[Sept. 2016 News] Staples embraces emotional intelligence

By Rebecca Rawiszer ’17 Public Relations Director and Frenchy Truitt ’17 News Editor

Staples’ staff and faculty attended a presentation by Director of Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence, Dr. Marc Brackett, in preparation for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Brackett taught the Staples faculty that emotional intelligence-the ability to define one’s own emotions and the emotions of others, according to “Psychology Today”—is a valuable skill, central to learning and can be taught. According to Principal James D’Amico, emotional intelligence is, in fact,  the most important thing a school can teach.

Staples math teacher, Anthony Forgette found the presentation especially applicable to Staples.

“The presentation got me thinking about how emotions hide beneath the surface,” Forgette said. “As teachers with 25-30 students in each class, we have a real challenge in not only teaching content but emotional awareness and empathy to each student who is going through their own hidden struggles.”

D’Amico sees emotional intelligence as more than just a policy or banner that the school put in place. Instead, he sees it as something that Staples must embed in its daily routine.

Thus, the district’s guiding principles say that the Westport Public School’s community aspires to be “emotionally aware, kind with sincerity, principled in thought and action and learning always,” D’Amico said. According to D’Amico, Staples wants to be defined by these four principles and the district and he will work together over the next many years to make that happen.

In order to follow these new social and emotional standards, teachers have adjusted their curriculum.

Forgette introduced emotional intelligence during the extended periods of his classes, when he gave students the opportunity to write down everything they felt: free of censorship and judgement.  

“Students poured their hearts out onto lined paper, and I actually joined them,” Forgette said. Afterwards, he shared what he wrote, and some students joined him and said their thoughts. “I was very surprised since the social stigma is to hide your fears, concerns and anxiety to avoid feeling vulnerable or embarrassed, so I felt very honored that students felt safe to do so in my classroom,” he said.

Students, like Lydia Shaw ’17, have responded well to the emotional intelligence practices.

“When teachers stand out of my class and greet me, it makes me feel like they really care,” Shaw said. “It shows they are willing to engage in a more friendly way and also can make them feel more approachable.”

The administration plans to directly introduce emotional intelligence to the student body in the future, however, according to D’Amico, there are no firm plans yet.