We will also discuss some strategies to help your school in achieving higher levels of emotional intelligence.

1. Improved collaboration and teamwork

A high level of emotional intelligence enables everyone to work together more effectively by fostering open communication, understanding, and empathy. This leads to improved collaboration and teamwork, which ultimately contributes to a more productive and successful school environment. Educators with high EI can anticipate and understand their colleagues' emotions and perspectives, making them better equipped to address any potential conflicts before they escalate.

2. Better decision-making and problem-solving

Emotionally intelligent educators are better equipped to manage their emotions, allowing them to think more clearly and rationally in high-pressure situations. This leads to better decision-making and problem-solving skills, resulting in a more efficient and successful school environment. By understanding the emotional factors that may be influencing their decisions, teachers and principals can avoid making choices based on impulse or bias.

3. Increased staff engagement and retention

A school that values and promotes emotional intelligence is likely to have higher staff engagement and satisfaction. Staff who feel understood and supported by their colleagues and administrators are more likely to remain loyal to the school, reducing turnover and its associated costs. Schools that prioritise emotional intelligence have been found to experience lower absenteeism and higher staff morale, contributing to an overall healthier school environment.

4. Leadership development

Emotional intelligence is essential for effective school leadership. Leaders with high EI can empathise with their staff members, communicate effectively, and make informed decisions that benefit the entire school. By fostering emotional intelligence in your school, you are preparing your staff for future leadership roles. Leaders who possess strong emotional intelligence can inspire their staff, driving them toward achieving school goals and objectives.

5. Enhanced student relations

Emotionally intelligent educators are better equipped to understand and manage the emotions of students. This ability enables them to build stronger relationships, handle conflicts more effectively, and ultimately contribute to increased student satisfaction and engagement. In today's academic environment, exceptional student-teacher relationships are critical, and emotional intelligence plays a significant role in delivering them. Strategies for Cultivating and Implementing Emotional Intelligence

Learning the language of emotion and engaging with emotional intelligence training are the most effective ways to develop emotional intelligence in your school. The language of emotion is the scaffolding that allows us to build on our understanding. It also allows us to easily think about dialing the intensity of emotions up and down, practice it, and start to master it.

Educators can help students develop emotional regulation skills by teaching them switching techniques they have learnt and practiced themselves, such as deep breathing, reflective or mindfulness exercises. Practicing a variety of switching techniques when things are good enables them to add these strategies to their personal toolkit, which they then can call on in their time of need.

Teachers, parents, and other authority figures are powerful role models for children, and their behaviour and actions can have a significant impact on how children behave and interact with others. So it is really important for educators to model emotional regulation, especially the ability to be calm and composed in difficult situations.

In a school environment, it is so important to encourage open communication. Fostering a school environment where staff feel comfortable expressing their emotions and discussing their feelings can contribute to the development of emotional intelligence. Open communication helps to build trust, promote understanding, and create a more emotionally intelligent workforce. Encourage staff to engage in regular check-ins, team meetings, and one-on-one conversations to share their thoughts and feelings openly.

It is in this environment of psychological safety that schools can then implement empathy-based management practices. This is where specific training can be useful to learn the tools (like active listening and curious questioning) to increase empathy, understanding, and compassion. By doing so, relationships will improve and staff will feel supported to navigate difficult situations, fostering a more emotionally intelligent, and successful school environment.


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