Becoming an Emotionally Intelligent Teacher


William Powell & Ochan Kusuma-Powell

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    Imagine yourself in a comfortable and casual setting. You listen in to a conversation and realize you are mesmerized by the talk. These authors clearly know the world you occupy, and you are captivated by the clarity insight, and knowledge they display. But wait. Something is amiss. These men and women come from separate disciplines, some you normally wouldn't attempt to read, much less try to understand. But here they are, speaking matter-of-factly and down-to-earth with Bill and Ochan Powell providing glue and applications to their work with authentic, compelling, and sometimes humorous stories about school.

    Drawing on vast research and years of personal experience, the Powells convey through vibrant school examples, appealing human vignettes, and illustrative classroom narratives that how teachers respond to stress, what teachers profess as their beliefs, how teachers adapt to classroom diversity, and how teachers process learning in their own style has a profound effect on student learning. The authors’ vivid, personal, and intimate writing style brings us into classrooms, staff meetings, and parent conferences, and like a welcome but invisible observer, we interact with the personalities of numerous teachers, students, parents, and administrators as they deal with the complexities of school life. Magically, breaking through the usual fragmentation and academic language, the Powells create a practical book for every teacher and every person who works with teachers. Listen with them as they blend teaching implications with research from such fields as education, social psychology, anthropology, sociology, and neuroscience.

    Meet Carmen, Matthias, Irshad, Melvin, Grace, Marina, Nishad, Pauline, and Stefano and other multinational students in stories of authentic challenges and celebrations teachers face. You'll get to know and feel like you're sitting beside Malcom Rigby during a grade-level meeting, observing in the classroom of Miss Elizabeth Crawley, or entering the case study of a student named Jonathan. These personalized, charming vignettes make the text come alive to help you understand the realities of school dynamics.

    The authors of this book are not only educators, long practiced in our profession but are accomplished authors. They write with compassion and have the ability to enter the world of students, teachers, and support personnel. They understand their insecurities, passions, and worries. They practice emotional, contextual, and cognitive empathy providing not simple answers but authentic responses to complex interactions. Each page has a sense of immediacy; the prose is tight and quick. The headings, such as “Pygmalion on Her First Date,” “Let Them Learn Chinese!” “The Marshmallow Challenge,” “Margaret: The Loose Cannon,” “If Teaching Involves Acting, What Does the Audience Think?” and others, invite curiosity and draw us into the fascinating world of the schoolhouse.

    For teachers, this book provides validation for the school and classroom situations in which they find themselves. As teachers learn more about themselves and understand personal stressors, this book provides practical suggestions for ways to respond. This tidy compendium of wisdom brings special gifts. First, the book validates all shades of teaching experiences without judgment. Next, it provides research-based answers to why teachers react and feel as they do in challenging situations. It offers not only practical tips borne of the authors’ experience but activities that enhance their capacities for emotionally intelligent teaching. Finally, this extraordinary book enhances teachers’ capacity for self-management, self-monitoring, and self-modification toward their own gain and the learning of students.

    What do students learn that is not explicitly taught? While curriculum committees labor to map the curriculum, compose essential questions, decide on what's most worth knowing, clarify academic outcomes, and formulate assessment rubrics, we must also remember that children's most enduring learning may not be found in standards, benchmarks, and exit exams. Their most essential and lifelong learning stems from the display of their teacher's level of emotional maturity in the moment-to-moment response to the twists and turns of daily classroom life.

    Students learn best through imitation of significant others. Research with mirror neurons suggests that imitation and emulation are the most basic forms of learning. Teachers, parents, and administrators realize the importance of their own modeling of desirable habits in the presence of learners. In the day-to-day events and when problems arise in schools, classrooms, and homes, children must see the significant adults employing positive, rational, thoughtful, trusting behaviors. Without this consistency, there will be a credibility gap that, in turn, produces stress that distracts from and even negates deep learning. As Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

    Since most student learning is “caught, not taught,” the purpose of this book is to enhance teacher congruity in working with students. It encourages authentic and rational responses to situations, which in turn, allows students to respond with authenticity to the complex situations that they will encounter throughout their lifetimes.

    ArthurL.Costa, EdD, and RobertJ.Garmston, EdD, Professors Emeriti, California State University, Sacramento, California

    Preface: How to Use This Book

    This book is written for classroom teachers, aspiring educators, school administrators, staff developers, and others with an interest in the relationships between teacher emotional intelligence and student learning.

