Building Emotional Intelligence

For the Staff Development Day this term I presented, with another teacher, a session on Emotional Intelligence. This presentation developed from a keynote address by Mike Scadden at the recent North Coast Quality Teaching Conference. His thoughts really resonated with me, especially since my stint as Deputy where so much time is spent on the negative; from teachers as well as students.

Too much time and energy is spent looking at what is wrong within education (from the school through to the whole system) when, if we examine things logically, the positives far out weigh the negatives. As a group we can get bogged down with the 10 – 20% of students who are causing concern. Why not focus on the 80% who are doing the right thing? Too often we beat ourselves up over a lesson that didn’t go to plan instead of focusing on the five that went well.

The presentation focused on the dangers of negativity, showing how negative thoughts dominate our day and the devastating damage this does to ourselves and our students. Researchers believe we say, on average, 360 negatives for every one positive. It starts from the time we see ourselves in the mirror of a morning and just continues from there. Most of these negative thoughts are illogical but they shape how we treat oursleves and the world around us.

It is time to turn things around! Let’s start being nice to ourselves and each other. Let’s focus on the 80% of students who are doing the right thing, day in and day out, rather than the 20% who cause us grief. Let’s pat ourselves on the back for the five lessons that worked well rather than go home brooding about the one that didn’t go to plan. When we look in the mirror, lets smile and say, “You did a good job today.”

This acceptance of the positive is sure to rub off on the students. We will speak more nicely to each other, we will encourage and praise what is done rather than point out what is not. We will give them a sense of worth they might not be getting anywhere else. We will start combatting those 360 negatives.

So how did this presentation go down with the staff? I am still waiting to hear what the evaluations said but I would have to say it struck a chord with many people. Teachers have stopped in me in the last couple of days to say that they were making an effort to be more positive, to remain focused on the good things. They were having chats to themselves in the mirror, they were consciously praising their colleagues and students and they were focusing on the positives. When teachers were having conversations with each other they were stopping themselves – “No, that is a negative, I won’t say that!”

Bringing the positives to the fore has to be a good thing. While some people will always latch hold of the negative, it doesn’t have to poison the rest of us. There is a positive in every situation, every experience makes us better and we have to be our own best friend.

So, build your emotional intelligence. Start focusing on the positives; they are there if you go looking for them. You will feel so much better and, just as importantly, so will the students in your care.

Interested in the presentation? Have a look –


About madiganda

Head Teacher English at Coffs Harbour High School, passionate teacher and proud recipient of the 2017 ETA Premier's Teacher Scholarship. @Madiganda on Twitter
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3 Responses to Building Emotional Intelligence

  1. mrborgert says:

    It was a great presentation – when you have the time walk into the Maths staff room and have a look at the mirror (also the ladies toilets!) – obviously someone was listening as there are messages to promote positive mirror talk 🙂

    So far the results are
    The session on emotional intelligence was relevant for my teaching:
    38% strongly agree
    50% agree
    12 % neutral

    I reckon that is pretty conclusive!!!

    Well done

  2. madiganda says:

    Thanks Simon. I had heard that someone had written positive messages on the mirrors – will try to get over there and look on Friday.

    Have had people stop me and say that it has made a big difference to the start of their term – and that their renewed positivity has really shifted the way they are in the classroom. Hopefully this continues and spreads despite the occasional hiccup.

  3. Roger Pryor says:

    Hi Paula

    I loved your post and the quality of the prezi. You have shone a light on the enormous value of resilience born of a belief in the value of positive affiliation. It’s almost, Connect: with positive or optimistic people and ideas; collaborate, through mutual respect for IP and the value of ideas; then create-a new view around just what school might mean.

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