We’ve all been there. Some kid is making your life absolute hell and you just lose it… you know you shouldn’t but sometimes it’s all too easy to do the wrong thing and make the situation ten times worse. Today I’ve taken a look at ways NOT to respond to conflict in the classroom and what you should be doing instead.
Don’t respond immediately
Generally your impulse response is exactly the wrong one. Instead of saying exactly what’s on your mind just take a deep breath, give yourself a few seconds to compose yourself and think carefully about how best to proceed.
If a pupil is shouting at you, the temptation can be to raise your voice in return, if for no reason other than to ensure that your point is heard. This tends to make the situation worse. You’re far better off talking slightly more quietly than normal. Ignore the ranting and raving and just quietly make your point. Eventually the student in question will calm down enough to hear what you’re saying.
Don’t say exactly what you think
Think really carefully about the message you want to convey to the student in question – and to the rest of the class who are probably watching with eagle eyes. There are probably all sorts of things you WANT to say. Don’t. Instead, think about what you SHOULD say. Where possible always keep your responses in line with school policy and be as fair and calm as you are able to be.
Don’t make it personal
You may know all sorts of things about a pupil that you wish to drag up at this moment. Don’t. You can’t risk this turning into a slagging match. Instead, keep things super professional and refer only to the specific incident in question and never to things that have happened in the past.
Don’t get too confrontational
Pupils may well invade your personal space and try to get physical when they’re angry. Be careful not to fall into a similar trap. Not only will it escalate the situation but it could put your job in serious jeopardy even if you don’t strike out at a pupil. Your best bet is to calmly back away every time the pupil steps in closer – but be careful not to get yourself backed into a corner.
Don’t immediately escalate the situation
The temptation can often be to immediately send a pupil to the head or put them in detention, but whilst this may get them off your case, it is unlikely to solve the root cause of the problem. Wherever possible, you are best off trying to solve the problem within the classroom in order to keep it in context and try to avoid a repeat occurrence. That said, don’t hesitate to escalate things if it really seems appropriate.
Don’t drag the rest of the class into the situation
Many teachers will threaten the whole class with detention if one or two unruly pupils don’t tow the line. This may work in some situations but it’s far from guaranteed. Your worse case scenario is that instead of one or two angry teenagers to deal with, you have thirty of them. I’d think carefully before running that gauntlet…
Have you learnt from your mistakes when dealing with conflict at school? Do you have any ideas to add? Please leave a comment with your thoughts and suggestions.
If you would like further help in managing conflict situations you might like our ‘Managing Conflict and Dealing with Difficult People’ course which is run 24 times per year in 8 locations throughout theUK. Or can be delivered in your school at a time to suit you.