Classroom management is the most challenging part of a teacher’s job. No teacher wants to get into a power struggle with students. Even when you are a seasoned teacher who has gotten the art of keeping order in the classroom down to a science, you will need a sizable toolkit of de escalation techniques for teachers for dealing with disruptive student behavior. Learning is only possible in a compassionate environment characterized by trust and respect, so your own behaviors and calming strategies make a big difference. Resources are available for teachers who want to get better at de escalating student behavior.

De Escalation Techniques For Teachers

In your classroom, every student’s behavior affects the other students. The way you respond to an agitated student affects the entire class. If you respond with active listening and you address the problem while showing respect for the student’s feelings, not only will you de escalate the situation, but you will also send the message to the whole class that you are in control. Students learn from your example. If you resort to power struggles, then you will not be able to de escalate the current problem, and more than one student’s behavior will be worse in the future.

De Escalating Student Behavior Is an Essential Part of Teaching

The stress of life affects everyone, especially students. By de escalating student conflicts in your classroom, you are modeling effective conflict management and healthy responses to stress. If you engage in exclusionary practices and publicly shame students, you will either lose your authority or students will disengage from the learning environment. Your job as a teacher is not just to teach students English, math, science, social studies, or a foreign language. Your goal is to model practical strategies for engaging with stressful situations. You should lead by example and practice brief role-play exercises to help students build a developed awareness of their own emotions and those of their peers.

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Are You the Cause of the Power Struggle?

Accepting responsibility for your actions is an important part of teaching and of conflict management. Your age alone means that you have more experience practicing de escalation strategies than your students do, even if you are in your 20s and it is your first time being in charge of a classroom on your own. No one should expect sixth graders to know how to de escalate a wide variety of contentious situations, especially when they are upset.

Mind Your Body Language

It goes without saying that staying calm is conducive to de escalation, but raising your voice and making threats or accusations is not. The de escalation process can build the road to success or failure before you say a word. Even if you stay calm, you can make a student feel more anxious just by your nonverbal communication. Don’t get too close to a student’s personal space or stand with your arms crossed or your hands on your hips. The student might feel that this is a threat, even if you mean it as a neutral response. This is especially true with elementary school students since adults are so much taller than they are. It is easier to manage a successful intervention when you consciously focus on keeping your body in a calm state.

Know When Students Want to Be Left Alone

Sometimes teachers inadvertently escalate conflicts with students. It might feel natural to draw attention to a student who does not seem to be paying attention in class. Maybe your teachers did that with you and your classmates when you were in school. Many students dread getting challenging questions from teachers even when they are in a good mood and are well-prepared for school. Avoid making demands of a student who is giving nonverbal cues that he or she wants to be left alone.

Teachers know that they should not take it personally when students cannot avoid bringing their emotional turmoil into classrooms with them. Remember that every student is also a person, one who has less experience dealing with anxiety and other negative emotions than you have. Sometimes the best thing you can do with a student who is wearing a grumpy expression is to ignore him or her for the moment. Do not raise your voice or incite everyone to look at the troubled student. Do not try to argue with the student about why your course is more important than the problem that is occupying the student’s attention. Ultimately, your job is to support the student on his or her path to becoming an emotionally mature adult. This means giving the student time to get into a frame of mind to be taught. Leave the student alone for a few minutes and focus your statements and your eye contact on the other kids. After the bell rings, ask the student if he or she is upset and give him or her an opportunity to discuss the problem with you.

Build Classroom Management Into Your Lesson Plans

Teaching involves a fair amount of improvisation, and so does de escalation of conflicts, but the more you plan to use de escalation strategies, the easier it is to de escalate the conflicts that can arise in your school. De escalation strategies are not always intuitive; you probably wish that someone had taught them to you sooner. You can make learning to de escalate conflicts and to stay calm when you are angry a part of your curriculum. Teachers should give students the support they need to practice de escalation with their peers and with adults.

Empower Your Students By Teaching Them De Escalation Strategies

The most important thing your students learn from you is not the multiplication tables or the elements on the periodic table. It is how to react to the conflict while treating the person as a human being. Not only should you model the behaviors that constitute an emotionally intelligent response to conflict, but you should explicitly teach de escalation strategies to every student under your tutelage. Learning to de escalate conflicts will help students well beyond your classroom. They will learn to implement the most effective behavior in conflict situations, without letting negative feelings cloud their judgment.

The classrooms that best prepare kids are the ones that treat de escalation as an ongoing topic of conversation. For example, you should post a sign on the wall of your classroom that contains guidelines for conflict resolution behavior. It should contain clear examples of behaviors conducive to de escalation. For example, “Don’t get angry at other people for things they cannot control,” and, “Adults are not always right just because they are older; it is worthwhile to discuss your point of view with them.” Likewise, you can have a rule that says, “Talk to other people about their troublesome behaviors when you are calm.”

Deal With Your Own Feelings First

You have heard the proverbs about how you must manage your own emotions before you can make a successful intervention in someone else’s conflict. Physician, heal thyself. Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. You must fill your own cup in order to pour from it. Students will push your buttons every day, but it is important to keep your feelings in check if you want to have any hope of dealing effectively with behavior issues.

Keep Calm and Focus on the Behaviors

It can be hard to ignore it when kids are trying to provoke your anger and calling you names, but it is important not to respond emotionally or to take out your anger on the kid that it is your job to teach. You can leave the classroom under the charge of a support staff member while you take a few minutes to calm down. Think of all the things you don’t want to say to the kid and then come back and talk about the situation. Don’t escalate matters by immediately threatening to send the kid to the principal’s office. Classrooms are the best place to address conflicts that originate in them.

Support for Teachers Struggling to Respond to Behavior Issues

You must change your own behavior before you can change anyone else’s behavior. The best way to do that is by implementing de escalation techniques for teachers confidently and on an ongoing basis. Life is hard, and you have the unenviable task of helping young people manage their emotions and get to an easier stage of life. The more you know about de escalating conflicts in your school, the more rewarding your job will be and the more of a lasting impact you will have on the kids you teach.

Defuse Offers Specialized Training for Teachers

You can receive thorough de-escalation training for teachers to use in your school. Defuse offers de escalation training in person and online for individuals and groups. Our training courses are customized to your professional field, namely teaching. Contact Defuse De-Escalation Training to learn more about how to de-escalate common types of conflicts in your school.