Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Signs of Weakness or Wisdom?

spiderIn ABC--Arachnids' Brazen Counterattacks
from Sioux's Page, Sioux asks,

“And what would happen if we were all like that spider? What would happen if when we were attacked, we immediately armed ourselves for our own self-defense?”

This reminded me so many times of my student’s behavior. Somewhere along the line, students have learned not to show when they are scared or frustrated. They have been told they are lazy or don’t try hard enough or don’t study enough. Many times that may be the case but many times it may not be the case. For some reason they may not know what to study or how to study or maybe they don’t even understand the entire concept to begin with.

Any time we perceive that we are being attacked, our body naturally goes into a fight or flight mode (remember those development classes we had to take?).
When students perceive they are being attacked, many start acting aggressively. When this happens, many teachers react to this behavior. It is only natural that when the students act aggressive, the teacher tends to “push” back.

I have found the best way to handle situations like this is to take a step back instead of a step forward. First of all, the student doesn’t expect this. Teachers are afraid that this is a sign of weakness but I see it as a sign of wisdom. I might even tell the student that I am feeling (disappointed, angry, frustrated) with the student’s behavior and I will need some time to think about how I want to handle this. Many times my behavior can either escalate the situation or defuse the situation and if at all possible I like to defuse situations as often as I can.

I might have to remind myself that the student’s behavior may be a defense mechanism. I need to look objectively at the whole situation and see if there was something that triggered the student’s behavior. If I find the cause, I won’t excuse the behavior but I will understand it better. This will help me have a productive conversation with the student who may not even realize why he acted this way until it is pointed out to him. Helping him understand how he is reacting to certain situations and helping him find other appropriate ways to handle them will help the student be more successful in the future.

Sharing this information with parents will also help everyone involved. I like to imagine that the student, the parents and I are all on the same time so we all need to know what is going on. This helps the parent see that I also care about the student and that I’m trying to find ways for him to be more successful. By getting this information, the parents can all help to reinforce the new behaviors that the student is learning to replace the inappropriate behavior.

All of this takes time and energy so the changes won’t happen overnight. I just need to remember that signs of weakness may actually be signs of wisdom.

Image: 'Gummi-Spidey'

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