Thursday, 2 April 2009

Emotional Awareness

And so the sixth and final competency; the 'E' of CIRCLE. We are, of course, indebted to the work of Daniel Goleman and his book Emotional Intelligence (
A psychoanalyst once said to me that you can have the highest IQ in the world but if your EQ - emotional quotient - is low then your IQ is useless to you. As educators we try to create schools where children feel secure, safe, nurtured and loved. We create situations and opportunities for children to build their self-esteem and find ways to promote their sense of self-worth on a daily basis.
This is not easy because the examinations and qualifications system embedded in education throughout the world separate achievers of certain types from non-achievers, with the latter group being deemed to have 'failed'. We all talk about the importance of self-esteem and EQ and yet in the UK we set the benchmark for success at a level where over 40% of 16 year olds fail every year.
The value of the inclusion of Emotional Awareness as one of our six competencies is to establish the need for each child to understand the importance of their own emotional well-being and the affect it has on their ability to learn. It is our equivalent of Anthony Seldon's Happiness lessons. Teaching Emotional Awareness skills encourages children to think about the mental framework and context to their learning, what motivates them and what makes them feel satisfied.


  1. There's a risk involved in creating 'schools where children feel secure, safe, nurtured and loved' and that risk is connected with the discussions we have had of frequent 'goal-orientated' confirmation of what you can already do pretty well. As soon as you move beyond the perfect 10/10, and get things wrong (or at least your answer is challenged robustly) you reach an emotional crossroads that calls into question where that security, safety etc. are rooted. If they are rooted in comparisons with peers and the hierarchical success model embedded in your reference to national testing, it is easy for those feelings of emotional security and self-worth to ebb away and leave a learner who is anxious and troubled. However, if a 'climate' has been properly developed based on the other five competencies, it is because of this and the security, safety etc. that challenge and difficulty can be understood and rationalised. This utopia is difficult to achieve - many students derive motivation and satisfaction from doing something well they find pretty easy. Culturally, this is an age of instant gratifaction and hedonism. Having recently spent time with exam students on film-editing, convincing them not to lose confidence and to be in it for the long haul is not easy and it is only when they see me also painstakingly 'chipping away' that they realise it's the same for everyone. The feelings of self-satisfaction and achievement having struggled and overcome obstacles are more worthwhile but I'm not sure how possible it is to teach this. Maybe that's where the 'horse and water' proverb you allude to in an earlier entry enters the equation. I've just read your latest 'saxophone basics' entry about the number of practice hours required and this very particular type of learning brings the need for emotional well-being into sharp focus. I've recently been in touch with a couple of professional musicians whose teaching puts as much emphasis on achieving an emotional state of being as on anything else.

    New age clap-trap? Not judging by the quality of their playing and teaching.

  2. Thanks Phil. You put it very well!