Preventing Anger and Teacher-Student Conflicts (How to keep your school from being the next subject of a cell phone video that goes viral and becomes national news)
ACCIDENTS LOOKING FOR PLACES TO HAPPEN
We have another video. This time it's a teenage girl thrown to the floor and around by a much larger, muscular police officer. It all started with one of those minor conflicts teachers and students get into a lot nowadays - over cell phones in a classroom. These usually don't end up the way this one did, and never should. But the ingredients are always there.
I see these incidents as being accidents or disasters just looking for a place to happen. I say this is because all the ingredients needed for an explosion like this one are there in the heads of too many students, teachers and police officers. Bring them together in a classroom, get them to start mixing it up a bit, add a spark of some sort, and you start to get a chain reaction that results in a much bigger “yield” (to use a nuclear weapon term) than anyone expected, and than is necessary or helpful.
FIGHT OR FLIGHT RESPONSE
Most people have heard of fight or flight. It’s a response built into our bodies to deal with potential threats to our lives. Anger and anxiety are the two emotional components of fight or flight. They are e-motion, or energy to move. If our lives truly were threatened, we’d want all the energy to move we can get. The catch is that the triggering of this response is ultimately a product of perception, and too often people perceive threats where they don’t exist, or magnify ones that do out of proportion to reality. They do that by how they choose to look at things before, while or after things happen. That’s why we talk about people having anger problems and anxiety disorders. They needlessly generate more anger and anxiety than is helpful or necessary. This is something human beings have been doing throughout human history, and it has resulted in much too much needless suffering, and even loss of life. Luckily that didn't happen today.
EXPECTING TEACHERS TO CONTROL STUDENTS IS A SET UP
Teachers are typically expected to have control of their students and classes by adminstrators, parents, boards, other teachers, and even well behaving students. This expectation is a set up for more conflict between teachers and students. Teachers are more likely to see misbehavior as a bigger threat to them than it is, and to even plug into their fight or flight response needlessly. They'll overreact emotionally and behaviorally, and try to control students. That only invites students to defy them. Most misbehaving students will have the "mistaken" goals of power and control, and will see any efforts to control them as a bigger threat than it really is.
THE TRUTH ABOUT CONTROL
The truth is teachers never really do control students. Sometimes there's an illusion that they do because students choose to comply rather than risk the consequences. There are teachers who think they can and do control students, and talk and act as if they do. But they really don't, and it only invites needless and futile power struggles with students, especially those who are prone to have the mistaken goals of power and control to begin with. These power struggles often escalate quickly because both feel threatened by the others comments and actions and plug into their fight or flight responses. Such exchanges often end up being analogous to someone trying to kill a rattlesnake because it struck at them or even bit them. That never ends well for either party, be it out in the wilderness, or in a classroom.
ANGER IS EMOTIONAL NITROGLYCERIN
Anger in particular is a concern because it’s the equivalent of emotional nitroglycerin, and just as difficult to handle or manage as the real nitroglycerin always was in those old cowboy movies. That’s the way nature intended it to be - explosive - to deal with real threats to our lives. But as I said, the problem is that people too often trigger it needlessly.
The comic book character The Incredible Hulk is the perfect metaphor for anger. Dr. David Banner is smart, good at his science, and mild mannered, but when he gets angry, and he “hulks out”, it’s “smash time”. The Hulk does things mild mannered Banner never would, does a huge amount of damage, and regrets it later.
Anger also gives anyone a false sense of power, righteousness, permission and protection, so it makes it difficult or even impossible for someone to see the “error of his/her ways” while angry. It’s why I say anger can make otherwise smart, well trained teachers, or police, say and do stupid things. Anger is a teacher’s #1 enemy of effectiveness.
Many of the stories we’ve read about and videos we’ve seen of police using excessive force have been of white officers using excessive force with black males, and an occasional black female. The subject of race understandably comes up. I don’t doubt that racist thinking does sometimes play a role in what transpires, but it’s only one of four basic types of irrational thinking that cause people to disturb themselves needlessly. Not enough attention or credit has been given to the role anger and the other three types of irrational thinking have probably played in what has transpired in this and other incidents.
