When a pupil has an outburst in school, it can be easy to approach that situation as a confrontation, where the child is deliberately engaging in disruptive behaviour. The result? Lots of stress - for the adult and the pupil.
But what if there was another approach? In this quickfire strategy episode, I give you a 2-word sentence that anyone can use when emotions are high that makes de-escalation easier... and actually helps you quickly pivot from de-escalation to problem-solving.
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Show notes / transcription
Simon Currigan 0:00
Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan and welcome to school behaviour secrets. This is Quick Fire strategy episode number six, the mini episode format where I give you one idea or strategy to think about or use with your new class all condensed into an easy to listen to 10 minute episode. Next week, we'll be moving back to our standard podcast format, which is longer goes into detail and has more guests. But if you found these mini episodes helpful and think we should bring them back from time to time, or even weekly. Let me know on social media look for me on Facebook as beacon school support. We're on Twitter, we're at a beacon support and let me know what you think. So today I'd like to give you a two word strategy that can transform a situation that might normally lead into a conflict or confrontation into a more empathetic problem solving scenario, an opportunity for the adult to coach and role model to a child how to deal with difficult situations. Big emotions are overwhelming situations. Rather than pitting the adult against the child in a spiral of doom and consequences and outbursts that's exhausting is bad for everyone and no one wins because when a student is in class, let's call our student Bria. When they start to feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed, or like they don't belong, often what they'll do is start to escalate their behaviour in an obvious way, a way that's noticeable to everyone in the room and start to get their attention. They might stop working or start walking around or calling across the class or being openly defiant. And then you can almost feel the pressure building in the room or the temperature in the room rising because you and all the other kids in there know probably from experience with Bria, week after week that an outburst is looming. In that situation, we could go across the brayer and talk to her about what she's expected to do or lay down the law or threaten her consequences. And often what that will do is it will inflame the situation and the child will tell us what they think about our consequences and what bodily cavity we can shove them up. Or maybe Bree is going to hold back her behaviour for a bit kind of try and restrain those emotions before she starts to escalate again, and then we get drawn back and back until that inevitable explosion comes author a professor Dr. Ross Green has this saying it's worth remembering in the circumstances and that kids do well when they can that means when Bria is in an environment where she is able to cope with the social, the emotional, the sensory, the cognitive pressures, she's most likely to get on with her work and do her best. But if she feels out of her depth socially, or doesn't feel like she's accepted as part of the group or she feels she's unable to cope with a current emotional state. Maybe she's unable to regulate the sensory information that's bombarding her or feels like she can't do the work. And she has low self esteem and doesn't want to fail then what we're likely to see is challenging behaviour as a result, and what we have is a skills gap. She doesn't have the skills to cope in the situation in which she finds herself so her body starts pumping out stress chemicals because that situation is uncomfortable. She starts to get adrenaline and noradrenaline and cortisol going through her system. This leads her to react emotionally. Right. One of the side effects is you become very emotional in your thinking when you've got these stress chemicals in your system. You become very focused on the now and getting away from the thing that's causing you to feel uncomfortable. So Bree is going to want to get out and if we apply pressure, it'll probably push her into fight or flight. And if we're within punching distance, let's hope Breyers go to response in survival situations is flight. So what is that two word sentence that's going to pivot us away from This potentially challenging behaviour situation towards a constructive problem solving discussion. It's simple. It's the question, What's wrong, delivered in an emotionally warm, curious, non judgmental way? So,
we're not saying what's wrong in an accusing way of saying prayer was wrong? Because the question what's wrong, sends the message, I can see you're uncomfortable. And I'm here to help. It positions you as an ally in the classroom rather than as the enemy. And it moves us away from a conversation about compliance and rules and failure, which is negative towards a forward focused conversation that's focused on problem solving, and getting things right in the classroom. So Bria can succeed, which for our part is a much less stressful conversation to have much better than provoking an outburst and then trying to use de escalation to manage it afterwards, which is, you know, exhausting. And without asking the What's wrong question anyway, we can never understand the problem from breeders point of view. Once Bria has identified the issue. Maybe she had an argument with a friends over lunch and can't settle. Maybe she can't do the work, then we respond by helping her think about solutions and finding a productive way forward. What we're doing is we're role modelling how adults have viewed difficulties in the world and how to keep small things like social disagreements and work problems in perspective and deal with them productively. And if Bree is not sure what went wrong, we can get her to think about options by giving her examples or take a guess and say something like, I think I've set the work wrong, and it's jumping too many steps ahead, on a need to change the task. You see how in that sentence, I'm not saying you find the work too hard, or the works too hard for you, which indicates we might see the child as being less able or less capable, I am taking the blame for the work task as the adult being inappropriately being badly judged and taking steps to resolve it. Now the work may be perfectly differentiated, but what I'm doing is I'm trying to empathise with the problem from Breus point of view, and help her problem solve. And that's how we're using a simple two word question. What's wrong? delivered in the right way, we can pivot an escalating emotional situation into a problem solving constructive conversation, how we can move from adversary to ally as the adult. And the truth is, as with all de escalation tools, will this two word question What's wrong work 100% of the time, or the answer is no. But it's a great strategy to have in your toolbox when you need it. And that's it for today's quick fire strategy episode. If you liked today's episode, don't forget to share it with three friends who would find it useful. All you've got to do is open up your podcast app, hit the share button, and your app will help you send a direct link to this episode through a text message or a Facebook message or WhatsApp or whatever you use. And if you've enjoyed the podcast today, while you've got that podcast app open, remember to hit the subscribe button to make sure that you never miss a future episode. And don't forget, if you're working with kids with challenging behaviour, who have difficulty with their emotions, and you're not sure what's causing them to act that way. We've got a download that can help. It's called the Sen. D handbook. And it will help you link the behaviours you're seeing in the classroom with possible underlying causes like aces, autism or ADHD. Now the idea here isn't for teachers to make a diagnosis because we're plainly not qualified to do that. But if we as educators can quickly link behaviours to possible causes quickly, it means we can get the right help from professionals and get early intervention strategies in place. It's a completely free download, go to our website beaconschoolsupport.co.uk. UK, click on the free resources tab near the top and you'll see it available to download. I'll also put a direct link in the episode description. I hope you found today's episode useful. Have a brilliant week, and I look forward to seeing you on next week's episode of school behaviour secrets
(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)