I’m always curious when a new education book is published, and none more so when it’s one of Bloomsbury’s. It’s even better when the author kindly pops a signed copy in the post, and I then get to record a session with her for Myatt and Co.
The book in question is called The Emotionally Intelligent Teacher. It’s written by Niomi Clyde Roberts who you most likely know as @TeachingAHT on Twitter. It’s Niomi’s first book and was written throughout lockdown and the pandemic, mainly at weekends and during holidays.
It is clear when you first start to talk with Niomi that she is passionate about emotional intelligence and the role it can play in building work-place relationships and managing your emotions. The need for this has never been more-so, especially when trying to achieve a sense of work-life balance in a profession that can become all too consuming.
More importantly, according to Niomi, "I needed to write this book to try and help newer teachers and anyone in fact who works in school that is faced with a difficult situation."
‘Niomi speaks with passion and purpose,’ writes Jill Berry in the blurb. ‘This [book] is an honest and courageous treatment of an important facet of human interaction.’ Mary Myatt goes even further, describing it as a ‘riveting read’, adding that it is a ‘very helpful addition to the literature on school culture’.
They are both right. Although the focus of the book is very much on the importance of emotional intelligence, for me it is essentially a book about how to build great culture. This is why every headteacher and CEO should read it for there is much to learn and reflect on.
For new teachers joining the profession, the book offers invaluable advice. No matter how well prepared you might be in terms of your ITE training, nothing prepares you for the politics of the staffroom, or as the book puts it, knowing 'how to combat power struggles in schools.'
The Emotionally Intelligent Teacher certainly does prepare you for it. It will show you what it’s like to work in a school and how to get to grips with that slippery fish called culture. The Emotionally Intelligent Teacher will guide you through your first few days, weeks, and months at work and will help you navigate a way through the complexities of what it's like to work within a school.
To enable this, the book is helpfully structured around six well-signposted chapters that ease you through the gears as you begin to build up your own emotional intelligence. The book opens with a chapter on the main traits of emotional intelligence, such as self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, motivation, and empathy. Such is the importance of empathy, it even gets it's own chapter all to itself, and explores a number of themes, including Daniel Goleman’s Empathy Triad and the three different types.
There are further chapters on autonomy, communication, and leadership, as well as a helpful toolbox chapter, complete with provocative 'thought capsules'. All of these are underpinned by real-life case studies and practical examples that skillfully bridge the gap between theory and research. Some of the contributors you’ll recognise, but some you won’t, and so it'll give you a refreshing take on what emotional intelligence means from a number of different perspectives.
In his foreword, Andy Buck quite rightly points out that in so doing the book has ‘brought it alive for both support staff and teachers, as well as for leaders working in schools.’ The Emotionally Intelligent Teacher is a book then for everyone.
I’ve been researching and writing about organisational culture for years, in fact ever since I did my Masters on it when I first started out as a new teacher. It’s always fascinated me and I’ve never quite got to grips with it. This book though has certainly piqued my interest once more and made me question some of the things I believed to be true. This is always the sign of a good book; it’s not written to provide the reader with the answers, but rather to pose even more complex questions.
I am going to end though on a section of the book that particularly chimed with me. It got me thinking about what it was that drives me as a leader in terms of my own values and beliefs. I like to think I've never shied away from doing the right thing, even if it might not be the easiest route to take. For me, it’s always about doing what’s right for the young people and communities that you serve. Whilst others around you might not particularly want to go in there and sort it, an emotionally intelligent leader with a firm persuasion always will, no matter what.
This is why I love the section in the book called ‘Headstrong and Humble.’ I like in particular the use of italics to stress the fact that you can have both; it’s not a case of either/or. Here’s what Niomi has to say on the matter, quoting directly from her book (p.34):
“Are you headstrong but humble? By this I mean are your core values and beliefs unshakable, but you are willing to listen, be empathetic and make decisions with an open mind? In my opinion, being headstrong is having the determination to listen to your gut instinct and make decisions you think are best for others. It also means that you are stubborn, which I view as a positive trait.”
Niomi then suggests three ways that as teachers you need to be a little bit stubborn:
1. By not giving up and getting the best out of everyone.
2. By continuing to work towards your goals even when you feel like giving up.
3. By pushing yourself that bit harder to achieve your very best.
To do all of these requires us to change the narrative around what it means to be stubborn, and to not see it as a deficit model, especially when continuing to take on board other people’s views. Back to Niomi:
“I think in teaching and leadership you need to have a certain ‘stubbornness’ to achieve what is best for the children. Be headstrong enough to trust your decisions but humble enough to adapt when needed.”
Wise advice indeed. Be sure then to buy the book. If you have ECTs in your school, or are involved with ITE, get them all a copy. Make it part of their induction programme. If you are embarking on the NPQs, go and get one as it will help you become a more ethical leader and gain further insight into the active ingredients of school culture. Better still, if you have a staffroom CPD library, stock up on a few copies - the staff will certainly thank you for it.
In the meantime, look out for the latest CPD film on Myatt & Co where I get to discuss the book with Niomi and what it means to become an Emotionally Intelligent Teacher.
Andrew's new book, The Authentic Leader: A four-part model to lead your school to success is now available to pre-order on Amazon and Bloomsbury.