Social and Emotional Competence for Teachers

Case study- An interrupted Lesson

It was on a Friday, November 6 2015 at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. I had visited the university for a Conference on introduction to statistics. I wanted to learn something about statistics because it would enable me to compute simple data with ease. Moreover, I wanted to gain knowledge on use of excel to compute statistical data. We attended several lessons as part of the conference. The University of Hong Kong hosted the conference.

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The event was part of the University’s initiative to improve capacity development among professionals. Throughout the conference, one particular incident drew my attention. It was in the statistical lesson with Professor Lo. Professor Lo was renowned for his experience in teaching at various universities and colleges in China. Interestingly, the audience in the university theatre included students from different parts of the world.

I had initially expected to find only local students. I was surprised to see foreign students chatting even as the lecture entered class. This was considered a serious offence in Chinese schools. Moreover, they continued to chat until professor Lo began to talk. Professor Lo introduced the topic and he began to go through its various branches (Castle & Buckler, 2009).

Meanwhile, some students who came in with their phones kept chatting even as Lo proceeded with the lesson. One exchange student known as Natalie kept texting her boyfriend who sat next to me. This was weird; this was not the norm in Hong Kong. To make matters worse, Lo was not interested in what the students did but on his lectures. Furthermore, as Lo moved from one section to the other, he did not even ask if we understood or not. I felt like, we were not in a classroom. I was annoyed because the students who kept murmuring and texting each other interfered with my focus on the topic.

I had wanted to learn something from the topic. This was unfair to me and other students who came to learn. When the lesson was about to end, these very students who kept chatting and texting one another started bombarding professor Lo with questions. Natalie’s questions only confirmed the fact that she was in class physically but not mentally. Moreover, her neighbor Alison’s questions were out of the topic. Alison asked professor Lo if her phone could download materials for the conference. I was unimpressed by Natalie, Alison and professor Lo. They did not give us the room to understand the topic. I felt like I had wasted my time and resources to attend the conference (Hosotani & Imai-Matsumura, 2011).

Case study analysis


I chose this critical incident because it exposed lack of social and emotional competence in professor Lo. While giving us a lecture, it was essential that Lo showed his expertise in drawing attention of the audience, which included students from different cultures. Students like Natalie needed to be attached to the lesson to focus. Moreover, phones should have been switched off for a better learning environment to be established. Professor Lo seemed not to care about teaching competence in his lesson. Therefore, Natalie, Alison and other exchange students took the opportunity to focus away from the topic. I was annoyed because professor Lo was not in control of class.


Teachers with social and emotional competence have the capability of providing social, emotional and instructional support for learners. In the case study, the lecturer only provided instructional support. However, both social and emotional support was ignored. Social and emotional competence is essential in reducing the possibility of teacher burnout (Chan, 2006). For instance, in the theatre, it could be observed that professor Lo had lost interest in the audience.

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In fact, the professor only concentrated on his presentation, which he worked very hard to complete within the given period. Moreover, after completing the lesson, professor Lo was uncomfortable with the questions especially from foreign students. The professor showed complete disaffection for the students who seemed to bother him. The professor’s emotional labor was below the required levels (Isenbarger & Zembylas, 2006).

No wonder, the professor’s social competence was also questionable. One would argue that the professor was not prepared to meet a hostile audience based on his reactions to the proceedings. Learning outcomes for the students was poor. For instance, Natalie who kept texting her boyfriend could not list any of the concepts she gained from the conference. If the professor had asked students calmly to switch off their phones, it would have helped bring them closer to his presentations (Reio, 2005).

Social and emotional learning is essential in any learning centre. Teachers should grasp the ideals of teaching by ensuring both emotional labor and social competence is validated. This was clearly lacking in the theatre at the University of Hong Kong. Professor Lo did not have social competence as was evident in the behavior of most of the audience. The audience was not attached to his presentation at all. While others like Natalie chatted, the others murmured.

