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Teaching emotional intelligence in school.

Emotional Intelligence: The Skills Our Students Deserve—Part 1

Sep 07, 2018 2018-09-07

Editor’s Note: In this two-part series, we’ll be examining Roni Habib’s TEDx Talk. Roni, an educator and founder of EQSchools, discusses the importance of emotional intelligence and how it impacts students both at school, in the workforce, and in life. While the Talk was presented in 2015, we believe it still carries significant value.

Roni Habib begins his TEDx Talk with a story about receiving a watch with a compass from friends during college. He explains that while it was intended to combat his lack of directional skill, he soon realized that he needed a compass that would help lead him to a happier and more fulfilled life.

He was feeling lost and unhappy in classes that seemed to lead to a solid career path, rather than studying topics that he truly enjoyed. Roni says he was following a motto: “Suffer now so you can be happy later. And, most importantly, don’t question it.”

Roni explains that one of his teachers, Professor Frank Andrews, helped him understand that “paying attention to what makes me feel alive, what makes me feel happier, is not wrong and it’s not a luxury. It’s actually critical to my happiness, and also to my success.” He realized that tuning in to his emotions and using them to make decisions in life was the compass he'd been looking for. A compass that ultimately led him to the field of education.

“I don’t teach a discipline, I teach people,” says Roni. “I wanted my students to have the skills that so fundamentally changed me.”

What is Emotional Intelligence?
Roni references Daniel Goleman’s definition, which is “the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to label these emotions appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and ultimately behavior.” These skills together amount to emotional intelligence, or EQ.

Roni states that EQ includes skills we use (or should use) every day, like self-awareness, self-regulation and management, social skills, empathy, and motivation and passion.

Why Are Emotional Intelligence Skills Important?
In an effort to answer the elusive question as to whether educators are providing twenty-first century skills to students, Roni attended a conference with HR representatives from major companies like Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Intel. He explains that they listed the following skills, in order of importance, that they require of employees:
  • Collaboration and the ability to work well with others
  • Creativity and the ability to creatively solve problems
  • Basic knowledge of subject matter
  • Perseverance, and the ability to persevere through adversity
  • Be ruthlessly intentional with their time
The representatives for these companies said it can be difficult to find candidates with these skills, which are all rooted in emotional intelligence. Some of the companies are even offering their own courses to help educate people on these skills since they are not a focus of most schools.

Roni poses the question, what if schools did offer courses on emotional intelligence for their students? The benefits to society would be incredible.

“Imagine the benefits to our society well beyond the workforce,” he describes. “Imagine the benefit to our society for marriages and childrearing. Imagine the benefit to our nation if we had law makers who knew how to self-regulate and be empathetic and active listen.”

What Are We Doing to Teach Students Emotional Intelligence?
One point Roni stresses is that emotional intelligence skills are trainable.

“We assume second graders don’t know how to multiply, how to divide, and how to read. As we should,” he says. “Why do we assume second graders know how to self-regulate, self-manage, or even be empathetic?”

Roni points to the Common Core State Standards, which has a section titled “What is Not Covered by the Standards.” In this section, says Roni, “there is a line that says ‘social, emotional, and physical development’ are not covered in the standards. Which can only make sense if you live alone in a cave.”

Editor’s note: at the time Roni researched the topic, SEL standards were not included in the Common Core State Standards. At this time SEL is not part of the CCSS.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “State standards determine what SEL looks like in each state. Every state has comprehensive, free-standing standards for SEL with developmental benchmarks in preschool; however, just eight states have standards for SEL development for early elementary students and eight more expand their standards to K-12 grades.”

If these skills are so important in school, the workforce, and life success, why are they not included in the Common Core?

Roni speculates that perhaps the research isn’t robust enough. However, he points to a study done by Roger P. Weissberg, UIC/LAS Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The study found that schools that implement Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programs see huge benefits, including:
  • Up to 50 percent of children improving achievement scores
  • 38 percent of students improving their GPAs
  • Suspensions dropped by 44 percent
  • 63 percent of students demonstrated significantly more positive behavior
“These results are remarkable,” says Roni. “Kids are learning more, and schools are safer.”

These remarkable results led the state of Illinois to implement SEL standards. "“In the state of Illinois, every student is taught to recognize and accurately label their emotions and to identify nonverbal clues to how someone else feels, amongst many other things.”

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our series, discussing how emotional intelligence skills can be implemented in the classroom.

Click here to view Roni Habib's entire talk.

Roni Habib is an expert in helping educators become more mindful, connected, and playful. The founder of EQ Schools, he leads workshops and speaks in schools nationally and abroad.

Early in his career, Roni struggled with the high stresses and demands of teaching even losing touch with why he wanted to be a teacher in the first place. It was so painful that he finally discovered the power of integrating mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and positive psychology in his own life as well as in his classroom and felt called to share this new approach with the world.

Roni Habib is an expert in helping educators become more mindful, connected, and playful. The founder of EQ Schools, he leads workshops and speaks in schools nationally and abroad.

Roni has taught and inspired thousands of teachers through his workshops and conferences. He is currently on leave from his teaching position at Gunn High School in Palo Alto, California, to focus on supporting other schools through EQ.

Prior to earning his Master of Education and teaching credential at Harvard University, he lived in Israel and Belgium. Follow Roni on Twitter at @Roni_Habib or email him at

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