Keeping Your Cool When Student Behavior Gets Tough

Breathe, just breathe.

Let’s face it: Even the best of us have moments when a child’s behavior just makes us want to throw a desk across the classroom and run screaming from the building. But being able to keep your emotions under control is arguably one of the most important aspects of our jobs as educators.

Recently, the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE! discussed this topic when teacher Janie wrote in the following question:

“How do you keep yourselves from being reactive in situations with students? I have a really hard time with this when my fifth graders are blatantly disrespectful to me and to their peers. I’ve tried counting to 10, walking to the hallway to calm down, or sometimes I bite my lip to prevent myself from speaking, but I just have a hard time letting it go. Then, when I finally speak, it comes out as yelling, which just escalates the problem and has resulted in me having a really awful day. Help!”

Janie, we feel your pain! Here’s the advice our community of teachers shared on how to keep your cool in class.

1. Keep it in perspective.
“I think about something else when I have situations like that. For example, I’ll think about plans for after work. You have to tune it out and not take things personally.” —Laura C.

“QTIP: Quit Taking It Personally. I used to be very reactionary, and I certainly still am at times. I have gotten better about it by constantly reminding myself and those around me that these are little human beings full of their own emotions and personal issues.” —Andrea L.

2. Have a routine way of dealing with challenging moments.
“I teach fifth grade as well, and it is hard. I do not tolerate disrespect, so instead of even saying anything, I follow our behavior procedure and send them immediately to the Think Station, which is an area of our classroom for reflection. They have to write about what they did and reflect on it, and then the parent needs to sign the paper. If it continues further, to the office they go!” —Heather L.

“I teach high school, and I expect every student to give me lip. Then when they don’t, I’m pleasantly surprised, but when they do, I have a prepared way of dealing with it, and I’m not caught off guard. I know it sounds pessimistic, but it actually helps me keep focused in the moment.” —Mandie R.

3. Give The Look.
You know what we’re talking about. “I have a really great skeptical look that I give students whenever they do something disrespectful. It usually makes them rethink their choices and gives me time to think through my response.” —Amy J.

4. Keep the discussion private.
“Calmly say, ‘step into the hall, please.’ Wait a minute or two and then join that student in the hall. Discuss the situation with the student and explain why they should not say anything disrespectful or act disrespectfully. They feed off of the confrontation occurring in front of their peers, but they do not like to be disciplined in private.” —Pam J.

“On the first day of school, have them fill out a form with their interests. When they act out of line, talk to them privately after class and make sure you mention one of their interests and relate it to the conversation. This helps them take the advice to heart a little bit more easily and helps them to understand that you care.” —Julie L.

5. Remember that every day is a new chance for a fresh start.
“We are all learning along the way. Every year is a different mix of kids with different needs. Enjoy the start of a fresh new day … every day!” —Lori B.


Posted by WeAreTeachers Staff

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