Get Real! 4 Questions to Ask to Develop Self-Awareness

By Stephanie Knight

an empty classroom

Let’s face it. Teachers are leaders in their respective classrooms; they hold a high degree of responsibility for themselves and their students. Although it is probably one of the least discussed leadership proficiencies, self-awareness – which falls under the emotional intelligence umbrella – is possibly one of the most valuable.

Developing self-awareness is paramount in the navigation of a teachers’ career and for the students who sit in their classrooms. To develop self-awareness, here are some questions to ask yourself:

What triggers me emotionally?

Many times, we can automatically respond without realizing our reaction. The truth is that this reaction, like everything else that we do, is a choice.

Example, let’s say you feel tense every time a certain parent walks in your classroom. Or, when a student is late and interrupts your flow, you feel anxious. If you can be more cognizant of your reactions, you will be able to isolate your triggers. By practicing being more self-aware, you can spot your triggers and take steps to lowering an emotional response.

How am I processing my emotions?

This is where it is important to identify how you process your feelings. Do you internally have a dialogue, or do you process out loud with another? Either way, it is important to recognize the difference between constructive venting and a dribble of complaining.

Meditation, prayer or reflection make you more aware. However, it has to become a habit. Keep a journal of your feelings and allow yourself to think about your emotions and reactions through the day. Also, take some time to reflect on your conversations with others. Are they fruitful in helping you lessen your anxiety or are they fueling the fire?

Do I know my strengths and weaknesses?

Self-awareness can really help you maximize your strengths. At the same time, if you allow it, it can also help you grow and understand how to work with your weaknesses. If you know your weaknesses, you can be preventative and proactive in dealing with a trying situation. Seek help if needed and be open to learning.

Being aware of your mistakes and owning them also sends a message. It models that you do not have all of the answers and also allows you to be more transparent to those around you. It never hurts to show your students also that you are human who makes real mistakes. This is also a key factor in building relationships.

How often do I laugh as I teach?

Is your sense of humor showing? Having a sense of humor is not just about telling jokes – it is an attitude of positivity with an energetic outlook about life’s craziness. There is a story told about a school where 80 percent of their discipline issues coming from only 10 percent of their teachers. These teachers shared one thing in common. According to the assistant principal, they all seem to take themselves and their jobs too seriously. Maybe they need to find a way to be more self-aware!

Final Thoughts on How to Develop Self-Awareness

We must continue to be reminded that our attitude as the teacher sets the classroom climate for students far more than anything. If we can be mindful of our emotional triggers, understand how we process, learn to journal and share with constructive thought, and be more aware of our strengths and weaknesses (and seek help if needed), then we will transform or attitude. Our strong self-awareness has now begun the process to an increased emotional intelligence and a happier, more successful classroom and teaching career.

Grand Canyon University’s College of Education helps prepare educators to deliver quality education across a variety of community settings. Learn more by visiting our website or contacting us today using the Request More Information button at the top of the page.


  • Albers, Susan, Dr. (2012, May 27). Emotional Intelligence 2.0: Learning the Art of Self-Awareness. Retrieved from
  • Nelson, D.B., Low, G.R., & Nelson, K. (2005). The emotionally intelligent teacher: A transformativelearning model. Retrieved December 29, 2016 from
  • Richardson, Brent G., Shupe, Margery J. The Importance of Teacher Self-Awareness in Working with Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. Teaching Exceptional Children, Vol. 36, No. 2, 2003, pp. 8-13. Retrieved from

More About Dr. Knight:

Stephanie Knight, EdD, is an experienced 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts educator. She inspires students to think critically and creatively. With that, she loves to see her students grow in their writing with expressive flair. She, herself, continues to work on her own writing process. Stephanie earned her Bachelor of Science in Business at the University of Colorado in Boulder, her certification in K-8, 7-12, English as a second language, English, Principal, and her doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Arizona State University. She taught in Title One schools for eight years helping them grow from underperforming to excelling, then in an independent school, and now is part of GCU’s adjunct faculty where she teaches graduate level education and reading courses. She continues to be committed to seeing the next generation of teachers be successful in educating our youth to a bright future.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.