Dr. Marc Brackett, Director of the Yale Center For Emotional Intelligence, detailed the complexities of Emotional Intelligence for the New Canaan Public School community in presentations that were as informative as they were engaging. During two well-attended events – one for teachers in the afternoon and another in the evening for parents – Dr. Brackett defined Emotional Intelligence using his “RULER” model: the ability to Recognize, Understand, Label, Express and Regulate emotion.
Dr. Brackett encouraged teachers to remember the importance of the emotional lives of their students and discussed how Emotional Intelligence is central to learning, decision making, and relationships. He emphasized that students must be aware of their emotions in order to regulate them. “You have to name it to tame it,” he explained, adding that students need to be emotionally regulated in order to learn. Brackett underlined that teaching students skills to manage emotions will have a positive effect not only on their well-being, but on academic achievement as well.
Dr. Brackett invited parents to tune into the emotional lives of their children by asking them to imagine what it’s like being their children as they walk through their busy and demanding days. He noted how important it is to recognize the pressure young people feel they are under and cited research that showed, for the first time, youngsters are more stressed than adults. Dr. Brackett also cited his own research, showing that 75% of high school students report feeling negative emotions (tired, bored, stressed) for at least 70-80% of each day. Yet, he added, we spend very little time teaching children how to manage emotions. He said we often tell children to “calm down” without teaching them how to do it, suggesting, instead, that we should teach children specific strategies to manage their complicated and sometimes intense emotions. Helping children learn to take a breath, or have a positive message to tell themselves when they are overwhelmed, can make a big difference in their ability to cope with stressful situations.
The feedback from Dr. Brackett’s presentation has been overwhelmingly positive. Both parents and teachers were reminded that “emotions matter” and that there is much that we can do to help children manage their feelings constructively.
New Canaan Public Schools is grateful to the Parent Teacher Council and Parent Faculty Association for generously sponsoring this event. Photos by Jeanne Peloso.