Let them flow

14th March 2008 at 00:00
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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