By Laura Bickle
Photo: Maverick Photography
Increasing emotional intelligence (EI) in your classroom is essential, however, award-winning social entrepreneur and educator Rumeet Billan believes that we’re missing a major component — the importance of developing that skill among our teachers. As a partner at Viewpoint Leadership (viewpointleadership.ca) in Toronto, Billan provides administrators, teachers and students with professional development opportunities in self-awareness, resiliency and self-regulation. “Emotional intelligence is often referred to as a ‘soft skill’ or ‘nice-to-have,’” says the two-time TEDx speaker, “but I would suggest that it is critical for long-term success.” Billan draws from her extensive background in education — as an education advocate in North America, South America and Africa, and as a doctoral graduate in Leadership and Higher Education from the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and Munk School of Global Affairs. She is also the president of Jobs in Education, an employment job board for K to Grade 12 educators. Here, Billan shares her vision of how EI can be a powerful and transformative tool.
Why should teachers work on their emotional intelligence?
When teachers foster these skills, they can enrich the impact that they have in the classroom; EI is also linked to improving happiness and well-being. Developing these competencies will allow teachers to create strategies that help navigate the day-to-day demands of their roles while contributing to their sense of self.
What does emotional intelligence look like in the classroom?
It creates an environment that helps build confidence by allowing students to take risks and make mistakes from which they can learn. These elements are tied to the self-regard, reality testing and flexibility competencies of EI.
Another example of an EI environment is one where students are encouraged to contribute to projects that they find meaningful. This speaks directly to the empathy, social responsibility and self-actualization competencies.
Participating in mindful minutes throughout the day or before a test is another way to assist students (and teachers!) with their stress tolerance, problem solving and impulse control.
How else can teachers develop their emotional intelligence?
Identify the triggers that put you in a positive or negative emotional state. Then develop specific strategies to manage the negative and leverage the positive ones.
Why did you decide to dedicate yourself to this issue?
EI and resilience have a direct connection to happiness and well-being. I believe that we can improve the quality of our life experiences. At a time where it seems like everything and everyone is vying for our attention, we need to pay more attention to ourselves. By examining how we act, react and interact with ourselves and others, we can work toward a better understanding of who we are and who we want to be.