Perhaps one of the greatest aspects of teaching, I included this here as a new chapter in classroom management and discipline. The previous topics dealt with preparing for students in the classroom. From this point on, we will be addressing students in the classroom.
“Calm is strength, upset is weakness” (Jones, 2007). This phrase is one of the best descriptors of the importance of calm and consistency. In the classroom, there will be times when patience is tried. Students test teachers, and their response determines much of the learning environment from that point on. Therefore, remaining calm and staying consistent are two of the most essential tools a teacher can learn. The most important factor in remaining calm is to breathe. Mimic slow relaxed breaths to calm the instinct for ‘losing it.’ By remaining in control, the teacher is better able to make decisions of what to do next. In these decisions, he or she should use as few words as possible. Words invite a response or comeback, something not desired at this time in the classroom. Use body language and eye contact to convey meaning when possible. (Tips for how to do this will be discussed in the Limit Setting section.) Also, in this, the teacher should avoid nagging at all possible costs. Not only is it detrimental to the relationship between student and teacher (usually seen in snapping at the student), but is virtually ineffective. Students will generally only behave for a moment before returning to the behavior, or shutting the teacher out altogether. (Jones, 2007). Also, consistency is a key element. Students are keen to notice inconsistency and utilize it. Essentially this leads to the subconscious thought of, ‘if I keep doing this behavior, they will eventually give in.’ (Jones, 2007).
By remaining calm and consistent, many behavioral issues are eradicated over time. Once students learn that the teacher is not going to lose their cool, and that they are going to stay firm in their expectations, there is no fight to be had.
A student in a fifth grade classroom becomes defiant when asked to do an assignment. She begins to complain and become upset. The teacher calmly walks over to her desk, breathing twice to remain calm. As the student continues, the teacher simply looks back at her in a calm and non-upset manner. Once the student is finished, the teacher makes a gesture for her to continue working on her assignment, and stays to ensure she does so. After taking two more relaxing breaths, she continues. A potentially catastrophic situation was averted thanks to the teacher’s remaining calm and consistent expectations.
To better understand remaining calm, the physiology of brain function provides a clue. When a person begins to become upset, it triggers a response known as the “fight or flight” mechanism. This is essentially a surge in adrenaline that prepares the body to either run from danger or stay and fight it. However, in this process, the brain switches from a higher function (with rational thought) to a mid-level thinking. Finally, in the deepest stages, the brain switches to using the brain stem which controls predominantly only bodily functions. Therefore rational thought is obstructed. Remaining calm by breathing keeps thinking in the higher level processes; it essentially acts as a preventative measure not allowing the switch to occur (Jones, 2007).
Adversity is bound to happen at some point during teaching. Even the most minor of instances, when faced on “one of those days,” has the potential to damage the relationships and learning environment of the class. Therefore, I plan to use these techniques to remain calm under such circumstances. Also, although it is a somewhat natural tendency to nag, I will now be more aware of it and use alternative methods to encouraging positive behavior.
Similar to Say, See, Do teaching, patience is an integral part of this lesson. Therefore, Proverbs 15:18 is highly applicable, “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel” (NIV). The Bible instructs us to remain calm and not lose our temper. It is also part of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 where love is described as being patient. In order to truly serve students, it is important to remain calm with them.