As the academic year begins, it seems like a great time to review ways we can calm an upset student. For many students, getting adjusted to a new school routine can be stressful. I hope you find some of the following tips helpful in your conversations with students at this time of year.
1. Reflect, Reflect, Reflect
“You wish you didn’t have to be here.”
“You miss your old school.”
“You are worried about passing this class.”
Remember, reflection statements often begin with “You…” or “It…” and end with a period (not a question mark). Your students will hear you “get them” and will feel connected and understood.
Your goal: Seek to understand what is “underneath.” Then, show you understand by making a reflection statement to prove it.
2. When Necessary, Take Action
What is the student upset about in the first place? Once you have reflected back their feelings to show you understand and empathize, ask yourself: Does something need to be done to make this right? What needs to be fixed and how can I fix it? What can I do to make this situation better for the student? If “fixing” applies, then go take the action needed. Remember, if it was a situation for which you were responsible, your action here may be to apologize for any error or miscommunication. A heartfelt apology can go miles to helping your student feel better (even if it was only a perceived error).
No matter what the issue, let the student know what you’ve done or what you will do right away to correct the situation. If time is needed for the “fix,” keep the student updated on the progress, and let them know once the issue is resolved.
Your goal: Solve the problem (when applicable). If there’s something to be fixed, fix it or state what you CAN do to help!
Affirm the positive qualities of this student (no matter how hard it may be!) Affirmations – spoken as another form of reflection statements – have the goal of shining a light on the strengths of students. This goes deeper than complimenting their first-day-of-school-outfit. True affirmations reflect a strength of which the student will be proud. An affirmation points out a quality which students recognize deep within themselves. When students realize you can see the best in them, they become less defensive and more confident. They begin to see themselves in a more positive light, too. Remember, unfavorable student (or parent) characteristics usually have a positive flip-side, such as these two examples:
Interrupts class often by speaking out = Engaged in learning, has a passion
When we look at students (and parents) through a lens that helps us see strengths, it becomes easier to spot great qualities about which we can make affirmation statements. One characteristic to affirm may even be their courage in coming to talk with you about their feelings and concerns.
Your goal: Find AND make a statement about a positive quality of this student, to reduce defensiveness and increase confidence.
4. Thank the student
If there was a specific situation to which the student alerted you, thank the student for letting you know about the problem / need. Thank the student for feeling comfortable sharing with you / talking with you. Be genuine, authentic.
Your goal: Let the student know that you valued them sharing with you / talking with you. Thank them for sharing any important information about a problem that needed to be fixed.
Wishing you a wonderful start to the academic year!
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