Oftentimes these days as educators we are put in a tough spot when it comes to teaching emotional intelligence. We are told, “Be a positive role model, but be careful how close you get to your students.” Or “ Help encourage your students to form goals, but make sure you don’t steer them in the wrong direction.” We are often forced to listen to our students’ problems and build trust, but also told to report anything concerning such as suicidal thoughts or abuse. It can leave us feeling insecure or confused about our role as their teacher.

Why Emotional Intelligence is So Important in and out of the Classroom

Emotional Intelligence is a skill that benefits students from the time they enter elementary school and stays with them as they work on their careers. It’s essential for teachers, parents, and other caregivers to emphasize emotional intelligence in every aspect of a student’s life to ensure a successful, understanding future. (ASCD.org)

With that being said, how do we maintain a healthy student-teacher relationship while teaching them to be emotionally smarter?

In a society that still tends to glorify toughness and makes expressing emotions seem weak, now is the time to give our students opportunities to practice developing emotional intelligence. It is our responsibility to prepare students to express themselves in healthy ways.

Use I Statements

Encourage students to use I statements like, “I am frustrated” or “I feel really upset when….” You can also probe them to share their emotions by using validating statements such as, “It sounds like you’re frustrated,” or “It seems like you are upset. Did something happen to cause you to feel this way?”

For most children and teens, simply knowing someone cares about them and takes time to validate their feelings can foster emotional confidence. Emotional confidence means being self aware and able to verbalize how someone is feeling. Unfortunately, this is only part of the equation.

Raging hormones and developmental changes during teen years is usually the culprit for highly unstable and unpredictable emotions. Especially if they are told repeatedly by adults in their life, “You’re fine, don’t worry, or stop freaking out!” This teaches self doubt and emotional confusion.


Having a mentor who models emotional intelligence daily can help students feel more confident to practice it themselves. Modeling healthy, positive steps to bounce out of any challenging situation can be as simple as saying, “Ugh, I have had such a bad morning. I feel so frustrated with so many things, but I CHOOSE to not let it ruin the rest of my day.” Following up with a deep breath and a smile communicates to students, you are aware of your emotions but you are not going to let them control you.

Social Media’s Impact

The other piece to consider is how social media affects teens’ ability to develop healthy emotional intelligence outside of the classroom. Developing empathy and being aware of how certain posts, comments and pictures affect emotions is crucial to relating to this generation.

Having the tools to discuss various difficult situations that stir unhealthy emotions is one of the keys to being able to react appropriately. The truth is, cyberbullying and other external social factors outside the classroom that affect student’s emotions are challenging to navigate alone.

EVERFI is doing its part by providing to teachers and students a free, digital resource called Character Playbook: Building Healthy Relationships.

In lesson 2 of EVERFI’s Character Playbook Course, students learn how to read others’ emotions and how to effectively understand, manage, and express their own emotions. Through interactive activities they:

  • Identify and label emotions
  • Understand the role emotions play in gaining greater self-awareness
  • Demonstrate effective strategies for managing and expressing emotions
  • Define external factors that affect emotions

The course also dives into other factors of student emotional intelligence including how to communicate effectively with others during conflicts as well as practicing safe digital communication.

Check out this free resource today by creating an account at www.everfi.com/register. Choose Character Playbook as your curriculum. Don’t see it? Email Colleen at cklabon@everfi.com for more information.


Colleen Klabon is a K-12 Senior Program Coordinator based in Atlanta, Georgia. She works closely with teachers and K-12 Schools Managers in the Southeast region of the United States to implement EVERFI’s suite of online learning resources addressing 21st century life skills. In her free time, she can be found playing beach volleyball, singing at church, or chasing her 4 year old around.

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