Social and emotional: the most important intelligences

When most people think of intelligence, they think of IQ. Brain power. Being smart or clever. Knowing lots of stuff or being able to do calculations quickly in your head. Getting straight A’s at school.

But some would argue that there is a far more important set of intelligences that should be fostered by parents and teachers alike.

They’re talking about social and emotional intelligence.

These intelligences can be broken into 5 skills: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

Self-awareness refers to knowing your strengths, weaknesses, values, drives and your impact on others.

Self-regulation refers to your ability to control, or at least redirect, your disrupting impulses and moods.

Motivation is about celebrating your achievements gratefully and realistically, with grace and humility.

Empathy means you can understand the emotions of others; putting yourself in their shoes, so to speak.

Social skills are those that require you to put all of the above into practice in order to build meaningful connections with other people.

So how do we promote these intelligences in a school setting?

We promote self-awareness by giving time and opportunity for reflection. Journal-writing, surveys, interviews and discussions that centre around what kind of a learner each child is. By helping children set goals and to achieve them.

We teach self-regulation through modelling. By talking aloud as we, the adults, act out strategies when our emotions overwhelm us. Like when we’re feeling tired, disappointed, overly excited or annoyed. We teach mindfulness through guided meditations and we give feelings a name in order to raise awareness of the normalcy, but also the variety of, human emotion. We promote perseverance and delayed gratification.

We encourage motivation by giving shout outs and celebrating effort. By pointing out how good it feels to learn new things and to be a good, kind person.

We foster empathy by reading books to kids and showing them movie clips about characters that kids can relate to. Allowing them to step into the world of the other. By using thinker’s hats and through philosophical discussion about inclusion.

We explicitly teach social skills through role plays, through story-telling, through collaborative tasks with specific roles students share. We train peer mediators to solve minor playground disputes.

Being socially and emotionally intelligent doesn’t just mean that you get along well with others- it also leads to mental health and strength for those times when you’re all alone.

Social and emotional intelligence means loving yourself just as much as you love others, too.


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