“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny” (Lao Tzu).
This is a quote I shared with Middle School students during our most recent assembly, and the character of our students at TIS is an aspect of development that we truly care about and aim to improve every day. After all, as stated on the school website, “the primary aim of education is not simply to enable students to do well in school, but to help them to do well in the lives they lead outside of school”. Character is comprised of the virtues, values and morals that define us as individuals. Desirable character traits include: resiliency, respect, integrity, honesty, loyalty, humility... and the list goes on. But how do we know if we possess these traits and how do we improve on them?
To develop character, we need to look within, we need to reflect on our actions and how they affect others. Self awareness is an integral piece of emotional intelligence, which has attracted a significant increase of attention in scientific research over the past several decades. In fact, many now argue that emotional intelligence is more important than IQ when determining success. But what is emotional intelligence and can it be developed?
Petrides et al. (2007) claim that emotional intelligence is composed of four factors, each containing multiple facets: well-being (happiness, optimism, self-esteem), self-control (emotion control, low impulsivity, stress management), sociability (emotion management, assertiveness, social awareness), and emotionality (empathy, emotion perception, emotion expression, relationships).
The good news is that emotional intelligence can be taught and learned and TIS provides multiple avenues in which students can improve their emotional intelligence. We believe in quality of assessment rather than quantity so students are not sitting tests or writing assignments at an unbearable rate. In addition, teachers use assessment calendars to ensure that students are not receiving to many assignment deadlines on the same day.
Participation in extracurricular activities is strongly encouraged at TIS and not only can these activities help improve a student’s wellbeing, but they can also help the other three areas of emotional intelligence: self-control, sociability and emotionality. The Teacher Advisor Program, the Health curriculum, Experience Week, our wonderful team of school counsellors and support staff and the fantastic events involving the whole TIS community such as our Activist in Residence program all contribute to improving the sociability, self-control, emotionality and wellbeing of our students.
It is understood that our character forms the foundations of our emotional intelligence and so fostering the development of desirable character traits and emotional intelligence will enable our leaders of tomorrow to overcome the challenges that face them in a rapidly and constantly changing world.