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Let them flow

Outbursts shouldn't be taken personally. Allow pupils to vent their frustration and deal with the situation later, Sue Cowley advises

It's the moment every teacher dreads. You make a reasonable request: "Damien, please sit down and do some work." Damien's face turns purple, his eyes bulge, then he unleashes a torrent of abuse.

Why does confrontational behaviour happen? Typically, it's about the psychological baggage that pupils lug into school. When Dad screams it might not be safe to respond; here, pupils can vent their emotions without fear of physical retribution.

When a pupil explodes, remove all emotion from the situation. Keep your voice low, quiet and toneless. Adopt a non-threatening posture and avoid direct eye contact. If you sense that a pupil needs to rant, let them do it. You can deal with the bad language later: once the top is off the volcano, let the lava flow until it cools.

Ensure the safety of your class. If things get physical, send a trustworthy child for help, then gather the pupils at a safe distance. Know your rights and responsibilities - study the guidance about reasonable force.

Afterwards, take account of your emotional reactions. Give yourself time to recover - a cup of tea, a hug, a cry. And don't take it personally: it's not about you, it's all about them.

Sue Cowley is an author, trainer and presenter.

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