What About When It Goes Wrong?

Today has been one of those days. There are three days left until the end of term, and anxiety is high. Sometimes even with the best efforts in the world, days do not go as planned. And today has most certainly been one of those. In our world once there has been one meltdown, the odds are that another one will follow. It can at times feel like we’re planning bop it!

Today, I have been hit and sworn at. I’ve also had apologies and hugs. I live in a world of extremes. When my students are calm, my room is probably the calmest in school. When they aren’t, it’s a very different story indeed.

But in a way, days like this are the reason I love my job so much. I would be bored in a different world. I enjoy the challenge; the challenge of helping a student feel calmer after a difficult time, the thrill of seeing them learn a new coping strategy or of calming themselves more quickly after a meltdown.

I remember once going to a primary school and being told be an extremely aggravated headmistress that a student destined for me the following year had threatened to kill his teacher that morning so she had sent him home. I replied very calmly, that if I sent my students home every time they threatened to kill me, I wouldn’t have very many students in school.

My students say lots of things when they’re angry, some are aggressive and others make personal comments. The key is to find a way somewhere within yourself of understanding that not only do they not really mean the things they say, but also that they don’t always understand just how much they hurt.

In a world like mine, each second has to be a fresh start. That doesn’t mean you can’t have consequences – because I very firmly do. But it does mean that just because a student is unkind or angry, that very little will be achieved by being unkind or angry back. Once something has left their mouth, they are usually quick to forget and that means I have to do too.

So please, next time a student with autism says something to you in the heat of the moment, think a second, smile and say something kind back. Smile when they leave your room, and smile when they come in. If you have a sanction for swearing or unkindness, carry it out. But carry it out with a smile. Show the student that although you didn’t like their behaviour, you still do like them.

Over time, with help, that student will learn new strategies for dealing with their anger. By modelling kindness, compassion and calm you can help them do that. More differentiation, rolled into your lesson without a single worksheet in sight.

(P.S. the same strategy has also been found to be useful with other staff and other halves, why not give it a try…..)

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