You Can Do It

An Excerpt from Thoughts for Effective Teaching by Tiffany Tyndall — The Entirety of 13. Stay Calm Always

You can be firm and decisive, even with tough students, and yet not lose your cool.  Resolve today to stay calm always.  Why is this important?  Isn’t it a good thing to let students see how mad you are?  Well, it’s a better thing to let students see what an adult looks like and sounds like.  Adults know how to express emotions like anger in a constructive way.  And as we all know, teaching can sure put us on the fast track to getting angry.  It’s not an easy profession by any means.

So even in the midst of very challenging days and even more challenging moments when all you see is red when a student does or says something that put you over the top, remember to stay calm.  Say what needs to be said, but don’t say it meanly.  Do what needs to be done, but don’t do it meanly.  Be firm and decisive, not angry and out of control.

Staying calm is reflected in our face, in our demeanor, in our mannerisms, in how we stand, in the tone of our voice, in the speed that we put things down and pick things up, and in the way we respond to other people.  Our choice of words is probably one of the most important things of which to be aware.

Start by writing out a list of emotionally-neutral yet direct phrases that you can use when you feel that you are starting to get upset by what students are doing and saying.  Remember that, as the teacher, it’s our job to enforce positive expectations.  We can’t just let students do and say whatever they want so that we don’t have to confront.  We need to learn how to confront in constructive ways without ignoring how we feel but without being angry all the time.

Here is an example of what you can say when a confrontation or even a light correction in behavior needs to happen:  “That’s not okay in here.”  It’s swift and direct so that you’re not going on and on about things, but it still allows you to address misbehavior and remind students of what’s acceptable in your classroom.  Say it with a matter-of-fact voice.  Keep it business-like.  You don’t want to remind students of their nagging mother or father.  You are their teacher and they are your students, and neither party can do their job if there are constant distractions and disruptions.  Be cool-headed about it.

Stand your ground with stuff, but remember that you don’t have to do so in an angry way, just in a determined, constant way.  Be consistent.  But stay calm always.  Students will actually respect you more when it doesn’t look like you’re taking everything personally.  If you come off very matter-of-fact in voice and behavior, then students will have less of a reason for acting up.  They will know that you are not easily riled up, so the joy of misbehaving has lost its magic.

Thoughts for Effective Teaching: Maintaining Perspective and Remaining Reflective While in the Trenches of Teaching by Tiffany Tyndall is available for purchase here.