The High EQ Classroom

Cultivating emotional intelligence in the classroom

Posted Aug 11, 2016

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”
- Aristotle

Children are not the only ones going back to school: Teachers, too. And with the start of the new school year come teacher resolutions: This year I’m going to _____________ (fill in the blank). Whether it’s spend more time preparing lessons to becoming more adept at classroom management, every teacher gets to begin again, and start fresh. This is part of the joy of education: continuous learning. With that in mind, I’m going to share some suggestions for teachers returning to school and wanting to create a high EQ classroom so that more children can thrive.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, and manage one’s emotions, as well as relate to the emotions of others. Of course, the classroom is wrought with highly charged emotional situations for elementary-aged students, such as test anxiety, peer problems, teasing, failed tests, frustration and boredom, to name a few. Such emotional up’s and down’s cannot be ignored, but must be recognized as part of real education today.

Educating the mind without educating the heart, as Aristotle mentioned, is no education at all. This is the truth, and in today’s quickly changing world, we see those flourish who’ve developed EQ and SQ (emotional and social intelligences) along with their IQ. So creating a classroom where the seeds of emotional intelligence are planted is of utmost importance whether you’re being measured as a teacher for that or not. Some “low hanging fruit” to help create such a classroom include implementing:

  • Brain Breaks – In the “Mind Up” Curriculum, which teaches social and emotional learning (SEL) they’re big proponents of giving your brain a resting time. Neuroscientists report that after 90 minutes of work, people (children and adults) do better by taking a break. It may be closing your eyes for a few minutes or focusing on the breath, for example, but removing yourself from the constant doing, doing, doing and just begin being for a few moments can yield incredibly positive results.
  • Calming Exercises – Helping children learn how to calm (i.e. self-soothe) in the classroom is a game changer, because when a child is upset and has nothing in their emotional toolbox things can go awry quickly. Last year, I had a student throw a chair across her third grade classroom and thankfully no one got hurt, but it wasn’t ideal. Practicing a few simple yet effective ways to calm in the classroom will help you as a teacher and your students will benefit, too. For example, Daniel Goleman discusses a breathing exercise that was effective in a Harlem classroom (link here).
  • Gratitude – Dr. Emmons and Dr. Froh’s research supports that gratitude improves the life of students and teachers alike. Whether it’s something fun like writing gratitude sticky notes on your classroom door to keeping a classroom gratitude journal students that begin appreciating, and feeling thankful tend to academically perform better, and have more positive relationships per their research. 

Creating a high EQ classroom happens one step at a time, and these suggestions are merely the starting point for that endeavor. Of course, emotional intelligence and SEL are sophisticated subjects, but I know for sure sometimes it’s the “little things” like gratitude exercises or brain breaks that can help positively impact a student’s life and maybe even school year.

By Maureen Healy

Maureen Healy is an award-winning author and leader in the field of children’s emotional health. In 2016, she created and taught her SEL (social and emotional learning) curriculum for K-8 students: Seeds of Happiness. Along with teaching, Maureen continues to work with parents and children directly. To learn more: