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How to engage your Emotional Intelligence to Support your Student’s Social-emotional Learning

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) have recently updated their definition and framework of Social-emotional learning:

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.

SEL advances educational equity and excellence through authentic school-family-community partnerships to establish learning environments and experiences that feature trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation. SEL can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities.

When reading further into the ‘Classroom’ component of the framework, CASEL says “SEL instruction is carried out most effectively in nurturing, safe environments characterised by positive, caring relationships among students and teachers.”

It is for this reason that I have recently completed certification in Emotional Intelligence (EQ) with Six Seconds, The Emotional Intelligence Network. I was seeking to enhance my own EQ and learn practical ways to better support adult social-emotional learning, that is, the emotional intelligence and social-emotional wellbeing of the teachers, educators and parents of students who are learning SEL in classrooms across Australia and New Zealand.

Why practice EQ? There are many reasons to enhance your own emotional intelligence, one important factor is that emotions are contagious, and you can influence your students just by the way you manage your own emotions and by choosing how you react and respond in different situations.

Six Seconds defines Emotional Intelligence as “a learnable, measurable, scientifically validated skillset that fuels better effectiveness, relationships, wellbeing and quality of life”. Six Seconds has defined 8 competencies of Emotional Intelligence, listed below. The purpose of this article is to share resources to learn more about each of these 8 competencies to help you utilise and grow your emotional intelligence for better outcomes for you and your students.

1. Enhance Emotional Literacy – To accurately identify and interpret both simple and compound feelings

There are over three thousand words for emotions in the English language. The Plutchik Model of Emotions provides a simple and logical way to make sense of feelings. Explore the interactive model via this link to enhance your emotional literacy:

2. Recognise Patterns – To acknowledge frequently recurring reactions and behaviours

Our brains are wired to create patterns and follow them. Every time you experience something, you react in a certain way. If that reaction was successful (your brain will interpret mere survival as a success), your brain will choose this same response the next time you are in a similar situation. It takes practice to change our patterns! To become more aware of your patterns, it can help to reflect on them. A Body, Mind, Heart Scan is a simple exercise you can practice a few times a day to cue into your feelings and emotions and in time learn what patterns you might have and the benefits and costs they may have to you and the people around you.


Body, Mind, Heart Scan

Take 3 minutes to yourself in a quiet space

  1. Scan your body: What are you experiencing physically? (e.g. tight or relaxed muscles, smile/frown, clenched or relaxed jaw)

  2. Scan your mind: What kind of thinking are you doing? (e.g. focussed, distracted, evaluating, observing)

  3. Scan heart (feelings): What kind of feelings do you have right now? (e.g. calm, agitated, worried, joyful, bored)


The more you practice, the better skilled you will become at recognising small or subtle feelings, which allows you to manage them before they turn into larger emotions that may be harder to control.

3. Apply Consequential Thinking – To evaluate the costs and benefits of your choices

In the Second Step online Middle School program, If-Then Plans are used regularly to help students work towards and achieve goals. You can also use this simple yet powerful strategy to apply consequential thinking.

4. Navigate Emotions – To assess, harness, and transform emotions as a strategic resource.

Video: How can I manage my feelings? Navigate Emotions!

In the Second Step program, students learn the ‘How to Calm Down’ technique to manage emotions, a three-part process that people of all ages can practice:

  1. Stop, use your signal (students come up with their own personal signal that they will use when they feel their emotions getting the better of them, to stop an amygdala takeover before it begins, aka a fight, flight or freeze response).

  2. Name your feeling (practice emotional literacy).

  3. Calm Down (Students engage the Calming Down strategies they have learnt such as the belly breathing technique, counting, and using positive self-talk).

5. Engage Intrinsic Motivation – To gain energy from personal values & commitments vs. being driven by external forces

One way to build intrinsic motivation for yourself and your students is to cultivate trust. This short video examines the benefits of trust in a classroom and how to create it:

The purpose of trust is to create psychological safety. The three key ingredients to cultivate trust are; 1) Transparency, 2) Consistency and 3) Caring. Higher levels of trust leads to increased levels of motivation, responsible risk-taking and collaboration.

Watch the below video to hear author, Dan Pink explain what motivates and drives us.

6. Exercise Optimism – To take a proactive perspective of hope and possibility

Video: Optimism for Educators


Activity: The 3 Bridges of Optimism.

Use the below activity sheet to evaluate areas in your life where you would like to exercise more optimism using the '3 Bridges of Optimism': Time; Is it permanent or temporary? Scope; Is it pervasive or isolated? Effort; Am I powerless or is effort possible?

Download PDF • 318KB

7. Increase Empathy – To recognise and appropriately respond to others’ emotions

Video: Steps to increase empathy

Second Step educators will know that empathy is taught explicitly in the Second Step SEL program with an entire unit dedicated to it. There are three kinds of empathy; cognitive, emotional and compassionate empathy. Compassionate empathy utilises both cognitive and emotional empathy and then puts it into action. “Compassion is empathy in action”.

8. Pursue Noble Goals – To connect your daily choices with your overarching sense of purpose.

Six Seconds defines a Noble Goal with the following 5 criteria:

  1. Not complete in your lifetime – It is enduring and inspiring, something beyond the daily struggle. This helps you maintain a long-term focus so you can avoid the confusion of short-term thinking.

  2. Pointed outward – While you will benefit, the focus is on others. This helps you maintain an expansive vision.

  3. Integrates different domains – It encompasses all dimensions of your life; serving your noble goal in one domain (such as work) supports you in all others (such as family).

  4. Gets you out of bed – It motivates and inspires you at a deep level; this helps you to have the energy when the going gets tough.

  5. No one made less – No one has to be “less than” or “wrong” for you to pursue your Noble Goal; this helps you stay out of ego and power struggle.

Learn more about constructing your noble goal here:

If you would like more insight into your own EQ, please email Stephanie Williams to arrange a Six Seconds SEI assessment:


Positive Pieces Education is the Australian and New Zealand publisher and distributor of the evidence-based Second Step program.


All materials in this article were used with permission from © Six Seconds


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