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The Way You Act is More Important Than What You Know

Drawing by Sidney Curtis 29 Jan 2012
Sidney Curtis

Emotional Intelligence and School

John Smith is one of the smartest students to ever grace the halls of Any School High School in Any Town, USA.

His grades are pretty good. He took the SAT and the ACT. He did well on both tests. He is in the process of taking all the right courses that are entrance requirements for any college or university that he might like to attend.

Sadly, John may not be able to go to college. The reasons have nothing to do with finances.

You see, John is considered by some to be quick tempered. His behavior is unpredictable and he is prone to outbursts in class that cause him to be regularly sent to the office. His teachers report that he is a brilliant mind, however, his is so disrespectful to them and his fellow classmates, few students want to collaborate with him when it comes time to begin group activities. Additionally, his unpredictability means that some assignments are turned in on time and some are not. I guess some would call it “luck” that the assignments that he does turn in receive high enough marks to compensate for those assignments that are missing.

John seems to have this sense of entitlement that conveys an attitude that the world owes him something. Sometimes, he struggles to make friends.

So, why would this keep him out of college if he has the grades and the money to go?

There is an existing body of research that supports the idea that emotional health is a bigger predictor of success than cognitive ability. In other words, even though John is smart academically, John’s lack of emotional regulation could possibly impede his progress towards professional and personal goals.

“Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions” (Cherry, 2011). When a person is able to regulate their emotions, that person is aware of their emotions, can effectively reason within their emotions, understands their emotions, and has the ability to manage their emotions.

These skills are going to be very important as students, who are global citizens in a diverse world, interact with people who are like them and some who might seemingly be very different from them. Statistically, the number one reason why an employee is terminated from a position is an inability to work well with others—not their ability (or inability) to do the job.

So, what does this mean for students?

Well, as much as students have to be prepared academically, the students must be prepared emotionally. There is a debate as to who is responsible for teaching this emotional regulation. Should it be the parents? Should schools do it? Maybe it is the responsibility of the community as a whole? It doesn’t matter. It must be done. An emotionally healthy environment supports intelligence development. Both are necessary if students are to have the skill-set to successfully compete in a global society.

For more information about an organization, One World Youth Project (OWYP), that is doing an exceptional job of bringing students together and teaching them how to successfully co-exist in a global society visit .


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