MemberJune 30, 2020 at 11:58 pm
What do you think of this writing? I think it’s one of my best ones 🙂
Disciplining from the Heart
Among your 30 pupils, Chaim, Dov and Eli are your toughest bunch. Chaim is the
pinnacle of chutzpah, and gets under your skin with his fresh and defiant remarks. Dov
and Eli are constantly calling out and find it very difficult to sit straight. Try as you might,
your nerves are shot and by the end of the day, you’re emotionally exhausted. In short,
your class is warzone-like. Each day, you enter your class mixed with feelings of hope
and dread. Hope to finally “get” them and dread because it’s a seemingly never-ending
endeavor. After all, you’re only one person with a seemingly impossible task against
you: Teaching and reaching each student.
That was precisely the battle I faced. I genuinely wanted to reach them, understand
them and discipline them from a place of positivity and love. When I was successful, I
took the time to understand them better which helped me get into a positive frame of
mind and was therefore better able to assist them. Other times, my feelings of
frustration quickly grew and got the better of me inducing a viscous cycle. In other
words, it was a power struggle; I was fighting them and they were fighting me. To say
the least, I didn’t feel too good and they probably didn’t either.
That’s when I decided to do my research and came across the following book: Positive
Discipline, Tools for Teachers, by Jane Nelson, ED.D. In their book, Neslon and Kelly
teach and emphasize that behavior is not random. They explain by means of example
that there’s always a motive for the behavior. For example, the child that is consistently
chutzpadik (in any shape or form), is in essence “saying” or if you will, ‘crying out’:
‘Notice me; I want to be noticed.’
In other words, the child subconsciously wants to be
good, but doesn’t have sufficient tools, so he/she resorts to negative attention-seeking
behaviors thus, turning into (daily) vicious cycles: The child wants to be noticed, but
doesn’t know how to do so in an appropriate manner, and so, they act out which greatly
challenges the teacher.
Another example, although less extreme, would be the child that assumes inadequacy
and continuously asks for assistance even though he/she knows very well that they can
do it. I find that these children (really anyone) need constant encouragement, positive
reinforcement and need to be heard that we believe in them. In particular, one such
student stands out; let’s call him Benny. Benny knows very well that he can do his math
work it, but is easily overwhelmed and discouraged and therefore continuously asks for
help. To show Benny that he can do it, I validate his feelings, encourage him, and tell
him that I’ll be back in a few minutes to check on his work. I come back and praise him
for his hard work and efforts. This bolsters his self-esteem as he sees that he can do it.
Both the teacher and student feel good. It is a win-win situation.
Though the above examples have “happy endings,” not every and not nearly every
situation will end with both the teacher and student feeling happy and accomplished.
Children will challenge us, test us and watch us grow increasingly agitated.
Nevertheless, and even more so, it’s crucial and a must to try as much as possible to
remain calm and positive. The key is to remain calm and positive. Yes, calm and
positive. Negativity will not help us reach our goal. It antagonizes students and adds fuel
to the fire. What will help us reach our students is by remaining calm and positive.
You may wonder and ask, ‘how is this possible to do?’ I find it helpful to remember that
it’s not personal. They are suffering/in pain/frustrated and etc., and are letting it out on
us because they don’t have adequate skills to regulate themselves and therefore project
their feelings onto us. This new perspective can shift our frame of mind from negativity
to positivity and develop more compassion for them. Lastly, and perhaps most effective
is taking a deep breath and a brief mental step back. Both have the power to calm us,
regulate us, and allows us to give the situation the proper attention it needs. Though it’s
far from easy (when you have your hands full), employing these strategies is crucial for
both student and teacher. When we’re calm, our cognitive abilities are fine-tuned and
we’re equipped to be proactive instead of reactive. We’re able to assess the situation
and come up with an appropriate plan of action.
In closing, I want to clarify that the objective of this article is not to Chas V’shalom put
down students or teachers. To the contrary, it’s to increase awareness and hopefully
give over some tools (and food for thought!) to effectively deal with the challenges that
come up in our career of teaching. As dedicated teachers, it’s my hope that we remain
skillful while giving over love and compassion. Perhaps it can help to remember that our
students will forever cherish rebuke that came from a place of love, care and
compassion. With Hashem’s help, we should be Zoche to see the fruits of our labor!
MemberJuly 1, 2020 at 12:52 am
Thank you for sharing this! It has such a beautiful message. This is just what I needed to hear now, as I worry about the responsibility I’ll face when I enter the teaching field this coming September, be’ezras Hashem.
MemberJuly 1, 2020 at 6:46 am
Very important message. Teachers are human beings in an occupation which leaves no room for error :-). Thanks for sharing.
MemberJuly 1, 2020 at 1:14 pm
You’ve had a lot of varied life experiences to give you the depth to write meaningfully on a variety of topics.
Can I issue you a challenge? Cut out 25 words. E.g. not “Your class is warzone-like” but “Your class is a warzone.” OK, same word count, but do you get where I’m going?
MemberJuly 1, 2020 at 7:07 pm
Thank you so much for your compliments! (I don’t know how to quote someone…)
Yes, I B”H have varied life experiences as I have struggled with many different things and still am struggling, but on the right road, b”H.
Fayge, I’m not sure I what you’re referring to. I thought that writing “warzone-like” fancies it up.
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