The Most Important Thing We’re Not Teaching Our Students

9 May

Last week, the CRCT (a local standardized test) swooped down upon the Chatham County Public School System. With its intimidating blank answer sheets and telegraphic “STOP DO NOT TURN THE PAGE UNTIL INSTRUCTED STOP” commands, it bullied students through a battery of tests on math, reading, social studies, and science.

Managing emotions - Identifying feelings

Managing emotions – Identifying feelings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These tests try to cover all the bases of a good education. Though we can debate till the cows come home whether or not standardized tests measure student achievement in these areas reliably (I, myself, am still forming my opinion on this topic), there is no arguing the fact that these tests completely fail to measure one extremely important element of a child’s education: emotional intelligence.

Though we may be teaching our students basic academic skills, are we teaching them the emotional intelligence they need to use those skills thoughtfully? How can we tell?

Studies show that students who demonstrate emotional intelligence (which includes being aware of, understanding, and managing one’s own emotions and the emotions of others) are far less likely to become dependent on drugs or alcohol. They are also more likely to become successful leaders and entrepreneurs.

Writing teachers are in a unique position to teach this skill; studies show that reading and writing increase emotional awareness and help students to put themselves in others’ shoes (see this New York Times article for more details). So why isn’t this kind of emotional growth just as big of a focus in schools as the ability to comprehend a scientific passage on toads? Why don’t we try to measure this, too?

There are lots of interesting “EQ” (emotional IQ) tests available to educators, and I am thinking of using them in my classroom to assess my own students’ emotional growth over the course of the year.

What do you think? Should we give our students “EQ” tests? What are some other ways that we can measure the effect that we have on our students’ abilities to handle their emotions?

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10 Responses to “The Most Important Thing We’re Not Teaching Our Students”

  1. deanmark May 11, 2012 at 10:15 am #

    The idea of “emotional intelligence” is one of the key elements in our freshman year experience. I was under the mis-perception that EI was a part of public instruction in North Carolina and across the state, so I dismayed to see your post. As a former writing teacher (nearly 25 years in NC’s community college system), I concur that writing teachers do offer a great deal of opportunity to develop EI. . .and the four+ decade old initiative of Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) wants to encourage this EI development across a college.

    I do encourage the use and the discussion of “EQ tests”!

    • thatwritinglady May 11, 2012 at 10:17 am #

      That’s great to hear! Thank you for sharing–are there any particular EI tests that you’ve used or would recommend ?

      • deanmark May 11, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

        I will check when I get back to my office on Monday. Tomorrow is commencement and Sunday is Mother’s Day–so I won’t have the time until Monday AM and if I find something, I will be sure to post it to you.

  2. deanmark May 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    OK–here are three E-IQ quizzes you might consider:
    http://psychology.about.com/library/quiz/bl_eq_quiz.htm Perhaps appropriate for school age—not a great deal of explanation

    http://www.queendom.com/tests/access_page/index.htm?idRegTest=3037 Only partial score and depending on students—maybe too much (146 questions)

    http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/ei_quiz/ Should be fun for school age college age students—shows faces and test-takers are quizzed on emotions being displayed. Could lead to lots of discussion.

  3. deanmark May 14, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    Here are three to consider:
    http://psychology.about.com/library/quiz/bl_eq_quiz.htm Perhaps appropriate for school age—not a great deal of explanation

    http://www.queendom.com/tests/access_page/index.htm?idRegTest=3037 Only partial score and depending on students—maybe too much (146 questions)

    http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/ei_quiz/ Should be fun for school age college age students—shows faces and test-takers are quizzed on emotions being displayed. Could lead to lots of discussion.

    • thatwritinglady May 14, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

      Thanks so much! This is really helpful–I’ll definitely take a look and give one of them a try.

      • deanmark May 14, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

        I tried all before I sent them to you and the picture one (I believe it was the third I listed) is the coolest. . .

    • jo May 16, 2012 at 10:07 am #

      I really liked these! One and three are cool. Two is much too long, and I think it would be tough to decide which questions to choose in order to pare it down to a more doable in-class size.

      Actually, test three could make for a really fun writing prompt. Put the picture up, have students describe it, then have them write some dialogue or action that occurred right before that face was made…

      • deanmark May 16, 2012 at 10:14 am #

        I agree that three offers lots of opportunities in a classroom for small group work, writing, and discussion. For example–break the class into groups and have them analze one of the faces. Then report out to the class as a whole When different interpretations occur (and we know they will), we guide the students to discussing how they came to the differences of opinion!

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