“Oh, Come on! Be mature, don’t behave like an emotional fool”, Mom screamed at Sara seeing her cry while watching a movie.
Yes! As parents, we have constantly reminded our kids to keep such emotions stored deep in their hearts. We have persuaded our kids to keep wearing a ‘mask of fake happiness’ while carrying the baggage of sadness. We have emphasized the perks of staying positive while ignoring their innate emotions and feelings.
Similarly, teachers have also overlooked an essential aspect of human behaviour; recognizing students’ EMOTIONS and helping them handle their feelings. You are indeed an exceptional teacher if you have the energy to stay cheerful even while having a tough day! You enter the class bubbling with positive energy but demanding the same from adolescents shall be too much on them!
Even our education system supports the rigid mindset of ignoring students’ emotions. Instead of acknowledging the information in emotions, many teachers focus on moderating the behaviour. I had a similar approach until I got an opportunity to read an interesting article, “All emotions are information”, by Marc A. Brackett. He has nailed the issue by highlighting the importance of recognizing emotions for effective teaching and learning.
From the insights I had gained from Marc A. Brackett’s article and my deep interest in child psychology, I had the urge to integrate emotion-based learning into everyday teaching. So, I started reading articles and working on a model of emotional intelligence called RULER.
RULER is an evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning (SEL) developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.
WHAT DOES RULER MEAN?
Recognize emotions: Unpack our own and others’ emotional experiences.
Understand emotions: Know the causes for and consequences of feelings.
Label emotions: Develop the vocabulary to be precise about emotional experiences.
Express emotions: Help us skillfully express our emotions to others.
Regulate emotions: Support us in using helpful strategies for managing our feelings.
Consequently, I started looking into approaches educators and counsellors adopt to recognize and regulate students’ emotions. This research has also helped me to identify and tackle my feelings as well.
As an educator, I have always experienced a challenge in integrating emotion-based learning activities into everyday teaching as I am in a rush to complete the syllabus. Most teachers tend to place emotional development as a low priority teaching task, ignoring that mentally and emotionally healthy kids can efficiently tackle academic-related stress.
Teachers need to find the time to plan, design, and practice these skills to see a significant transformation in student attitudes!
There are many ways to integrate social-emotional learning into what you are already teaching. I have shared some practical ideas for educators and parents to help develop emotional intelligence in children.
Please encourage your students to write about their feelings, emotions, and opinions on behavioural issues that help them open up! Use prompts to involve them in such emotion-based writing, such as:
- How are you feeling today? Why do you think so?
- What are your emotional triggers? How do you overcome your triggers?
- Share any flight or fight reactions you have faced recently?
- Write about three challenging experiences you have had in the past few months. How did you deal with it?
- How can negative emotions be helpful in life? Share examples in your journal.
Research has proved that the feeling of gratefulness helps people cope with their stress as they start looking for ‘silver linings’ in their lives. Gratitude is powerful as it blocks toxic emotions such as envy, hatred, and regret.
Ask students, “What are you thankful for right at this moment? A person? A place? A feeling? Your skills? Your health? Think about this for a few minutes and then write or draw your gratitude(s). You can write a gratitude diary about positive feelings, moments, and people in your life.
Tell them to look out for these Gratitude Checkpoints:
- Start your day with the feeling of ‘GRATITUDE?” As soon as you wake up, Thank God for giving the precious gift of ‘Life’. Be grateful for all the GOODNESS that uplifts you every day.
- Most importantly! Spend some minutes thinking about how you can make your life worthwhile as you have just one life!
- Start developing habits of mind and feel wonderment and awe for the beauty of life around.
- Train your mind to think, “Life is pretty good, yeah!”
RAK’s (Random acts of kindness)
Research has shown that kindness and humanity help us to regulate our emotions positively. You can be a role model for your students to understand and display small acts of kindness such as:
- Smile and greet! Smiling creates ripple effects of positive energy.
- Offer a hot drink when your students are stressed or sick.
- Open the door for the person coming behind you.
- Train your students not to JUDGE anyone.
- Please encourage students to tutor their peers.
- Write positive messages on sticky notes.
- Most importantly, listen to them with EMPATHY.
Positive energizers can be people, places that bring ‘Sunshine’ to our daily life; they uplift our souls when we feel low and broken apart. Ask your students to identify and look for positive energizers in family, among friends and at school.
1. Who are your three positive energizers?
2. How do they boost up your day?
3. Are you a positive energizer to someone? How do you do that?
Emotion words (Click on this link to get the details of this activity)
- This simple activity allows students to explore their emotions, reflect on their feelings in different situations and practice noticing their feelings.
- Tell them, “You can get better at connecting with how you feel, and it can become a powerful habit if you practice NOTICING your feelings.
- Students will pick up three emotion words (from the displayed ones) that describe feelings they often have.
- They shall think about these questions:
- Why did you choose those particular words?
- Do these three words describe who you are? Why? Why not?
- Do you have ALL these emotions inside you?
- Are some emotions connected? If so, how are they connected?
Feelings Flash Cards
Print and collect Feelings Flashcards (photographs of people making different facial expressions). Your compilation should include expressions of happy, sad, scared, angry, disgusted, and surprised, as well as other emotions you know your students may be dealing with.
In this game, students take turns picking a card from the deck and creating a reason for the facial expression displayed. For example, if the player picks a card with a woman showing surprise, the player might say, “She just got a diamond ring as a gift.” This can also be a collaborative game where the students work together to create a scenario/story to go with the emotion. Walk students through the steps of the game first and model the first round.
Roses and thorns check-in
In terms of emotions and feelings, how was your last week?
Share one positive feeling (Rose!) and one less positive or negative feeling (Thorn!). Collect their ‘Roses’ and ‘Thorns’ to make a “Bouquet of Flowers”. Discuss how important are emotions in our life. Discuss with examples that negative emotions do play a significant role in quick decision making and problem-solving.
Check out my article ‘Creative Check in activities’ where I have shared simple class activities that promote reflection, Social Skills, and self-awareness, which are the key elements to developing emotional intelligence.
- Relationships with peers play an integral role in a child’s development.
- Peers provide excellent support in terms of social and emotional growth. Talking and working with peers release the anxiety and stress children usually don’t share with teachers and parents.
- Teachers can create opportunities for peer discussions through Drama, Roleplays, group games, projects, group experiments, modelling, science fairs, etc.a
These simple activities shall take just 10 minutes from your regular class, but the final impact is tremendous. So, try to spend quality time checking the mental and emotional well-being of your students. Here are some tips for creating a healthy class environment:
1. Please encourage students to keep sharing their feelings and emotions regularly.
2. Create an atmosphere free of prejudices and build trust amongst your students.
3. ‘Listen with empathy’. Be patient, calm and empathetic while listening to your students’ feelings.
4. Tell your students, “There are no right or wrong emotions”; This is just how you feel about someone or a situation“.
5. Let them understand that emotional quotient (EQ) is equally essential as IQ to be successful and happy.
6. Appreciate when students and teachers exhibit a high emotional quotient.
7. Explain to students the importance of ‘self-care. They need to give utmost priority to their emotional wellbeing.