With the exception of majority of local students, it was obvious that there was no class going on in the theatre. The implications were grave because very little was achieved in terms of learning objectives. The professor’s capacity to achieve his mission was heavily reduced by the interruptions during the lesson. Personally, I was dejected because I had high expectations of the vastly experienced professor. I had expected his teaching techniques to be outstanding.

I had also expected the audience to be still and conservative. Unfortunately, an environment conducive for learning was not created. Both sets of sides were culpable for the mistakes that ensured a disorganized conference. I went through the learning objectives and I found that only a few elements were achieved especially for the locals who tried to focus on the topic despite many interruptions (Hargreaves, 2005).

Teachers face different social and emotional challenges. For instance, the emotional stress associated with academic achievements. In addition, the social and emotional stress associated with the energetic crowd of students. Other factors that contribute to emotional and social stress include cultural differences, race as well as socioeconomic status of the students (Lasky, 2005). Other significant factors also include parent support, social and emotional skills of the teacher.

All these factors place pressure on the teachers to perform his duties. For instance, in our case, the theatre held more than 200 students for the lesson. In addition, the audience composed of people from different cultures and parts of the world. Besides, the audience was derived from various races of the world. The crowd was technically intimidating for a speaker without the social and emotional competence. Students from eastern part of the world like Japan and Hong Kong were a bit reserved because of their culture.

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On the other hand, students from western part of the world like the United States and Europe were open to discussions with the professor. In essence, the professor had to be having social and emotional competence to succeed in the conference. Moreover, the professor had to have the capability of withstanding pressure from different cultures to succeed (Schreck, 2011).

Facing audience without ability to control their emotions and behavior in class is very difficult. It is therefore necessary that teachers posses the ability to control their audience to achieve success in class. This was evident in the case study because professor Lo could not control the social and emotional disconnects among the audience. While Natalie chatted with her boyfriend, who sat next to me, Alison was scrolling her phone for contacts.

Moreover, some other students just in front of our row were watching movie in their laptops. Undertakings in the back row were even worse because students showed complete disinterest in the lesson. Some of the students were moving out of class at intervals and coming in whenever they wanted. This was unlike Hong Kong where students tended to keep calm until the lesson was finished before leaving. Moreover, most Hong Kong students never questioned the lecturer during lessons. Instead, they would go to the lecturer in private for further explanations. International students like Natalie could not wait to engage the professor on the floor.

I thought this was the trend in western culture where students were free to express their feelings openly. All these challenges would affect a teacher without social and emotional competence. In most cases, such a teacher would not find it easy connecting with students from various cultures. Moreover, the teacher would face an uphill task in communicating or presenting his message to the audience. This critical incident exposed pressures that teachers face in their day-to-day activities. Moreover, the incident showed what is required of a teacher to perform at his or her best to achieve emotional and social competence (Zembylas, 2005).


The professor should have shown social and emotional competence in the lecture floor. In addition, professor Lo should have been in control of class from the beginning. Firstly, the professor should have greeted the class to assume leadership. Taking control of class does not come automatically; one has to take the responsibility of taking charge of the classroom by communicating the same to the audience or learners. This was ignored in the lecture theatre.

Professor Lo just came in and started connecting his projector for the presentation. I could see him smiling with the students in the front row, however, those in the middle and back row did not even notice him coming. The professor must have greeted those in the front row presuming that everyone was observant. Besides, the audio was quite low; professor Lo’s use of microphone was also imperfect. Professor Lo’s movement in class was also imbalanced because he concentrated more on the front rows. Therefore, the other students were detached from the lesson. It seemed like a lesson for the front row only (Intrator, 2006).

Professor Lo should have ensured that the microphone was audible for everyone in the room. This would have ensured that everyone is involved in the presentation. In addition, the professor should have encouraged active participation in his presentation. This would have helped in improving social and emotional learning strategy for the students. Besides, the professor should have asked every student to switch off his or her phone.

