The next in the series of posts expanding on my August 10th discourse about
CHARACTERISTICS OF AN EFFECTIVE EMOTIONAL DISABILITIES TEACHER
#2. I deal directly with student emotions; I don’t shy away from taking issues on.
Imagine, if you will, a class of 8-12 emotionally disabled 6 year olds, ready at any moment to spring into action: VERBAL OUTBURSTS, INAPPROPRIATE LANGUAGE, PHYSICAL AGGRESSION, WITHDRAWL, DEFIANCE, WORK REFUSAL….etc. (I know, I know, it sounds like the typical gen ed middle school class...)
No wonder it’s tempting to create a classroom behavior management plan designed to assure quiet and compliance. By designing and supporting a learning environment that honors obedience, a settled feeling of apparent safety can develop.
Too bad that’s not what’s best of our ED students.
Our kids need us to model appropriate, healthy attitudes about feelings. We need to teach them to recognize and monitor their strong emotions, and provide them with a framework that guides them through times of crisis. We have to be fearless in our acceptance of their feelings even as we unequivocally reject violence, harassment, etc. When kids see that strong emotions can be confidently managed, a new world can open up to them.
We are often (but not always) the only people in their lives who address problems and crisis in a productive, head-on manner. We seek out teachable moments during the day to highlight problem solving strategies; we notice when moods shift, peer conflicts are bubbling up, or care and concern is demonstrated. We value how the social skills of our students improve, in much the same way as we value academic success. After all, the behavior/emotional concerns are what’s getting in the way of the child’s learning.
Moreover, we rely on the collegial support of our like-minded peers. Dealing with so much visceral negativity can be overwhelming. In order to do our jobs effectively, we must talk through and problem solve with our trusted colleagues. It’s too hard a job to do without that added support. Like our students, we have to come to understand and accept our own emotional reactions in our highly charged, emotional work environment.
For more information about emotional intelligence and the classroom environment, check out the following links: