How Do We Support Students Who Lose Control?


What Does "Equitable" Look Like - Supporting Students Who Are Triggered:

I am teaching grade 6/7 students about racism. In a side conversation, Mr. Smith says,“I teach those students the same as any other student and yet they take such offense. She stays in a snit for a long time and misses valuable school time. And the mother calls me saying I am singling her out. I don’t know what to do.” 

As teachers and administrators, we experience these kinds of interactions more often. Doing our best to be equitable, we can still be misunderstood. Our goal is to move our students forward so they can reach their fullest potential. And yet, we are often at a loss as to how to make that happen.

I share a powerful formula which totally lights up Mr. Smith. Emotion + Meaning + Action = Outcome (E + M + A = O.) As people, we all walk around with coloured lenses. We experience events in our lives and add meaning e.g. “I studied really hard for that test and I almost failed.” A possible meaning added could be, “I am not smart.” Then we look for proof that this is the case and our actions line up with that e.g. child does not study hard in the future thinking, “I am not smart, so why study hard.” The outcome is the child does not reach their potential. And, as a teacher, we can throw our hands up saying, “I feel like I am doing all the work and the student makes little effort.” 

What if we could teach the student to choose a more powerful mindset? Would that make our work more successful? What would it do for the students?

As teachers, we must learn how to help our students overcome a self-defeating mindset. Of course, this teaching must be done when the child is calm.

I use this formula, (E + M + A = O) with students in teaching Social and Emotional Learning (SEL.) Students share situations where they are frustrated. We create a chart like the ozone below and brainstorm other, more possible meanings. They powerfully choose one and think of that in future situations. 

This exercise is life-changing! The SEL workshops are very successful. Both teachers and students experience life. changing realizations. Recently, all grades 4-8 students received a hundred-minute workshop with double classes in the library. A teacher asked, “Do you do these workshops for adults as well? We need them too.” "Yes, I do teacher and administrator workshops as well."

The workshop for students was followed by a one-hour evening presentation for parents and children.  

Parents and children had a lot of fun discovering the "Make It Right Formula" as it applied to their relationships inside and outside the home.

Here is what the principal said afterwards:

"Thanks again for your hard work with our teams – classes, teachers and community...  a very worthwhile experience. It was particularly wonderful to see the parent/child interactions, and the impact of the learning in your sessions. Though we’ve hosted a number of parent/child evenings before, this particular approach was experiential and really pushed everyone’s thinking! Many thanks!"

-Yana Ioffe, Principal