Do As I Do

Today there was an article in the Sunday Review section of the New York Times ('Teaching Peace in Elementary School') on my favorite subject, emotional intelligence: The author, Julie Scelfo, makes a smart case for the importance of teaching kids how to deal with their emotions, so that they can become self and other aware, and learn to make responsible decisions. Of course, the skeptics are immediately lining up to express concern that having teachers 'address feelings' will take time away from 'academics', which are already "starved for oxygen"...and that is the absurd problem in a nutshell. The thought that we might now have to create a special curriculum through which to teach children how to have EQ is as ridiculous as the notion that the ability to cope with anger without reaching for a weapon is less important in this world than algebra.

Here is the point that is being missed: EQ is not an end, it is a means. If teachers were trained in EQ, and they are not, (I know, because I used to impart this training to EQ starved educators through professional development workshops), everything they said and did in their classroom would be modeling emotional intelligence. By this, I do not mean to imply that teachers have no social skills...they do...and many can demonstrate them effectively when not being squeezed into test-prep all day long. That said, nowhere in the curriculum of Education degree programs, are such sacred subjects as: listening, mindful non-reactivity, or self-awareness building. How can this be inculcated in children, if it has not been inculcated in those who would lead them? 

Emotional intelligence is not an add-on. It is not a single weekend retreat for conflict resolution. It is not a luxury. It is also not a stand-alone subject. EQ needs to be the very vehicle of delivery for every single action and expression that occurs in every classroom. It is form, not content. It is what will make it safe for learners to open up to knowledge, and to one another. Emotional intelligence should be the beginning, middle and end of each and every human interaction at school; whether science, math, literature or history is being discussed. It is the oxygen in the room. It is the antidote to terrorism. It is our future.