As teachers, we all go through difficult times. Some years we have terrible administration and we don’t feel supported. We have tough classes or parents breathing down our necks. We lack supplies, don’t get raises and work waaay more hours than we get paid. All of this can take a toll. Some people take these trials, grow from them, and somehow become stronger. How do they do it? And how can you too?
Dr. Travis Bradberry states that your mental strength is within your control. You already know that your mind is a muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it gets. Where does mental strength come from? It comes from your emotional intelligence (also known as EQ). In fact, your EQ is more strongly correlated with success than your IQ. Of course, when you are teaching you must be knowledgeable, but it is even more important to have control over your emotional strength.
So, how do you know if your EQ is high, or low? EQ is hard to measure. Tests exist, but they are pricey. Lucky for you, you can ‘walk the walk’ of a person with high EQ and in turn develop your mental strength.
1. Self-Awareness: Part of being emotionally intelligent means being self-aware. That means knowing when you are at your limits, knowing what you need to take care of yourself, and knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Those that are self-aware can self-assess and then adjust. This self-awareness leads to pushing themselves out of their comfort zone because they are aware of their need to grow.
2. Courage: Everyone feels fear. It is part of life. What those with a high EQ don’t do is let it control their lives. They feel the fear, embrace it, and then they do what they need to do anyway. Those with a EQ push through fear, deal with it, and face it. They don’t run from it.
3. Persistence: They don’t give up easily, they focus on long-term goals not short-term feelings. Being tired, hungry, or cranky doesn’t get in their way. They focus on what they can control and work to get what they want out of life.
4. Kindness: They are nice. Even when they don’t like someone or even when they don’t want to be nice, they have enough self-control to treat others well. They value relationships, so they treat those around them with the golden rule as their guide.
5. Forgiving: They let the bad stuff go. They know that holding a grudge hurts themselves and just adds to stress. Even when they’ve been wronged, they work through the hurt and forgive, regardless of whether they get an apology.
6. Optimism: They don’t hang around negative people. They try to stay positive and choose to be around those that are positive. When they encounter negativity, they don’t get sucked in. They don’t feel sorry for themselves when things go wrong. Instead, they stay focused on they can control.
Developing these traits will help you in increasing your EQ. Those with high emotional strength also avoid some harmful behaviors including:
1. Don’t be Entitled: Those with a high EQ don’t believe the world owes them something. They know that life isn’t fair and they have to work for what they have. A significant side effect of this mentality is that it prevents self-pity (one of those character traits we talked about above.) When things go wrong, it is no one’s fault, which also means they have control to improve their situation.
2. Don’t Let Others Steal Your Happiness: You are in charge of how you feel, and you can create your own happiness. No one can make you feel anything. Those with a high EQ choose to be happy.
3. Don’t get jealous: Teachers are constantly trying to learn and improve. They try to learn from their colleagues and do things better each year. Unfortunately, it can be easy to start comparing yourself to others in these situations, and when people compare themselves to others, they almost always come up short. Those with high emotional strength know it is best not even to compare. This way they avoid jealousy altogether.
4. Don’t stay stuck in the past: Bradberry says “Failure can erode your self-confidence and make it hard to believe you’ll achieve a better outcome in the future. Most of the time, failure results from taking risks and trying to achieve things that aren’t easy. Emotionally intelligent people know that success lies in their ability to rise in the face of failure, and they can’t do this if they’re living in the past. Anything worth achieving is going to require your taking some risks, and you can’t allow failure to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed. When you live in the past, that is exactly what happens—your past becomes your present and prevents you from moving forward.”
Working to improve your emotional strength will help you overcome difficulties. You will be far happier, and you’ll achieve all you want to accomplish.
Amy Curletto has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.