    It is based on two premises. The first is that teachers who have strong emotional intelligence support more effective and efficient student learning than those with only limited emotional intelligence. We will offer considerable evidence to support this contention. The second premise is that although some people seem to be born with excellent interpersonal skills and others not, emotional intelligence is malleable and can be developed. Put simply, teachers, even gifted ones, can choose to raise their emotional intelligence.

    The structure of the book follows Daniel Goleman's (1995) five components of emotional intelligence (EQ) and represents an exploration of how these qualities relate to the work of classroom teachers, specialists, and administrators. The chapters focus on aspects of emotional self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, social awareness, and relationship management.

    Each chapter contains a discussion of some of the theoretical aspects of EQ illustrated with actual case studies drawn from the authors’ more than 30 years experience in schools around the world. Following the theoretical discussion, each chapter includes a series of practical activities and exercises that teachers can use or staff developers can employ to facilitate professional development in the area of emotional intelligence.

    The final chapter is a synthesis of the overarching ideas that connect teacher emotional intelligence with effective and efficient student learning.


    The research for this book was funded by a grant from the East Asian Council of Overseas Schools (EARCOS), and we would like to express our appreciation to Dr. Dick Krajczar, the EARCOS executive director, for his support and encouragement. We would also like to express our appreciation to the Office of Overseas Schools at the U.S. State Department for ongoing support of our work in teacher professional development. Specifically, we would like to thank Dr. Keith Miller and Dr. Connie Buford. An abbreviated version of this book, titled The Emotionally Intelligent International School Teacher: Why Teacher EQ Matters, was published by EARCOS and was distributed to member schools.

    There were many individuals who contributed to this book—knowingly and unknowingly We would like to extend our gratitude to Bambi Betts, director of the Principals’ Training Center and CEO of the Academy for International School Heads; Sue Williams, curriculum coordinator at the American School of the Hague; Kevin Bartlett, headmaster of the International School of Brussels; Walter Plotkin, superintendent of the American International School of Dhaka; Nick and Rhona Bowley (Council of International Schools and the American School of Milan respectively); Areta Williams, head of the Overseas School of Colombo; John Roberts, superintendent of the International School of Kenya; and Dennis MacKinnon, superintendent of the International School of Yangon.

    From the International School of Kuala Lumpur, we would like to thank Naomi Aleman, the curriculum coordinator; Grant Millard, the high school principal; and Ochan's previous teaching partner, Alex Smith.

    Finally, we would like to thank our old friends and mentors, Bob Garmston and Art Costa. Your support and encouragement has been greatly valued.

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the peer reviewers who reviewed this book.

    About the Authors

    William Powell has served as a school educator for the past thirty years in the United States, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Indonesia, and Malaysia. From 1991 to 1999, he served as the chief executive officer of the International School of Tanganyika in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and from 2000 through 2006 as headmaster of the International School of Kuala Lumpur. He is the coauthor, with his wife Ochan, of Count Me In! Developing Inclusive International Schools (2000), and Making the Difference: Differentiation in International Schools (2007). Bill is a frequent contributor to educational journals and presents regularly at international educational conferences. Bill and Ochan have presented professional development workshops in more than forty different countries on five different continents. They focus their attention on teacher professional development and school leadership ( When he is not speaking at conferences, Bill can be found at his small farm in the French Pyrenees where he and a handful of sheep mount an annual battle against the European bramble.

    Ochan Kusuma-Powell is cofounder and director of Education Across Frontiers, an organization that promotes teacher education toward the development of professional learning communities. A graduate of Columbia University with a doctorate in international education development, she has more than thirty years experience in international education. Ochan has developed and implemented inclusive special education programs in the United States, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Tanzania. She has been an outspoken advocate for children with special needs globally. Together with her husband, Bill, she coauthored an OSAC (Overseas Schools Advisory Council) publication titled Count Me In! Developing Inclusive International Schools (2000) and Making the Difference: Differentiation in International Schools (2007). Ochan is also the author of Parent Advocacy in International Schools (2008). She is a trainer for the Teachers Training Center and an adjunct faculty member at Lehigh University and the State University of New York at Buffalo. When she is not at 36,000 feet, Ochan can also be found in the French Pyrenees engaging her twin passions of reading and cooking.

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