SHAME AS AN INGREDIENT
Too many students have had a lifetime of being told and believing they don’t live up to expectations. That’s the recipe for shame. When you believe you haven’t and aren’t living up to expectations, you’re more likely to imagine you won’t again in the future and generate anxiety. Low self-esteem is really shame about the past, and anxiety about the future because of it. This causes everyday life events, like school work, and others comments to be perceived as bigger threats than they are, or need to be.
I like to say that when students get overwhelmed by shame, we get either “turtles”, (sometimes “jackrabbits”), or “rattlesnakes”. Some suck into their shells (or run away) and others coil, rattle, and even strike out at others verbally, or even sometimes physically. Students will often be “turtles” (or "jackrabbits") when it comes to school work, classes, or even coming to school itself, and “rattlesnakes” when confronted by adults for some reason, especially if adults are being critical or judgmental like others have in the past.
POKING RATTLERS WITH A STICK
Unfortunately, teachers sometimes wrongly conclude that “The problem with these kids is they have no shame”. I heard that many times in our faculty lounge. If that’s your hypothesis or theory about why they misbehave or refuse to work or show up, then it might seem logical to shame them into behaving, working and showing up. Sometimes teachers will even tell students “You should be ashamed of yourself”. That should never happen, but it does.
Trying to shame such students into behaving, working or attending school is like giving booze to an alcoholic to get them to stop drinking. The turtles just go deeper into their shells, or become “rattlesnakes”. Some students make that transition very early in life, even before getting to school. What teachers (or parents) say or do to them in an attempt to shame them into compliance ends up being like poking a real rattlesnake with a stick. That never ends well for either party. When real rattlesnakes are harassed and start to strike out, those harassing them often want to smash them with a rock. Teachers can start to have a similar impulse when student “rattlers” do, and any attempts to smash student "ratthers" with threats or consequences just cause them to strike out even more.
Many students also have a deep sense of powerlessness. It can stem from having overbearing or even abusive adults (or other kids) in their lives. But it can also simply stem from not being able to feel the way they want to, or to get their lives to turn out as they’d like. There’s a lot of that out there in students. People want as much freedom, and power and control in and over their lives as possible. It's built into our DNA for survival reassons. A lack of it could cost us our lives.
Students will often try to compensate for this powerlessness in one or both of two ways. They will adopt the mistaken goals of power and control, and rebel or defy, often regardless of the price for doing so. Some go so far that they get diagnosed as oppositional defiant. Anger tends to go with, and be the driving force behind behavior intended to achieve the mistaken goals of power and control, or revenge. Anger gives such students a false sense of power, and righteousness, permission and protection. So it’s very attractive to, and serves a large purpose in the lives of those who feel powerless, who have been told they’re wrong a lot, who have had a lot of hurtful things said and done to them, and who have a lot of shame, guilt, anxiety and even depression they don’t like having. Some use it like a drug, injecting themselves with it whenever they start to feel ashamed, guilty, anxious or depressed. For some it’s like an anabolic steroid.
Unfortunately, teachers often have the same mistaken goals of Power and Control, and even Revenge. They go hand in hand with perceiving misbehavior as a threat and making yourself angry. The issue becomes who's going to be in control, and proving you are, and even getting even with a student for perceived disrespect or some real or imagined transgression. All instead of simply getting their cooperation. This shouldn't happen because it just escalates conflicts, but it does. We always need at least one adult in the room. If both student and teacher have the mistaken goals of power and control, or even revenge, we don't have one.
We all have the right to want whatever we want. The mistake people make, according to Dr. Albert Ellis, is that they start to:
1) Think they NEED things they simply want
2) Treat their simple preferences as NECESSITIES
3) DEMAND what they simply desire
I suspect this played a role in what the student in this latest video did. Kids start to think they NEED their cell phones, and NEED to check emails or text friends. This is called having PERCEIVED needs. They can literally raise such things to the level of air, water and food in their minds. That makes trying to take cell phones away from them, or preventing them from checking emails or texts bigger threats than they really are. Some will coil, rattle and even strike out in response. Or act like a momma grizzly defending her cub.
Dr. Ellis called turning our THINK thermostat up in these ways DEMANDINESS. Demandiness is characteristic of an authoritarian mindset. Adults often will think children and teens NEED TO, HAVE TO and SHOULD do exactly what adults ask or expect of them. For example, “Kids NEED TO be respectful of their elders”, “They HAVE TO do what I say” or “Kids SHOULD do what they’re told”. The flip side is also common, i.e. “Kids CAN’T break the rules” or “They SHOULDN’T talk back”.
