The #1 Mindset That can make you a better teacher!
I know the internet is all about Growth Mindset in Education these days and while Growth Mindset is really important and can be tied to this mindset…. I want to at least add on to it!
Classroom Management and behavior problems in the classroom are the top reasons for teacher burnout AND ineffective instruction time.
Teachers lose hours upon hours of instruction time due to chronic behaviors every single day.
I’ve taught students who struggle to make good behavioral decisions for over a decade now. What they have taught me, and trust me, this has not been an easy lesson, is that when they are behaving badly towards me or disrespecting other peers or staff members, rarely are they able to process the way we, the recipients of their frustration, can see.
When a student is acting out towards us, and while that looks different depending on the student, sometimes it’s calling us names, throwing things, passively refusing to work, what we are often thinking is that they are seeking vengeance for us making them do something, like possibly doing their school work… which is completely our job to do.
What’s actually happening is that the student is feeling a strong emotion and they are unable to appropriately express that emotion. Learning to regulate emotion is a learned skill. For some reason or another these students have not yet learned that skill of emotional regulation.
When a student struggles to master math facts we do not, as educators, become defensive and angry at the student, right?
While it may sound like I’m recommending we all sacrifice our sanity and personal safety and accept verbal, and in some cases physical, abuse as part of the job, that’s not what I’m saying.
Instead, what I’m saying is that we should look at emotional regulation as a skill that needs to be taught and then teach it just like we would math facts, or phonics skills.
The challenge with teaching emotional regulation is that when a student doesn’t have those skills they often pull at our emotions. In many college classes like psychology and social work they teach pre-service professionals strategies to not become emotionally drained by your clients. Unfortunately in education that is never a course that I have ever seen, yet we work with children, the population most likely to break our hearts as professionals in a crisis situation.
So instead of letting those challenging situations bring you down, I challenge you to change your mindset. Instead of thinking “they hate me, after all I do for them…” or “why is he trying to manipulate me like that?” think things like “This situation is difficult to process. I’ll help him/ her learn to problem solve.”
It’s easier to not be emotionally drained after working with a student with extreme behaviors when we completely change our mindset and take ourselves out of the equation. Young children’s brains are not fully developed yet to truly understand how to emotionally manipulate others yet. They are pretty involved in their own emotions still and don’t understand how their actions impact others, let alone have the capability to plan ahead on how to predict your reaction and your emotion to their action.
If the negative behavior is only a skill deficit… nothing more than a skill deficit… it’s much easier for us to think only in terms of strategy to help the student rather than for us to get our feelings hurt.
And if our feelings aren’t hurt… then why would we come home emotionally exhausted at the end of each day?
I know that oversimplified things and we are still emotionally exhausted just by seeing kids in crisis and feeling like we want to fix it for them when we know, as professionals, it is a long slow process to learn these complex skills. However, I believe that if we take our own emotions out of the equation and just start to think about the student’s skill set that is a step in the right direction. Then if we can break the skill down into small enough parts that we see progress routinely… probably not every single day, but routinely, we can have hope and we can see joy and happiness in our students as well as ourselves!
What do you think? Let me know in the comments!
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