My father, Oscar O. Gonzalez Sr., was an educator for 38 years. Naturally, I learned a lot from him as did many of his students. I’m not referring just to classroom or textbook lessons, but life lessons too.
My father loved his students as if they were his own kids. I remember how he would show young men how to fasten their neck ties and would help them out with haircuts, so that they could look sharp. To this day, I love when one of my father’s former student-athletes tells me that he made a positive difference in their lives. My goal as an educator has always been to follow in my father’s footsteps and bring the same passion and love to my job.
I didn’t know it at the time but my father was a master of empathy. That concept has stuck with me ever since.
We don’t usually think of empathy as a skill, but it is an important skill. Historically, educators have looked to IQ (Intelligence Quotient) as a measure of intellect, but in recent years, with all the pressures that are on students and teachers, EQ (Emotional Quotient) is equally or more important than intellectual capacity.
EQ is something; we are now working into our instruction. We take the state curriculum, known collectively as TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills), and infuse it with the five domains of EQ. These are:
Self-awareness is having an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses and knowing how to leverage them.
Self-regulation is the capacity to control your emotions, like being able to focus and remain resilient through high-pressure situations.
Motivation comes innately to some while others have the capacity to become motivated.
Empathy is also important. Some students are faced with difficult situations. There might be trouble at home or in school. Teachers and students must have relationships where empathy is at the core. Empathy is also a key in combating bullying.
Social-skills deal with the capacity to get along with people to function. This includes getting along with those with different opinions and perspectives, so that progress can occur in the classroom or work environment.
A great environment to increase one’s emotional intelligence is in athletics and fine arts. Here, students learn to collaborate, to problem-solve and to even deal with adversity. In McAllen ISD, we have teams and athletes competing for championships all the way up to state. Our music program has been nationally recognized as a Best Community for Music Education for four straight years. In short, we have excellent coaches and teachers who know how to motivate our students and leverage IQ and EQ.
This will pay off tremendously as students progress through life. When students go off to college, and we are no longer with them, things will get tough. Our students will have the capacity to get through it with their EQ skills. Repetition and practice will solidify these skills.
These five domains are essential skills for success in school, work and life. There is abundant research that proves the benefits in a high emotional quotient.
When I began work on my dissertation 10 years ago, I came across the work of Daniel Goleman, a world renowned psychologist. He studied the impact of EQ and found those with a higher EQ had greater professional and personal success. EQ’s domains, he said, are the “ingredients of life’s success.”
As we study the job skills needed in today and tomorrow’s work force, these domains surface consistently. That’s why we have incorporated them into our framework for student learning.
Through my father, I learned to model these positive behaviors at a young age and studied them in great detail in a post-graduate setting. Now, our students are learning them in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
It’s going to help us be a better McAllen ISD. That is why it is so real and so important.
Dr. J.A. Gonzalez is the Superintendent of Schools for McAllen ISD