The first days of school bring such excitement and joy – decorating the classroom, getting to know your new students, planning fun activities together, and establishing guidelines and expectations to ensure that everyone has a successful year.
But, soon (if not already) you will feel overwhelmed. There will come a time when you are forced to deal with students who are not following the classroom guidelines or meeting your expectations. How will you react? What will your response be?
Take a moment now, at the beginning of the year, to think about how you might respond. Ask yourself: What is the purpose? What change am I trying to make? What impact will it have on this student?
When an issue arises, we feel the need to react immediately, in the moment. Doing something helps us feel like the problem is going away. So, we put systems in place and follow a series of steps each time there is a problem. But, each situation is different and should be handled differently. Before acting, stand still, and take a moment to understand the situation, and more importantly, to understand the student.
For example, when you find yourself frustrated that a particular student cannot seem to focus or follow routines – stand still. What do you know about this student? Do you know if this child was up late last night taking care of a sibling? Do you know if this child had breakfast before they came to school? Can you imagine what they might be going through, and how that might impact what they need? Can you let go of your own expectations…and give them the freedom to be who they are? If you can do that, then you can create a learning environment where powerful things will take place. Because students will feel that they are respected and that they have a voice.
Put yourself in their shoes. Empathy will allow you to ultimately achieve an outcome that is best for your students. It’s not about achieving the outcome that you choose in that moment. It’s about achieving a lasting, long-term positive future for each unique child.
It’s not easy to not react immediately. But, try to take a moment and stand still. See this student for who they are and who they want to be. If you don’t know the best way to move forward, be honest about that. Stand still until you see a way. This is how you build relationships and form connections, and dignity.