I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.

Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Most would agree that IQ, intelligence quotient, is essential to academic and career success. But its counterpart, emotional intelligence (EI or EG), is often overlooked and underrated. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report projects that emotional intelligence will be one of the top 10 most sought after professional skills in 2020. With the accessibility of technology (and search engines like Google and Wikipedia), being the smartest person in the room is no longer good enough. Instead, companies are looking for employees who can collaborate across diverse groups, manage stress and feedback, and lead with empathy.


Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage personal emotions and the emotions of others. Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, outlines five essential components of emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-awareness – the ability to identify, understand, and manage your emotions
  2. Self-regulation – the ability to think before acting and manage impulses and moods
  3. Intrinsic Motivation – the internal desire to achieve goals without an external reward or motivator
  4. Empathy – the ability to recognize others’ emotions and experiences
  5. Social Skills – the ability to build strong lasting relationships and navigate social dynamics.

Why is emotional intelligence important in the classroom?

Emotional intelligence is highly correlated with improved student learning[1]. Firstly, teachers with high emotional intelligence are better at supporting and motivating students. When a teacher understands the many emotions students experience, they are able to adapt in the moment to best support them.



Secondly, teachers with high emotional intelligence are motivated by personal achievement. School districts worldwide have employed external reward systems to motivate teachers. From performance based pay to enticing teaching awards, many people believe student learning will improve if teachers are working towards a tangible reward. However, extrinsic motivation has considerable limitations. Alternatively, teachers work tirelessly to ensure all students learn and achieve when they are intrinsically motivated.

Thirdly, teachers with high emotional intelligence can better reduce stress and anxiety and can easily diffuse conflict. Oftentimes, teachers can let negative emotions override how they respond to student misbehavior. However, the most effect way to deal with off-task behavior is to remain composed and objective[2].



Finally, teachers with high emotional intelligence are more collaborative and receptive to feedback. Targeted instructional coaching is at the core of Dignitas’ programming. For coaching to be successful, teachers must be open to feedback. Moreover, teachers with strong emotional intelligence actively seek opportunities to work with their colleagues. This includes co-planning, sharing resources, and conducting lesson observations. Routine coaching and professional development undoubtedly improves teacher practice and student learning outcomes.


Practical Tips for Teachers and Caregivers to Help Students Develop Emotional Intelligence:

  1. Model naming and handling emotions as they arise

Children closely watch teachers and caregivers to understand how to navigate the world. Take opportunities to “think aloud” and express how you are feeling, the cause, and how you will handle the emotion. By naming the emotion and offering an explanation, students will learn to do the same.

Example, “I am feeling overwhelmed at work. I need to take a break, breathe, and slowly begin to complete my assignments one at a time.”

  1. Encourage your student to express their feelings

Young people are constantly processing various emotions while trying to understand them all. Routinely ask your child to explain how they are feeling and help them understand the cause. By doing so, children learn vocabulary to describe how they feel and they develop self-awareness.

  1. Teach problem solving

Many children are held captive by their emotions. They need to learn that emotions are part of a feedback system. Once students learn how to acknowledge and process their feelings, they can begin to problem solve. While some students can solve their own problems, many will need help to brain storm solutions. Allow students to first solve problems independently, unless they ask for your help.

 4. Build time during the day to reflect

Students are constantly inundated with information and rarely have the time to pause and reflect. At the end of the day, ask your student to reflect on how they felt over the course of the day. Encourage them to think about what they should keep doing and what they should do differently in various situations. Have students set behavior and academic goals to develop their self-regulation and intrinsic motivation.

[1] Rupande, Gift. “The Impact of Emotional Intelligence on Student Learning.” International Journal of Managerial Studies and Research, vol. 3, no. 9, 9 Sept. 2015, pp. 133–136.

[2] Marzano, R. (2003). Classroom Management That Works. ASCD.



Contributor: Leah Anyanwu – Program & Evaluation Director