You May Be Smart But Can You Look Me in the Eye?

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Students today are being short changed by their schools and by their parents in the education of emotional and social intelligence. While most teachers can vouch for academic plans and gains in the classroom, little time is left for the teaching of social and emotional skills, yet these are just as much a part of the education process as poetry, punctuation, and Poe. Parents often see to their children’s homework but spend little time teaching children how to speak to adults, look others in the eye, or initiate conversation. IQ may get you a job, but EQ keeps a job.

Three stories –

1 – I have dealings with a student at school on a regular basis who is not in my class but has been assigned to help me with paperwork (unfortunately this does not include grading essays). Sherry (identities have been changed to protect the guilty) has been accepted into college and does well in her classes; however, she does not look me in the eye when she speaks, acts like she is inconvenienced with our dealings, and constantly stares at her phone when I am speaking to her.  I’m afraid she is in for a rude awakening in life.

2 – I, along with a fabulous colleague, have the privilege of sponsoring National Honor Society. Students who have a certain GPA are invited to submit an application and essay where a committee reviews not only scholarship but leadership, service, and character. In other words EQ is every bit as important as IQ. After posting a list of new candidates, I had a girl come by my room to question why she was not invited to be a member. I explained to her that some faculty members had given negative feedback concerning her thus eliminating her as a candidate. She replied saying, “Do you know that I have been given an #(&Q$&^ athletic scholarship to (insert elite school name here) so I should be a member of NHS.” Really, you’re going to cuss at me because you’re not in an organization which honors character. Am I in an episode of the Twilight Zone?

3 – Yesterday, I took my daughter to the square to sell ads for our fall football program. She has skin in the game because her father has told her he will financially reward her if she can sell enough ads to bring her cheer costs to zero. She has rehearsed her speech, put on her cutest smile (which is pretty cute), and swallowed her confidence pill: she is ready to sell. On the way to the square Brooke told me that her friends’ moms sold ads for their girls, and we had a good discussion about personal responsibility. I was hanging around in one of our favorite stores while she was speaking to the owner about buying an ad, but the owner explained that she was the third person that day to come to the store selling ads. Brooke and I stayed in the store and looked around for a few more minutes when the owner called her back over to the counter and said, “I have decided to buy an ad from you. The other two people who came by today were mothers of girls, but I want to give you the sale because you are the first cheerleader who has come by selling.”

Why are we as parents not allowing our kids to be in situations where they learn how to interact with others properly? How will students learn to have conversation if we are not pushing them to put down technology and talk? What can teachers be doing to teach emotional intelligence during class?

In this digital age, parents and educators can no longer ignore teaching emotional and social skills. We are doing a disservice to our students if we only focus on academic and intellectual pursuits. Enforce no technology during dinner (gasp) or have your child practice speaking to you like he or she would if greeted by an adult in public. Teachers, offer students a chance to practice speaking in class and require other classmates to actively listen and look the speaker in the eyes.

What is one way you can reinforce emotional or social intelligence development in your student?

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