Developing Emotional Resiliency for Educators

The most influential relationship an educator has is with their students. Educators shape a student's experience through the day-to-day exchange in a classroom which contributes to what a student believes to be true about themselves and about the world in which they participate in. These exchanges change lives.

As an educator, I have learned that developing our emotional intelligence (EI) is integral to our role and can enrich the impact that we make within our classrooms. However, this requires us to be open and honest about where are strengths are and to identify the areas that we want to develop and manage. Sarah Jackson, a recent graduate of the Master of Teaching program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education says, "there appears to be an assumption that teachers naturally acquire a high level of emotional intelligence as a result of the nature of the profession, and I believe that this assumption can be misleading and detrimental to our student's understanding and comprehension of social and emotional learning."

Being emotionally intelligent is about using our emotions in the most effective way and can be developed through heightened self-awareness. Multi-Health Systems (2011) identifies five distinct aspects of EI which include: self-perception, self-expression, interpersonal, decision making and stress management. How we interpret our emotions impacts every single thing that we do and has an impact on every interaction that we have. It impacts how we perceive ourselves and how we express ourselves to others. It also impacts our relationships, the decisions that we make and how well we are able to tolerate stress.

These five aspects of EI, and the associated competencies, are interconnected and work together to develop an overall picture of one's personal and professional resiliency. By learning about these competencies, and engaging in authentic self-reflection, we can create strategies that help us leverage our areas of strength and manage the areas that we'd like to further develop. The goal is heightened self-awareness.

Our self-perception dictates how we express ourselves as educators. Understanding one's own emotions and the cause and impact of these emotions contributes to the environment that we create within our classrooms and how our students engage in the learning experience. The competencies associated with this aspect of EI contributes to our overall perception of how we feel about ourselves, and the extent to which different emotions impact our inner strength, confidence and the pursuit of our goals. Self-perception is at the core of understanding ourselves and provides the foundation for understanding others. Jackson says, "identifying my own barriers to success has allowed me reflect on how my students might be impacted by their own views and perceptions of themselves. I am more in tune with the social and emotional needs of my students and how their circumstances might impact on their learning and emotional well-being."

Self-expression examines the messages that we give out to others in each and every interaction that we have. The three competencies associated with self-expression include: emotional expression, assertiveness and independence (Multi-Health Systems, 2011). Each of these competencies contributes to how effectively we are able to express our emotional state, the level of confidence we have in asserting our views without offending others, and the extent to which we are self-reliant. This aspect of EI focuses on how we choose to express ourselves and how we may come across to others which can influence how we are perceived by our students, peers, colleagues and/or administration.

As educators, managing the interpersonal relationships that we build in our classrooms and with parents, colleagues, and the community is critical. By developing our empathetic leadership skills and defining our role with social responsibility, we can improve the contributions that we make to each relationship in a meaningful and transformational way. The interpersonal aspect of EI provides insights into understanding the boundaries and consent that we give to others in our relationships, the extent to which we are able to derive shared meaning from another's experience, and how we choose to contribute to our community.

Decision Making
This aspect of EI considers the extent to which we allow our emotions to dictate the outcomes of the decisions that we make on a day-to-day basis. The three competencies associated with decision making include: problem solving, reality testing and impulse control (Multi-Health Systems, 2011). Each of these competencies contributes to how we view problems that need to be solved and the quality of the decisions that we make. It requires us to be open-minded, inclusive and understanding.

Stress Management
Stress management examines the ways in which we cope with situations that may be uncomfortable and/or uneasy. The concept of the traditional classroom is changing and it has become even more challenging to engage in effective career planning when the jobs that our students will have access to may not even exist today. Adapting to the changing landscape requires flexibility, a positive outlook and an openness to change. Giving ourselves time to recover from stressful situations is critical and can be helpful in coping with challenges when they arise and deal with change in an optimistic way.

Students look to educators as an example and are impacted by the way in which we act, react and interact. Jackson notes, "within our busy profession there can sometimes be a lack of time to really look at who we are as individuals and what we are bringing to our role as educators." By engaging in honest and authentic self-reflection, and considering the competencies of EI, we can develop our resiliency as educators. The inevitable impact on our practice within the classroom will help to foster social and emotional learning within our students. This first starts with developing emotional resiliency within ourselves.

Reference: Multi-Health Systems. (2011). The EQ-i 2.0 Model and The Science Behind It. Retrieved from