We have got to have access to the thinking part of our brain when we find ourselves immersed in emotionally charged situations. I MUST remain CALM. To quote Fred Jones: "Calm = strength....Upset = weakness."
Don't let the situation get to you....
I teach middle school, which is a terrific environment (testing ground) for those of us who are a tad bit hot-headed and reactive. I have had to learn over and over not to be emotional, and on those days that I find myself near tears, I eat a Tootsie Roll. Seriously. It helps. Things that smell good help too. Like coffee, or vanilla lotion. Just don't drink too much coffee - caffeine increases anxiety!
Getting upset is not about being weak or immature. It is natural and, quite simply, a human thing to do! There is nothing wrong with getting upset. The trick is, how do you prevent those negative emotions from controlling you.
Above: Grace Dearborn, classroom management coach, Youtube
The ability to remain positive and calm in the midst of a highly stressful, chaotic, negative situation can work WONDERS. Kids will respond so much better to a teacher they can trust to remain peaceful, not reactive.
Tip #1: Decide. Take some advice from Michael Linsin and do what Olympic athletes do: DECIDE FIRST.
Before you get to school in the morning, take a few minutes to imagine yourself remaining calm throughout the day - no matter what happens - even if a figurative stampede of wild horses runs through your classroom you WILL stay calm. Think about a scenario that would normally upset you, but also imagine yourself remaining calm, cool, and collected. If you practice this morning routine, mentally choosing to relax regardless of circumstances, you might be surprised at how well it works!
Tip #2: Relax. Train yourself to relax when faced with a stressful situation. One way to do this is to focus on breathing. Take a deep breath before responding to any provocation. Fred Jones also has some good tips for remaining calm in this article; Meaning Business Part I; Calm is Strength, Upset is Weakness. I will tell you how I stay calm - I do a whole lot of praying!
|photo credit: facebook.com|
|my favorite lotion from Bath & Body Works|
Tip #4: Pretend. However frustrated you might be, ignore the bad feelings: teachers are the best actors! Rely on your classroom management plan, redirect the misbehaving student or issue a consequence with no visible frustration. Don't let the kids see that you are upset! So, the next time little Billy throws a wad of paper across the room and talks back when you correct him, issue a consequence with no emotion (flat voice, no sighing or eye rolling, etc.) and then IMMEDIATELY focus your attention on the students who are doing their work and doing it well. Don't allow your emotions to have any power over what you say or do. Period. One fact about teaching is that you give away your power if you give in to frustration. Believe it or not, emotions can be extremely deceptive. Feelings lie!
Tip #5: Focus on the positive. Make a conscious effort to look for good things your students are doing and recognize that. Even if it is only a few kids in the class who are seated and/or working, notice it and acknowledge it! Believe it or not, you can train the students to work for your positive attention instead of negative. It sounds crazy, but it's true. You control your thoughts. Focus them mostly on the positive behaviors! If you have the mental control to ignore intensely negative emotions that are bubbling up inside you and instead focus your mind on the great things going on, your power increases exponentially! How much attention are you paying to misbehavior? Kids will work for your attention, whether positive or negative! Force your mind to think more about the kids who are doing right, One of the mistakes I made as a new teacher was paying way too much attention to misbehavior and not focusing on the "good" students enough.
|photo credit: facebook.com|
Tip #6: Plan. Be proactive! Have a fantastic classroom management plan and know ahead of time how you are going to deal with misbehaviors. Then, follow through with it consistently and that alone will cut down on a lot of behavior. Studies show that teachers who actually do something about classroom disruptions have half the number of misbehaviors as teachers who ignore kids who are acting up. One thing Marlene Nall Johnt said to me about how she survived teaching all the way to retirement was this: "I survived by being sure of what I was going to do in every class... students aren’t grumpy and frustrated when they understand what is expected from them and that vastly cuts down on unruly behaviors.The art projects had to be challenging as well. I also had a fair and reasonable discipline plan that didn’t change from year to year. All the kids knew it and all of the principals knew it. All the parents could understand it. They knew that behind this smiling face was a woman who was made of steel when it came to following her discipline plan, ha."
Tip #7: Wait. Be patient - give it some time. It just takes a while for some groups/students to learn to trust you. Keep doing what you know is the right thing, and wait.
Tip #8: Take care of yourself! It makes your job so much harder if you are not eating right or staying active. Go for walks, get outside, make some art, spend time with family and friends. Stephen Covey, author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, calls this habit, "Sharpening the Saw." It is exhausting to use a dull saw! You need energy to "do life," so to speak, and one of the best ways to beat stress and fatigue is to exercise. Also, don't make the mistake I did of drinking too much coffee. A little bit of coffee is really good for the body, but I wound up drinking 4 cups of coffee per day last year. I had no energy; I was "self-medicating" because I didn't know that my hypothyroid medication was too low. Yes, I even started having chest pains and went to see a cardiologist. It was ridiculous - all of it was due to stress. My doctor shook her finger at me for drinking so much coffee, saying that caffeine exacerbates anxiety. Who knew?
Tip #9: Avoid social media. Stay away from negative people, including social media groups if you find that your emotions are getting tangled there. Psychologists have found that spending a lot of time on social media is linked to higher rates of anxiety and depression!
Tip #10: Ask for help if you need it. We are only human, there is only so much we can do! There is nothing wrong with asking for a short break if you are feeling overwhelmed. I admit, a few years ago I found myself in a situation that got the better of me. A student who I had a great relationship with viciously turned on me, attacking my character after I needed to correct her behavior. I sat in the counselor's office and cried for a few minutes after asking the assistant principal to watch the next class. She understood, it didn't take long for me to calm down, and she never mentioned it afterward or asked me why I was crying. I am very grateful that I had such a great support system!
Why does it feel like my brain shuts down when I am upset; like I just can't think?
|collaborative installation piece, 7th/8th grade|
|photo credit: Personalized Mugs 4U|