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January 2016: How to convey calm.

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. Therefore, 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.



Staff meeting activity


This activity will take approximately 15 minutes and will enable your staff to identify the non-verbal cues that they give off when dealing with stressful situations. It will help them make a concerted effort to convey calm, even when dealing with highly stressful situations. To use this activity, download a PDF version of the newsletter, using the links at the bottom of the page.


Requirements


You will need the following materials:


  • Flipchart paper or a whiteboard.
  • Pens.
  • Copies of page 1 of the newsletter (download the PDF version of the newsletter below). At least one between two members of staff.
  • Access to the internet / the facility to show this month's Beacon video (4 minutes, optional)
  • A bag of Starburst sweets (or similar).

The activity


  • Ask each member of staff to choose a Starburst. Ask everyone to find a partner - someone who chose the same colour sweet as they did (to mix staff up a bit). Make sure everyone has someone to work with.
  • Explain that for two minutes, we are going to have some fun exploring angry body language; however, there must be no physical contact and everyone must stop on the signal from you.
  • Check that everyone is okay to participate. If anyone feels uncomfortable, ask them to observe and make notes on what they see.
  • Ask one person in each pair to act out a very angry response to a situation e.g. a child losing a game or an adult returning a faulty item to a shop (be as exaggerated as you like).
  • Stop the activity and ask for ideas of what staff can see and hear - list these under facial expression, body language and voice.
  • Repeat the activity but this time the other partner will act out a calm response to a given situation e.g. loosing gracefully or explaining calmly their point of view.
  • Make new lists under the same headings - facial expression, body language and voice.
  • Explain to staff that even when they feel stressed, they must model calm to show pupils that they are in control. This will help to de-escalate tricky situations, and give pupils confidence that the adults are in charge and will keep them safe.
  • Eat the Starbursts!

Now put up copies of the first page of the newsletter on display in the staffroom, so staff members can refer to them at a later date.




Downloads


Don't print this page! We've produced a much more attractive version for printing and sharing. Use the links below to download a copy of the newsletter in PDF format, and use this for print and distribute the information to your staff.




PDF version of newsletter (colour)


PDF version of newsletter (black and white)

 


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