How we are failing our young people
We cannot continually fail or young people. It’s unfair.
I have studied locally in both public and private schools, the Bermuda College, and in South America and Europe. I have been able to compare some of the world’s education systems to our own, and can confidently say that in the classroom, Bermuda matches up to or exceeds the academic classroom across at least half the world. Notwithstanding that, we are giving our young people only about half the tools to achieve their dreams, while wondering why they are not living up to expectations.
As the son and nephew of five teachers, I know teachers work hard to improve the information they give. Parents, students, teachers and the Government are constantly at odds over how well we teach children to cross-multiply. This is only half of what we need — emotional intelligence is just as important as academic intelligence.
Like academic intelligence, emotional intelligence is made up of many teachable skills. Emotional intelligence is what helps a 22-year-old calm their nerves before walking into a room of interviewers who stand in the way of them and their dream job.
It is how a father motivates himself, after working a second shift, to sit with his son and guide him through homework.
Without emotional intelligence, I as a tennis coach and business owner cannot manage small teams of individuals from three countries while maintaining healthy relationships with each person and myself. Emotional intelligence is the foundation upon which all life skills can be built. In any area of success or difficulty, you will find emotional intelligence in play.
Its five basic tenets are:
• Self-awareness: recognising one’s emotions
• Managing emotions: reacting appropriately, bouncing back from sadness
• Motivating oneself: marshalling effort towards achieving goals
• Empathy: recognising others’ emotions, the fundamental “people skill”
• Handling relationships: leadership and communication skills
Emotional intelligence is essential. How will young people learn the most important skills of their lives if we have never effectively taught them? Two ways that parents, teachers and tutors can teach emotional intelligence are:
• Blending: involving the five key emotional intelligence skills in everyday academic lessons
• Specific skill development: teaching key mental concepts and tools for universal success
We don’t need to reinvent the wheel to stop our children from falling short of their potential. Emotional intelligence concepts and skills can be “blended” throughout interactions with children — in school, in extra classes and in sport. Over the past year, Loquat Learning has led our language, reading and maths classes with the fundamentals of emotional intelligence and instilled them throughout. In my role as a tennis coach working with a 16-year old professional player, every fitness session, tactical session or practice match is a chance to teach and discuss emotional intelligence, and how to apply it.
At Loquat Learning, we are looking to help introduce a change in the way education is approached by developing curriculums based on the fundamentals of emotional intelligence, as well as practical skills that students will be able to apply in school, in relationships with friends and family, and in the workplace. As children develop, the skills that we will teach can be applied and improved in order to have them mastered before adulthood. For example, the skill of self-discipline is applicable to organising study schedules as well as co-ordinating deliveries for a production team; understanding and reading other’s emotions would help to avoid schoolyard disputes, while helping to negotiate a raise from a stubborn employer.
I am excited to see the potential growth in Bermuda’s young people when classes focused on emotional intelligence become a key part of their development. This is a key part of our mission.
The universal difference I have seen across continents in school, business and professional between OK, good and great success is not just how smart, strong or fast someone is. It is their emotional intelligence. Even in a cut-throat endeavour such as tennis, where everyone is fighting to make a living, there is a clear difference between the players, coaches and parents who will reach their highest level versus those who will not — emotional intelligence.
Whatever your aspirations your children have, they could miss out on a lot of joy and achievement if we do not provide all the tools needed. Academics, sport and other life skills are excellent — but they are only half of what we need to succeed. We can mould more capable young people. Let’s stop letting success and happiness of the future slip through our fingers. Let’s teach emotinoal intelligence.
• Evan Heyliger is the founder of Loquat Learning, a Bermudian tutoring and elite tennis coaching service