There are two questions that pop into my mind:
The first is: Is this the result of COVID? Trauma?
I have been working in schools for more than 30 years, and I know that issues of disruption, aggression, non-compliance, defiance, etc. were on the rise well before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. And, the truth is, students affected by trauma have always been in our classrooms; we are just now beginning to understand more about how trauma effects brain and body function.
The second question that comes to mind is: If the “typical strategies” of checklists, behavior charts, and other punishment/reward systems remediated behavior, shouldn’t we see lasting, improved behavior in classrooms? In my 30 years of working in schools, we have never seen as many behavioral therapists, experts, interventionists, etc., welcomed into classrooms. There are thousands of dollars being spent by districts across the country in their efforts to reduce these issues.
Each year I see this painful cycle unfold:
- Student behavior becomes unmanageable in the classroom.
- Educators do the best they can to follow the guidelines and suggestions from their administrators and behavioral experts.
- Checklists and behavioral charts don’t work. Sure, they may scare the child into submission in the moment. However, no real learning happens when fear, shame and distrust are the dominant internal states ignited…which is exactly what happens when these strategies are used.
- Educators become increasingly frustrated, discouraged, annoyed and angry because, often, those things don’t work on their own (usually in that order).
- Their tolerance and patience decline at a rapid rate.
- Behaviors in the classroom escalate further.
- Educators ask for more help.
- Administrators get annoyed because they have exhausted all of the resources they have.
- Educators feel unsupported, and the cycle continues.
Educators’ mental health, wellbeing, and emotional states are costing schools a fortune because the current approaches are not addressing the heart of the issue. Most schools expect teachers to leave their emotions at the door and stick to the job of disseminating information.
ALL behavior is generated from an internal state of thought and emotion. This is true for every human being, including both students and educators.
So, when behaviors in a classroom begin to hinder the learning opportunities, it’s time to start asking about, caring about, and investigating INTERNAL STATES — beginning with the educator in the classroom.
In general, how are they feeling? Really feeling. Not just in the classroom, but in their lives.
We need to support the educators and support them from the inside, out. Because here is what I know without a doubt and there are mountains of research to support me on this:
When educators are able to hold themselves in a state of regulation, calm, presence and compassion, this internal state is felt by everyone in the room, especially your students who astutely perceive the emotional states of the adults around them milliseconds before any words are spoken. This creates a sense of safety, trust and connection which is a stronger bond than any words can produce.
Want to break the cycle with daily practices to shift the nervous system into regulation, calm, focus and compassion? Contact us to learn more.