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It’s important to be emotionally intelligent

 Thoughts from an educator by Headmaster Mr Grant Lander

Most of us will be aware that at different points in our life, emotional intelligence (EI) will often be more important than our intellectual intelligence. Some teenagers fare better in the social world than others and there is growing evidence that continuing development in social and emotional development can also have a substantial impact on academic achievement. As parents, we want our children to have the capacity to recognise their own feelings and the feelings of others.

Daniel Goleman, a well-respected researcher and writer in this area, states, “if your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far”.

Too many of our young people, at key points in their lives, lack grit and determination and so buckle in the face of disappointment and adversity. At St Paul’s, we want to help develop resilience, an ability to manage one’s emotions and provide a toolbox that will enable the younger generation to bounce back from the tough periods we all experience in adulthood.

To that end, we established a partnership with Swinburne University of Technology in Victoria, Australia, which saw St Paul’s recognised as an international foundation school in the Aristotle Emotional Intelligence programme. We were the first school in the world to trial the Swinburne Emotional Development programme, within our health programme, through which all of our Year 9 students had their EI assessed and gained a rudimentary insight into emotional intelligence.

Following that, with the support of Swinburne, an ‘EI Booster’ programme was developed for our Year 10 students at Tihoi Venture School and, at Year 11, we introduced a ‘Stress Management/Resilience Emotional Development’ programme focused on the challenges faced by students in managing their NCEA and Cambridge assessment commitments.

At each of the year levels, students complete a Swinburne University Emotional Intelligence Test (SUEIT), used to assess the student’s level of EI. This in turn helps us to identify individual strengths and weaknesses, track development over the course of the programme and provide targeted support and interventions. Through intensive testing and training of our pastoral care, we hope to effectively support our students where their EI needs are greatest.

Jessica Lahey in her book The Gift of Failure: How the best parents learn to let go so their children can succeed stated, “Every time we rescue, hover or otherwise save our children from a challenge, we send a very clear message: that we believe that they are incompetent, incapable and unworthy of our trust.  Further, we teach them to be dependent on us and thereby deny them the very education in competence we are put there on this earth to hand down”.

The EI initiative, when combined with the Tihoi Venture School experience, aims to develop independent and resourceful young adults who have the confidence to challenge themselves against the best in their chosen area.