Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Crisis Intervention 101

Sometimes I am amazed at what we do as ED teachers, and how well we are able to manage our teaching day despite the offending behaviors. With state testing week upon us, emotions ran especially high today; it was a day of back to back crisis, and I am left with some thoughts about our role as teachers during times.

It is clear that the success or failure of an intervention with a kid has everything to do with the amount of self-discipline and restraint a teacher can muster. When we fall short, (and we will sometimes; we are human) we are often quite skilled at defending or rationalizing our actions; after all, our very mission in life is to do right by kids. No one need question our motives or judgement.

So, it takes a pretty strong sense of self to admit when we take the low road or give in to the path of least resistance.

“But, I just couldn’t help it. The kid made me so angry”

Truly, the dynamic that builds during a child’s angry outburst should be modulated, even molded by the therapeutic adult in charge. When the adults give in to their own feelings of frustration, anger, and need for power, the length and intensity of the situation will surely worsen. When we are called to support a child in crisis, little else should matter but the immediate de-escalation of that child. Despite the child’s verbal taunts, his efforts to pull adults into a power game, her determination to make others as mad and miserable as she is….. we must resist reacting, and choose, instead, to move through the steps of our training. Our immediate goal: to settle the child enough to maintain safety. And then we can take on problem solving/ discipline issues.

“But she made me so mad. She can’t talk like that to me.”

The decisions we make in those times of crisis stay with us and the children for a long, long time. Our actions as the intervening adult either reinforce the child’s view of adults as part of the problem (sassy, easily riled, controlled by their own temper) , or adults as part of the solution (calm in the face of chaos, mindful of consequences, and willing to work out problems in a safe, honorable way).

I ask myself most every day, how will I be viewed by my students? What can I do to build their capacity for self-control, good problem solving, and acceptance of consequences?

But today I am wondering how to approach someone who is stuck rationalizing and defending their reactive response. What good comes of calling each other out when we misstep? How should we weigh the benefits to children and to the staff? Is it worth it to bring up these kinds of touchy issues with our colleagues?

What do you think?

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