We are very pleased to have published our first title for secondary teachers, Understanding and Supporting Behaviour through Emotional Intelligence – A Critical Guide for Secondary Teachers by Victor Allen. This is a subject which is of relevance to all teachers, regardless of what subject they specialise in and therefore we hope this book will help teachers to take a fresh look at the subject and give them a greater understanding of behaviour types and the latest findings.
We will be publishing a few ‘tasters’ this week and this particular extract comes from chapter 1: Where are we now and how have we got here?
Entering into a working environment that has a dramatic impact on the academic, emotional and physical development of young people obviously requires you to be a subject specialist, but it also necessitates you taking on the role of an effective communicator, guide and leader.
Throughout your teaching career, you will be required to manage your own feelings and reflect on the academic but also the emotional outcomes of your lessons in terms of yourself and your students. This will be vital in terms of learning from your experiences and adjusting your teaching accordingly.
What is reflection?
In Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher, Stephen Brookfield ( 1995 ) wrote that the goal was to develop an increased awareness of your teaching from as many different vantage points as possible.
Brookfield proposes four lenses that you can use in the process of critical reflection:
- the autobiographical;
- the students’ eyes;
- your colleagues’ experiences;
- the theoretical literature.
Examining each of these perspectives provides the foundation for good teaching and the means to become an excellent teacher.
You can build on the autobiographical focus, or self-reflection, by focusing on your previous experiences as a learner and on your experiences as a teacher. Don’t limit your reflection to the academic aspect alone, but reflect on your personal and emotional development during your time with your students.
It is with this ability to reflect and develop the skills of an emotionally competent teacher that will support you in delivering relevant and life-changing experiences within your classroom.
During a lesson relating to the English Civil War, students had been reflecting on how propaganda literature was written with a bias towards the victors. The teacher identified an opportunity to encourage students to reflect on their relationships with each other and asked them to describe a time when someone had made up unpleasant stories about them.
A group of girls were very keen to talk about their ‘ex-friend’, and did so with the emotional tone you might expect. The teacher responded by commenting on the manner and vigour with which their views were being expressed.
The teacher then posed the question: ‘Have you ever exaggerated something a brother, sister or friend has done to make it sound worse than it actually was?’
A lively discussion ensued about what students had said to purposely ‘get others into trouble’ as well as exaggerated stories they knew had been made up about themselves.
In summing up these reflections, the teacher asked her class to consider why individuals go to such lengths to contrive information about others to portray them in a bad light. Answers initially centred around, ‘It’s fun’ , ‘to get others into trouble’, ‘to get my own back’. This then developed into an understanding of selfish reasons and a desire to gain vengeance, etc., alongside alternative, more appropriate patterns of behaviour and actions.
Where are we now and how have we got here?
Returning to the English Civil War, by reflecting on their own experiences, students were then more clearly able to consider the motives behind the propaganda and the subsequent effect on others.
This shift away from the initial lesson subject-matter had allowed students to develop aspects of their emotional intelligence, not through being told what to think and do, but by being guided towards deciding themselves between less and more appropriate actions. Not all learning situations provide such excellent openings, but seeking out opportunities such as this is facilitating emotional learning, without detracting from any academic learning intentions.
The impact of your own experiences
Later chapters focus on the development of your own emotional intelligence, alongside your leadership skills and qualities.
However, at this stage I ask you to reflect on your understanding of the impact your own upbringing has had upon you as the unique individual you are now.
Think about the things you consider important and why they are important to you. Where did the understanding of their importance come from?
It is so important to consider how you view your students and how you emotionally engage with them.
(i) Think about the groups that you absolutely love teaching. Why is this the case? What characteristics do these students demonstrate and how does that relate to your personal experiences?
(ii) Think about the students that you perhaps struggle a little more with and ask yourself the same questions.
(iii) What emotional competencies are the first groups showing and what competencies are the second groups not showing?
Now consider addressing the competencies you feel are lacking within the teaching groups you find most difficult. This doesn’t mean pointing it out and telling them. Your students will need alternatives to consider, brought to their attention through reflective coaching and positive experiences.