Saturday, 8 February 2020

The EQ Intervention

Emotional intelligence (EI), emotional leadership (EL), emotional quotient (EQ) and emotional intelligence quotient (EIQ), is the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one's goal(s).

Colman, Andrew (2008). A Dictionary of Psychology

I was recently sent a copy of The EQ Intervention, a new book by Adam L Saenz, PhD. Dr Saenz has decades of experience as a psychologist, substitute teacher, coach and school district consultant. The book draws on his experiences, and that of other teachers, to investigate emotional intelligence in the classroom: how can we use our emotions, and the emotions of our students (in the UK we call them 'pupils' until they leave school for college), to 'decrease student violence and aggression, and increase student academic performance.' Dr Saenz calls this 'Social and Emotional Learning (SEL).'

I have a mother who was a primary / nursery school teacher for many years. I'm well aware of the workload and stresses that are applied to people working in education, as I've heard many a first-hand account over the dinner table of unpleasant headmistresses, straining preparatory work for OFSTED inspections, and of course, nuisance children who- I now realise- probably came from problematic backgrounds.

Dr Saenz uses real life examples of his time in his various roles to illustrate the problems that students, and hence their teachers, face. It's all brilliantly explained and analysed, but one of the things that struck me as utterly damning is that, as the USA don't have a National Health Service like the UK does, any medical treatment will need to either be covered by insurance or paid for out of the individual's (in this case parents') pocket. That said, treatments like a psychological assessment- something that would lead to a diagnosis of a learning difficulty or disability- wouldn't be covered by the average medical insurance policy in America, and would come with a cost.

Growing up with memory difficulties, I've met with numerous psychologists throughout adulthood and childhood. If my parents were asked to pay for treatment, it would certainly have added to the stress my family and I were under during my school days. I hope The USA change this policy, but I'm not banking on it, certainly not under their current administration.

The book's anecdotes of stressed teachers and their communications with students, other teachers, and parents, serve to exemplify what a teacher has to endure and what standards they are held to. Plus, it shows the strained behaviours from kids that go through the system, and seeks to remind us that there is usually a root cause for this. It presses the importance of empathy, and that fighting fire with fire leads to more metaphorical fire: that stern disciplining isn't always going to achieve the results you want from problem children.

The only thing the book lacks is a glossary of terms. It's otherwise a socially relevant and fascinating read. I'm hoping that schools on both sides of the pond will familiarise themselves with SEL and EQ, and will mould a much more emotionally aware generation of schoolchildren.

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