Teachers often worry that time spent de-escalating one child’s behavior will derail the flow of classroom activities for everyone else. The concern is legitimate and goes right to the heart of every teacher’s nightmare about losing control. So what safeguards can teachers put in place to avoid chaos ?
Organize Your Classroom to Encourage Peer Collaboration
Use teacher-directed, whole group instruction sparingly- to introduce a topic, to summarize a lesson, or to clarify a class-wide misunderstanding of a concept. Structure the rest of instruction around small group activities and projects that encourage students to collaborate and learn from one another. This type of design allows teachers to engage students in smaller groups for short, focused interventions. And if conflicts arise, the teacher can help students resolve them without involving or distracting the whole class.
Teach Children the Steps Involved in Conflict Resolution
Don’t wait until a conflict comes up to teach students how to resolve them. Teach them the skills they’ll need: using “I statements”, reflective listening, brainstorming, making amends. Practice in advance. Model how it’s done. Post the steps to follow so they can be referred to on an as needed basis. Teaching children strategies to resolve their own disagreements reduces the need for teacher directed de-escalation.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
The goal of de-escalating children’s behavior is to correct misunderstandings, resolve conflicts, and in some cases, restore safety. This requires maintaining professional objectivity and control of your own emotions. It helps to remember to:
- Stick to actual experience
- Avoid judgments-make no promises or threats
- Help the child recall what he may have forgotten
- Respect the child’s ability to resolve the conflict
- Stay in control
See www.responsiveclassroom.org for a conflict resolution protocol.