If You’re Angry and You Know It

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

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Emotions or Algebra? It Doesn’t Have to Be a Choice

A 2017 Ted article written by San Francisco-based reporter Grace Rubenstein titled “Should Emotions Be Taught In Schools?” discusses the importance of teaching children to identify and cope with their emotions. Rubenstein begins by asking the audience how they were taught to handle their emotions growing up, stating that the answer for many is no one. Many children are left to navigate their own emotions while also adjusting to classroom routines, academic work, and having to become more independent in the school and home setting. The reality is that being able to identify emotions is a skill necessary for a child’s development and may increase communication and stress-management skills while decreasing chances of unhealthy behaviors in later years.

“Modern societies more or less reject emotions as unimportant and/or destructive” Thomas Scheff, University of California-Santa Barbara Sociologist

One issue the article briefly covers is that of toxic masculinity. Research finds that men often are taught to hide their emotions or mask them as feelings of anger and aggression. This mindset creates a lack of proper communication and self-management skills and may cause violent outbursts, displayed in the high number of domestic abuse cases across America. In his 2014 article An (Emotion) Problem in Cooperative Education, University of California sociologist Thomas Scheff writes, “Modern societies more or less reject emotions as unimportant and/or destructive”(1). Rather than treating emotions as a distraction to one’s education, learning to identify emotions should be integrated into early childhood curriculums, and it is easier than it sounds.

RULER — Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence (ycei.org)

In 2005, members of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence developed a widely-used program for emotional development that focuses on five goals: Recognizing emotion, Understanding causes and consequences, Labeling emotions accurately and diversely, and Expressing and Regulating emotions in a healthy way. Robin Stern, a member at YCEI, explains the idea of finding the underlying theme of an emotion. Though one child’s emotions may not be topographically identical to another child, both children’s emotions could have the same underlying theme.

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As an illustration, imagine two third-grade students struggling with the same class assignment. While both may be feeling as if they cannot finish the assignment, one might raise their hand and ask for help while the other lies their head on the desk and avoids displaying vulnerability by asking for help. The latter example shows how not being able to identify emotions influences one’s education. If the child understood they were having feelings of embarrassment and frustration, they might be better suited to reach out privately to their teacher for help or talk to a parent about their feelings, who can help them gain confidence and become open to asking more questions.

A Myriad of Emotions

While being able to label emotions is crucial, researchers say it is important to have a diverse vocabulary to describe them. The Mood Meter is a tool used widely among RULER schools. This colorful visual shows four quadrants, with areas labeled as Pleasant, Unpleasant, Low-Energy, and High Energy. Inside these quadrants, students and teachers can list a number of feelings that many experience day to day. Tools such as the Mood Meter help children visualize their emotions and target exactly what is bothering them.

The Mood Meter, a signature tool of the RULER program used as a resource by Prospect Elementary in Meridian, ID

With RULER, emotions are not just taught apart from the curriculum as a separate lesson. Instead, they are brought into the classroom through subjects such as History and Social Studies. Rubenstein writes, “if ‘elated’ is the emotional vocabulary word under discussion a teacher would ask students in an American history class to link ‘elated’ to the voyage of Lewis and Clark”(7). and the class would go home and discuss this lesson with their parents, starting a dialogue about the child’s own emotions. Schools that implement these methods of teaching show lower rates of depression and anxiety in their students. These methods can also give students a better chance of academic achievement and improve their mental health.

YCEI team member Marc Brackett explaining the RULER approach and social-emotional awareness in the classroom.

What Can We Do?

Although many educators and scientists agree on the benefits of the RULER program and programs alike, the questions still stand on which emotions are the most important to learn and how to define them. Regardless of the uncertainty, these teachings should not be reliant on the education system. Educators and parents alike can find opportunities throughout the day to use those teachable moments when conflicts arise. It is important to not only teach a child how to recognize their feelings but to also have conversations about their thoughts, hopes, disappointments, and their favorite moments of the day. Discussing a wide range of emotions will provide children with the necessary skills to thrive in school and at home, also helping later on in professional and personal relationships. The next time a difficult situation needs to be solved at home, school, or on the playground, remember to use a RULER.

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

Works Cited

Rubenstein, Grace, et al. “Should Emotions Be Taught in Schools?” Ideas.ted.com, Ted Conferences, LLC., 10 Feb. 2017, ideas.ted.com/should-emotions-be-taught-in-schools/.

Scheff, Thomas. “An (Emotion) Problem in Cooperative Education.” OMICS International, OMICS International, 14 Oct. 2015, www.omicsonline.org/open-access/an-emotion-problem-in-cooperative-education-2375-4494-1000253.php?aid=62230.

Greater Good Science Center, director. Marc Brackett on Emotional Intelligence and the Mood Meter, Part 1. YouTube, YouTube, 22 July 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=d36ksgP72Z4.

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