Emotional Intelligence in the Classroom

Teachers and school leaders, experience a lot of daily stress that can lead to internal suffering and burnout when it accumulates. Stress can damage the relationship teachers have with themselves and, consequently, the relationships they have with others, including their students. A lack of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management leads to emotional dysfunctions and hinders the feeling of lasting fulfillment.


On the other hand, developing self-awareness and self-management skills leads to less chances of experiencing internal suffering and burnout or symptoms of depression, increased job satisfaction in both teachers and school leaders, increased life satisfaction, and more positive relationships with students. Last but not least, teachers who develop their Emotional Intelligence contribute to their students’ academic achievement.


So, what is an emotionally intelligent teacher?


Emotionally intelligent teachers:


  • Understand, value, respect, and leverage their emotions to solve problems and make decisions, and help students do the same
  • Know how to regulate their stress and manage their uncomfortable emotions, and help students do the same
  • Know how to focus on and use pleasant emotions in order to teach more efficiently, motivate themselves, and inspire their students to learn
  • Understand their capabilities, and recognize their strengths and weaknesses, while being able to spot and shed light on their students’ strengths and areas of improvement
  • Are able to build strong and supportive relationships through trust, respect, and care
  • Empathetically negotiate solutions to conflicts involving students and/or others
  • Understand and respect others’ emotions, perspectives, and opinions
  • Set firm but respectful boundaries with students

During an interview published by EARLY CHILDHOOD TODAY, Daniel Goleman was asked what teachers can do to help develop their students’ emotional intelligence. His answer was the following:


“Teachers need to be comfortable talking about feelings. This is part of teaching emotional literacy – a set of skills we can all develop, including the ability to read, understand, and respond appropriately to one’s own emotions and the emotions of others.


“Emotional ‘literacy’ implies an expanded responsibility for schools in helping to socialize children. This daunting task requires two major changes: that teachers go beyond their traditional mission and that people in the community become more involved with schools as both active participants in children’s learning and as individual mentors.

“There is no area where the ability of the teacher matters so much, since how a teacher handles his or her class is in itself a model, a de facto lesson in emotional competence – or lack thereof. Whenever a teacher responds to one student, 20 or 30 others learn a lesson, and these lessons can be useful (for example, learning in the earliest school years to control impulses or recognize feelings). You can teach about the most basic emotions, such as happiness and anger, to the youngest children and later touch on more complicated feelings, such as jealousy, pride, and guilt. The basic premise that children must learn about emotions is that all feelings are okay to have; however, only some reactions are okay.”


Teachers who are aware of their own emotions, and able to cope with their own stress, are better able to pick up on their students’ emotions and help them navigate these emotions to achieve a goal or improve their emotional state, by connecting deeply with and showing empathic concern towards them. This in turn helps emotionally intelligent teachers be more engaged and motivated at work, and have an increased sense of job satisfaction and personal accomplishment. At the same time, teachers with high EI tend to manage their classrooms more effectively, since they are better able to pick up on verbal and nonverbal cues, and manage their response to those; they design lessons that help develop their students’ strengths and abilities, they motivate and coach their students through managing unpleasant situations (such as conflicts), and encourage cooperation and respect.


When teachers cannot understand their own feelings, regulate their own emotions, manage their own stress, or build healthy relationships with others, they cannot teach students how to do so. It has been proven that children who talk about emotions with teachers and parents have a better understanding of emotions compared to others; dismissive education, on the other hand, is associated with poor social and emotional skills, and emotional balance in particular.


This is why we believe that teachers play a vital role in society, and through their influence and personal development, can therefore create the biggest positive ripple effect.

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