The topic of the week is Managing your own behaviour.
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This week we present the second exclusive audio seminar in our series. This time, Paul talks about how to manage your own behaviour as a teacher in the emotionally secure classroom.
How do the learners in your classroom (including you) deal with emotional responses and keep them in check?
The role model at home for some children may not be the most appropriate one. So your modelling is absolutely key. Classrooms where emotional responses from the teacher are the norm can be difficult and frightening. Paul recounts a story about a teacher from his own childhood who behaved in an unpredictable, emotional way to control the class – throwing a board rubber, for example. The children became more interested in avoiding the board rubber than in the learning which was supposed to be going on. No-one could predict how this teacher would react due to his emotional moods. The pupils didn’t have a chance to feel secure and safe and therefore able to learn. Even though we are unlikely to see this kind of behaviour from a teacher today, the emotional responses we do see can be just as frightening. This does not mean that teachers should turn into emotionless automatons. Children read your physical language and your tonal language first – they are making decisions about your behaviour so they can make decisions about their behaviour. Are you feeling: Tired Frustrated Angry Ill Upset Are you going to explain this to the class or are you going to move into an assertive performance to try to disguise it? If you don’t decide one way or the other, the emotional stability of your class is at risk.
We all have a rational brain and an emotional one – children aren’t very good at compartmentalising the two different brains and neither are people who are tired or stressed. This affects how you deal with situations in the classroom.
Hide your emotional buttons Some teachers can hide their emotional buttons but others advertise them. If you say to the children what you will do if a negative situation happens one more time, you are handing over responsibility to the children for how you are going to respond. For many children, pushing the button you have just revealed is too much for them to resist.
Teach your pupils how to manage their emotional brains. Strategies we should be teaching children so they can manage raw emotion and access their rational brain: Model for the children how you calm your emotional brain – make it explicit to them that you count to ten calmly, try to control your breathing, take a step back, walk outside or repeat a mantra to yourself. Map these on the wall or share them with the children you are working with. Then they get an insight into how successful learners manage their own behaviour.
Explain your frustrations assertively – “I walked away from the situation because I was feeling cross. I gave myself time to think and work out what I was going to say to you. Now we need to have a polite conversation about…
Examine some of your most basic routines – ‘Hands-up’ can make those who can’t think as quickly feel stupid – as soon as they see others’ hands go up, they stop thinking – replace this with something like – if you have the answer, look at me, otherwise look down until you have it. At the end of instructions, instead of asking if everyone understands and are there any questions, say something like – please ask questions now because if there are any, I haven’t explained this properly. This makes it easier for pupils to ask for clarification without feeling or being made to feel foolish. Is there an area in your room where children can see the strategies mapped out or where they can go when they are feeling upset?
Other strategies we can use to control our emotions and model behaviour for children:
1. Verbalise the behaviour your want to see – make it explicit in words, with actions or with notices around the classroom
2. Excercise your empathy frequently and vigorously – remind yourself what it’s like to be a child in your class and that your class are children – it’s inappropriate to see their reactions as adult and treat them as adults
3. Find a private space for conversations – particularly when you are feeling emotionally raw – and get down to eye level or preferable below eye level so the student is looking down at you
4. Create your own ritual for withdrawing from a conversation when your frustration takes over
5. When you intervene, focus on attacking the behaviour, not the child
We are all human so when raw emotion does spill out we need to be able to deal with it in a professional way:
– Explain why you ‘fell off the wagon’
– Apologise – be open and frank with the children you are, after all, modelling what you want them to do
– Tell them what you have learned from the situation and how you are going to address your behaviour in the future
Examine your own practice and look out for:
1. The tendency make instant assumptions about pupils based on their emotional maturity and their emotional reactions – they may not have travelled far on the road to maturity yet
2. The assumption that students will be able to empathise with your own emotional issues – rather, explain your conflicting emotions and how you are planning to deal with them
3. Labelling – we all have a private voice inside us which tells us unhelpful things about a group or situation so you are looking for the triggers which will start off your anger, frustration and irritation – and in fact some teachers look for the positives in the classroom only to be negative later in the staff room – this is unsustainable and can reinforce unhelpful stereotypes or labels of groups of pupils or individuals
Listen to the episode for much more detail on all the points above!
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