The reason this is important is that the bigger the difference there is between our expectations and reality, the more emotion we’ll generate. If we don’t care what kids do, it’s easy to stay calm. There’s an old saying “Blessed are those who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed”. But if we start to want, prefer or desire kids to do something, and they don’t, we’ll get frustrated, irritated or annoyed. How frustrated, irritated or annoyed we feel will depend on how much we want, prefer or desire it. However, if we start to think we NEED something, it’s a NECESSITY, and DEMAND it, the gap between our expectations and reality will be even bigger, and we’ll get ANGRY instead. The more we think we NEED it, it’s a NECESSSITY and DEMAND it, the bigger threat not getting it will be, and the more angry (or anxious) we’ll get.
Most teachers grow up being parented by parents who have authoritarian mindsets. I used to always hear “Children should be seen and not heard”. Imagine running a classroom based on that belief. Such demands get rutted into our brains from simply hearing our parents verbalize them out loud when reprimanding us. Ruts make such attitudes automatic. We may not even be fully aware of just how rutted such beliefs have become in our brains until we are cast in the role of being a parent or teacher. Sometimes it takes a student acting out to really make us aware of just how rutted and automatic such beliefs are in our minds. That false sense of power, righteousness, permission and protection anger gives will keep us from seeing just how dysfunctional such beliefs or attitudes might be in dealing with students.
Some jobs probably attract people with authoritarian mindsets. Teaching might, but law enforcement definitely does. People tend to be drawn to jobs consistent with their belief systems. There would be too much cognitive dissonance if peoples’ beliefs conflicted too greatly with what they have to do from day to day. Once we are given charge of a classroom, or given a badge and sent into the community, it’s easy to think those in our charge NEED TO, HAVE TO or SHOULD do what we ask or tell them to, and CAN’T or SHOULDN’T disobey us. The systems we work for will back us up if we have such beliefs. With this mindset, when some students or citizens do act out or disobey an order, it’s easy to have the hot thought “HOW DARE you?” and go ballistic emotionally. Our behavior will tend to follow our emotions toward our life events, so if we go ballistic emotionally, we’ll explode behaviorally. That’s why I see that police officer doing in the video. My mentor used to always say “If their behavior could talk, what would it say?” That officer’s behavior is screaming to me “HOW DARE YOU?” about that girl’s defiance.
If we think we NEED something like we need air, water and food, we are more likely to think it would be AWFUL if we didn’t get it. If we didn’t get air for even a few minutes, it would be awful – we’d die. The same is true if we didn’t get water for a few days, or food for a few weeks or more. Most things students do are really just unpleasant, inconvenient or uncomfortable for teachers in some way. How unpleasant, inconvenient or uncomfortable teachers perceive them to be will depend on what teachers want, and how badly they want such things. However, if teachers turn their THINK thermostats up from simply wanting, preferring and desiring that students do certain things, to thinking they NEED to, it’s a NECESSITY and DEMAND that they do, it makes them not doing what teachers want a bigger threat, and more likely to be perceived as AWFUL. That’s especially true if teachers treat student compliance and obedience like air, water and food.
CAN’T STAND IT-ITIS
We all have a right to like or dislike whatever we want to. We have a right to not like what students do. The mistake teachers make is to turn their THINK thermostats up from I DON’T LIKE IT to I CAN’T STAND IT. This causes them to get angry instead of just frustrated, irritated or annoyed. If we were suffocating, we would eventually die. That’s proof that we truly couldn’t stand what was happening to us. However, when teachers tell themselves they can’t stand what students do, that’s not going to happen. So they are really lying or exaggerating to that part of their brain that controls their emotions – a part that is blind deaf and dumb to what’s really happening outside us, and around us. This part of our brains takes the words of the top portions of our brains at face value. In this way, teachers needlessly inflame themselves about student behavior. It's why Dr. Ellis called this cognitive exaggeration I can't stand it-ITIS.
LABEL AND DAMNING
According to Dr. Ellis, labeling and damning is blatant over generalization. It’s calling an apple “bad” simply because it has a small bruise. It’s calling someone stupid just because he/she did a stupid thing. It’s condemning the doer instead of just condemning the deed. Racism is basically labeling and damning.
