August 4, 2013
Emotional intelligence: Independence and the primary school curriculum-Part 3 5
To recap on the definition of independence as an emotional intelligence skill, it is “The ability to be self-directed and self-controlled in your thinking and to be free of emotional dependency.”
For me, independence is one of the most important skills that a teacher develops in the primary school. From the first day of school when the new junior infant child meets with her teachers and fellow classmates, they start to build on their independence skills. It seems that it is easier to build independence in children in a school environment. Do parents find this skill difficult? I can imagine it must be difficult to let your child go and try new things, to be independent from you and your emotions and thoughts. But, it is the biggest gift we can give to our students and children-to be free to live in the world.
Teachers understand that the child will not always have the services and close contact they give as a primary school teacher. A good teacher builds independence skills and an excellent one prepares their students for the day they will not be there and the child is alone in the world. A good teacher should make themselves a non part of the student’s life. The teacher cannot be a crutch or the only motivator for learning. A child must learn independence within learning and socialisation and be able to direct and control their own learning. We often see students hanging off their Special Needs Assistants or teachers. What do we think of this? Is this a good thing for the child? I hope my last two articles and this one will demonstrate that a child is given a gift the day the SNA and/or teacher lets go, the day the child is able to think for themselves, learn independently and be free from emotional or physical dependency.
With these in mind, think about your relationship as the teacher in the class and your student. How democratic is your classroom? Are you encouraging independent thinkers and learners? Do you feed information or facilitate learning? Do you set activties up based on a guided approach resulting in the final outcome of independence? Most, of all do you include activities and content in the areas your students are interested in or do you teach the things you enjoy?
Of course, we can have a balance in learning activities. Between the curriculum open objectives, our likes and our students’ passions.
Building independence leads to an improvement in self esteem which builds on every other EI skill. It is so important. Here are some ideas and links that I have in the area of independence building. I would love to hear your ideas too.
- Children with special needs, especially autism can struggle with autism, especially when these children become used to having everything done for them TEACCH(Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children) is one of the eclectic models that the Department of Education have spent a lot of time researching as an invaluable way to build life long skills in children with autism. If you get the chance to sit the 2-day and 5-day TEACCH courses ran by the SESS at www.sess.ie, you will find them absolutely brilliant in helping the teacher and student understand how true independence for life can be achieved. An interesting article on building independence for the child with autism is here. Some of the interesting things that research have found out in terms of independence are:
- “Monitoring the balance between 1:1 instruction and assistance with the awareness that the development of over-reliance may occur is essential when instructing students with ASD. Several studies have shown that students with ASD are not able to continue productive and appropriate responding with the removal of close adult supervision (Dunlap & Johnson, 1985; Dunlap, Koegel, & Johnson, 1987; Stahmer & Shreibman, 1992). Further research indicates that without the reinforcers or contingencies provided by adults, students with ASD have difficulty maintaining independent on-task behavior (Dunlap & Johnson, 1985; Dunlap, Koegel, & Johnson, 1987)”
Other ways to informally improve independence in the mainstream class are:
Encourage Independence by Refusing to Step In-
- When your student is at the age to take on an age-appropriate activity, show them how to do it, then let go and let your student struggle. It can be hard to watch junior infant children fight with their shoelaces, or stumble over their words in a new friendship, but it is in these moments that they are learning. The joy they feel when they gain a little more independence can be very rewarding, and a strong motivator to try new tasks in the future.
Believe in Your Student
- Children need to know you believe in them. Encourage your class with positive words such as, “You are a smart girl. You can get this.” Teach your children to think positively about themselves by modeling this behavior in yourself. The Little Blue Engine didn’t give up and the reward was confidence. Confidence builds on itself, and your child will gain greater self esteem when you encourage independence and responsibility.
Build in Life Skills through Routines
- Routines give your child practice and repetition. When a child does the same thing over and over, he learns independence without even thinking about it.
Let Children Fall Down and Experience the Consequences
Don’t hover over your students. Life is full of opportunities to succeed and make mistakes. The lesson is reinforced and learning takes place when children are allowed to make mistakes. If your student makes a bad choice, let him experience the natural or imposed consequences.
Coach your Students towards Independence and Responsibility
When your student is faced with a future or past decision, ask a lot of open ended questions that encourage your student to think for himself. “What do you think you should say to your friend?” “What could you have done differently in this situation?” Giving advice teaches your student what you want and what you think is best. Coaching your students supports them in developing good decision making skills, and honoring what is best for them. It’s okay if they don’t make the best choice
This article is one designed to get you thinking about your practice as a teacher, you are probably putting these things into place already but it is always good to shake up the mind again before a new school term begins.
This concludes the articles in the area of the intrapersonal realm of emotional intelligence. In my next set of articles, I will be discussing the Interpersonal realm of emotional intelligence. We hear so much about how we need everyone to improve their interpersonal skills and we all know adults that have issues in this area! If children’s interpersonal skills are developed from a young age, we can only imagine how the workplace and life, in general would change. The three competencies I will be looking at our empathy, interpersonal relationships and social relationships.