Likely if you have worked in education for any length of time and even more likely if you work in special education, you have been on the receiving end of disrespect by a student. As challenging as this may be, it is our responsibility as educators to maintain a sense of rational detachment in these moments.
Having the ability to maintain a calm energy and not personalize anything that is being said to us during a frustrating moment for a student will lend itself to a much more positive outcome for everyone involved. Remember that it is about what the student is going through and not a reflection of who we are as a people or our abilities as educators. At times this seems easier said than done, but given the alternative, it remains a much more proactive and effective strategy. Here are strategies to help maintain control over our emotions, while maintaining a respectful position with the student.
- Be aware of our reactions – an overreaction can exacerbate the situation
- Reduce our words – excessive talking can add to the anxiety of the student, use as few words as possible – at times silence is golden
- Be aware of our non-verbals – our body language and facial expressions can communicate so much
- Be aware of our movements – give the student space, we all need space when we are upset
- Be aware of our breathing (slow it down) – this will help maintain a personal sense of calm
- Be aware of our thoughts – if the student tells us that we are the worst teacher in the world, swears at us, or anything else. Pause and think, “Am I any of the things they just called me?” Likely no, so let it go
- Be aware of our emotions – empathy is the one that will serve us best. Is the student being rude, disrespectful, insulting? Yes, but this is not the moment to address it. This is the moment to help restore calm by understanding that they are having a difficult time.
- Be aware of others in the environment – how we respond will demonstrate who we are as a person, as an educator
- Be aware that this student is a child
- Be aware that we are adults