Most teachers have felt totally frazzled by a pupil’s behaviour at some point.
However, when a crisis strikes, the situation will rarely improve unless the adult is able to give the impression that they are cool, calm and collected.
10% of all human communication is conveyed through the words we say, 30% is communicated by how we speak, and a massive 60% is conveyed by body language.
So it’s really important to practice the art of appearing ‘neutral’ and non-threatening. If you allow yourself to register a shocked or angry face in response to a pupil’s behaviour, this can give off the wrong message and is guaranteed to make their behaviour worse.
With that in mind, here’s our guide to giving off that calm vibe in a crisis – even if you actually feel like tearing your hair out!
1. Adopt a relaxed stance
Practice displaying a ‘neutral facial expression’ . This means softening your gaze, reducing eye contact and relaxing the facial muscles.
Match your body signals to your face, allow your shoulders to sink down, loosen your arms, and stand in an open posture (no arms folded or pointy fingers!) Stand still.
Hint: when people cross their body, it makes them look nervous. It’s looks like they are getting ready to defend themselves from some form of physical attack!
Use a mirror to practice and perfect this technique!
2. Check your vocals
Make the effort to deliberately keep your voice low and your speech slow. Keep your breathing steady. When under stress, we tend to talk faster and in a higher pitch that can be stimulating to the fight/ flight part of human brains.
The children will naturally pick up on these cues and sense that you feel nervous or challenged.
3. Make like a swan
When managing highly stressful situations, the first person who needs to calm down is you!
Even if your heart is beating like the clappers, you can train yourself to give the illusion of being calm and in control.
Be just like a swan: whilst it looks like the bird is gliding over the surface of a lake without a ripple, its legs are paddling furiously underneath!
The psychological effect
The effect of this is that children feel safe in the knowledge that you are calm and you know how to handle the situation.
Children who are angry or distressed will struggle to process the words you are saying, but the primitive ‘reptilian’ part of the brain can still receive the reassuring non verbal signals you are sending.
Any onlookers also feel reassured that it is you, the teacher, who is in control.