This would have created a good environment for learning. Moreover, it would have improved interaction between students and the professor. Asking questions randomly would have helped the professor to keep students focused on his presentations. Furthermore, some of the students like Natalie and Alison should have shown respect to the professor by concentrating on the presentation.

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What happened in the lecture theater exposed failure from both sides of participants. While the lecturer was at fault for not living up to expectation, the students were also to blame for not giving him necessary cooperation. If I were giving the presentation, I would have taken control of the class. I would have also ensured that everyone was on board during the lesson by keeping them absorbed in the lesson through discussions and breaks.

This was a good opportunity for the lecturer to show his competence in achieving social and emotional success in the teaching profession. The incident was avoidable. It could be solved if a repeat of the lesson was conducted. Unfortunately, no repeat was conducted. Most students who attended the conference could only count on the tourist attraction centers in Hong Kong, which they visited during the conference as possible gains from the event.

My experience from the conference was mediocre. My expectations were not met. Moreover, my instructional needs were under achieved. I had to attend another conference in Beijing to restore my confidence in such conferences. Professor Lo failed me when I needed him most. The students also failed me because they were mature enough to recognize the importance of supporting whoever is in charge of presentation.

Unfortunately, they did not meet the criterion for a classroom environment. This resulted in unachieved goals. My understanding in that conference was clumsy. I left the conference without knowing how to use excel to perform statistical calculations. I also left the conference without gaining basic information on statistics. My concentration was affected throughout the event. Moreover, the disruptions were too numerous to allow for absorption of any statistical concept. The poor audibility also ensured that only a section of the students heard what was said. Eventually, there was no indication of social and emotional competence in the professor.


The case study is closely linked to professional teaching. For instance, the case study brings out the needs of students in a given classroom environment. In addition, the case study exposes the vulnerability points that a teacher should strengthen to become an effective educator. The case study also exposes critical concepts that teachers should know to ensure appropriate teaching methodology is utilized. For instance, teachers that have social and emotional competence have a better chance of controlling their classroom environment. The case study shows a teacher who did not have social and emotional competence.

Moreover, it shows how the teacher failed to establish control of classroom environment. The case study also shows how students disrupted classroom activities when they were not actively involved in the proceeds of class. The case study exposes the various challenges that teachers face when taking on students form varied cultures and races. The case study therefore informs teachers to have competency in social and emotional learning in addition to instructional learning. This would aid teachers in providing better services to students. Moreover, it would bring out the best out of the students. In essence, the case study did not only expose the frailties in teaching but it also provided ways of improving the teaching profession.

Reference List

Castle, P., & Buckler, S. (2009). How to be a successful teacher: Strategies for personal and professional development. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Chan, D. W. (2006). Emotional intelligence and components of burnout among secondary school teachers in Hong Kong. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22, 1042–1054.

Hargreaves, A. (2005). Educational change takes ages: Life, career and generational factors in teachers’ emotional responses to educational change. Teaching and Teacher Education, 21, 967-983.

Hosotani, R., & Imai-Matsumura, K. (2011). Emotional experience, expression, and regulation of high-quality Japanese elementary school teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27, 1039-1048.

Intrator, S. M. (2006). Beginning teachers and the emotional drama of the classroom. Journal of Teacher Education, 57, 232-239.

Isenbarger, L. & Zembylas, M. (2006). The emotional labour of caring in teaching. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22, 120-134.

Lasky, S. (2005). A sociocultural approach to understanding teacher identity, agency and professional vulnerability in a context of secondary school reform. Teaching and teacher education, 21(8), 899-916.

Reio, T. G. (2005). Emotions as a lens to explore teacher identity and change: A commentary. Teaching and Teacher Education, 21, 985-993.

Schreck, M. K. (2011). You’ve got to reach them to teach them: Hard facts about the soft skills of student engagement. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press. 12.

Zembylas, M. (2005). Beyond teacher cognition and teacher beliefs: The value of the ethnography of emotions in teaching. International Journal of Qualitative Study Education, 18(4), 465-487.

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