Depression, anxiety, and uncertainty about one’s own self are becoming increasingly common in today’s youth. And many blame the diseases on the failure of our education system to make students emotionally intelligent.
In my experience as a student, observer, and educationist, I have been extremely disappointed by the education system of Pakistan for it completely ignores the importance of emotional intelligence in a student’s life. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion going on about how crucial emotional intelligence is for students in the 21st century. Despite that, the focus of Pakistan’s education system remains on helping students increase their grades with or without any real learning, rather than their intellectual or emotional quotient. Unfortunately in Pakistan, many teachers, despite themselves having a complete understanding of a subject, lack the art of teaching. Teaching strategies adopted by teachers include long and boring lectures that are mostly taken from textbooks, which they wrongly believe are the sole source of information. Also, the system in Pakistan has become such that teachers are focused on assessing a student’s memorization skills, instead of his or her conceptual understanding. This rat race in our education system has compelled students to chase after high grades, with a complete disregard for learning and/or understanding.
But more importantly, Pakistan’s education system seriously falls behind when it comes to emotional intelligence, which is a key reason students are becoming more and more depressed. From what I have been able to gather, emotional intelligence is perceived as the ability to recognize, understand, and manage the emotions and emotions of others. Five main areas have been covered in emotional intelligence: self-awareness, emotional control, self-motivation, empathy, and relationship skills.
Many teachers, despite themselves having a complete understanding of a subject, lack the art of teaching.
This raises a question about how teachers can teach students to be more emotionally intelligent. Over the years, observation and research has led me to shortlist four key attributes that Pakistani teachers can utilize to help students become more cognizant of their emotions and more in control of them. I hope this ‘how to teach students emotionally intelligence’ will serve as a guide for teachers and schools in Pakistan to better prepare students for the 21st century.
1. Active Listening
First of all, teachers should instill in students the ability to become “active listeners”. This is a key step towards understanding and practicing the art of understanding. By modeling active listening to students, teachers can show them the importance and usage of being an active listener. Second of all, teachers should ask students not to interrupt anyone when they are talking. In my observations, when teachers ask questions, students who are not being directly addressed conveniently ignore what other students are saying or being asked. Also, it is a common habit to interrupt others when they are speaking. In such situations, teachers should tell students to listen actively to what the other student has to say. This will not only teach students some basic manners about speaking decorum but also set the basis for students to giving importance to the opinion of others and understanding different points of view.
2. Developing Self-Awareness
Students in Pakistan have low self-awareness mainly due to a lack of emotional intelligence. I once asked my grade eighth students to guess their results before a test and then compared their guesses with their actual results. I found out that all students overestimated their ability. When they were given the results, they got really upset. It is hard for students to manage their emotions at such a young age. But encouraging students to keep a diary can be one of the ways students can become more self-aware. Many researchers believe that writing a diary can make students more reflective, hence, making it easier for them to manage emotions and make effective decisions, rather than stressing out.
3. Showing Empathy
Empathy is the ability to be aware of the feelings and emotions of others. Part of the problem is that a lot of teachers in Pakistan themselves do not have empathy. In eighth grade, we had a student in our class who was a slow learner. Instead of understanding her problem, teachers used to ridicule her in the class and treated her as a lost cause. Although she was good in history, teachers did not bother to recognize her learning abilities. Eventually, she left school and never got enrolled in any other school. Teachers must have empathy towards students and they should encourage students to be more empathetic towards each other by not judging and using phrases like ‘I realize/I understand/I can see’. Teachers must discuss in the class about how understanding others’ emotions can be expressed.
4. Managing Emotions
Managing emotions is very important for school students. Because of the pressure from schools to get good grades, students get stressed and as a result, they often contemplate extreme measures such as suicide. Research studies have indicated that self-talk can help best in managing emotions. With self-talk, students will know about how they think, feel, and perform. Teachers must encourage students to practice self-talk and ask questions like ‘what should I do now’, ‘what worked in past’, and ‘am I going on the right track.’
Academic pressure of making good grades aften leaves students under great stress and as a result, they often contemplate extreme measures such as suicide.
This will have a huge impact on students. In this age of information where kids are exposed to a number of new ideas and ideals each day, developing emotional intelligence can be a surefire way of keeping them sure of themselves and keeping their feet on the ground. Teachers in Pakistan must be engaged so that they help students become more emotionally intelligent and as a result, become confident, empathetic, and productive members of their family, community, society, and the country.
Originally published at Academia Magazine in November 2019.