Here’s the irrational logic behind racism. That barrel is “bad” because it has some “bad” apples in it. That person is part of that barrel. Therefore, that person must be a “bad” apple too. Legally, this is called racial profiling. In Dr. Ellis’ brand of therapy, it’s called label and damning. It’s blatant over generalization.
So how much of a role did racist thinking play in this latest videoed altercation, or the others we’ve seen? I honestly don’t know. I not sure anyone does. I don’t think there’s any way we can be sure. The four types of thinking above typically occur so automatically and rapidly because of a lifetime of practice and rehearsal that even those having such thoughts can be unaware that they’ve had them. Lots of people have opinions about how much racist thinking played in each case, but it’s really just speculation. There is often other evidence uncovered that will lend support to such contentions, i.e. intra department racist emails among police officers in Ferguson.
WHEEL OF MISFORTUNE
Dr. Ellis said that you will always have all four types of thinking listed above, and people will go quickly from one type to another. He used the metaphor of that famous game show “Wheel of Fortune” to create a visual for people. He called it the “Wheel of Misfortune”. So which of the four types of irrational thinking came first in this incident and past ones? I don’t know if there’s any way to be sure. Some would suggest it was labeling and damning in the form of racist thinking. But it could just as easily have been demandiness in the form of an authoritarian mindset, followed by awfulizing and can't stand it-itis, with labeling and damning being last in line. Not to mention that there are all kinds of ways people can label and damn others besides focusing on skin color. For example, “That little brat” or “What a jerk”.
THE ROLE OF ANXIETY
It’s important to understand what anxiety really is and how it comes about. It’s half of the emotional components of fight or flight. Many times, people will start with anxiety and it will morph into anger, and they’ll be ready to fight.
Anxiety is a figment of (read that product of) imagination. It’s about things that haven’t happen yet. Things that could happen, but haven’t yet, and often never do. The ability to learn from the past in order to imagine or anticipate potential threats in the future is a survival function of the brain. If we weren’t able to do this, we probably wouldn’t have been as successful as a species as we have been. But as noted earlier, the problem is that people can imagine threats where they don’t exist, or magnify ones that do out of proportion simply because of the way they choose to look at things.
The formula for anxiety is: CATASTROPHIZE + AWFULIZE = ANXIETY
First someone imagines something “bad” happening, and then they tell themselves it would be awful if that did happen. If they said, “So what, who care? It wouldn’t be that big a deal”, they wouldn’t feel anxiety.
Here’s a common scenario. A student talks back or acts out in class. That’s certainly not much of a real threat to a teacher. It could be unpleasant, inconvenient or uncomfortable for the teacher and even other students in some way, but it’s certainly not awful. But what teachers often do in their minds is start to imagine what might happen if they don’t respond strongly to what the student did. It’s fairly common for teachers to imagine other kids will think that it’s okay to do what the student did, and they’ll get more of such behavior because of that. Teachers are often warned of this by veteran teachers, or may even have experienced it themselves in the past. That just makes it easier to imagine that it might turn out that way. Then they imagine that they’ll lose control of their classroom, which is something they’re expected to have control over. Students will stop respecting them and cooperating. Other teachers and their administrator will get wind of this and start to have a low opinion of them as teachers. They might even get a poor evaluation the next time around, and even lose their job some day.
In this way, a simple act of misbehavior becomes a much bigger threat in the teacher’s mind than it really is at the moment. All the scenarios listed could come to pass, but haven’t yet. But the teacher generates intense anxiety which quickly morphs into anger. Their thought is “How dare you?”, and the teacher is more likely to overreact. There’s two ways to make something you don’t like worse. Do nothing and overreact. Teachers too often do the latter because of what they do with a simple misbehavior in their own heads.
AN EXTERNAL LOCUS OF CONTROL
Another big factor in any confrontations between people is that those involved usually both have an external locus of control. That means that they wrongly believe that it’s what the other person says or does, or doesn’t, that really makes them feel the way they do – that causes them to feel the way they do. That’s not how it really works. It’s really what people choose to think about what others say and do, or that happens that really causes them to feel the way they do. Thoughts cause feelings, not events. But if teachers and students both wrongly see the other’s behavior as the cause of how they feel, that will make what the other does a bigger threat than it really is, or needs to be. That gives both more reason to get upset about the other’s behavior.
When teacher-student conflicts occur, or any conflicts occur for that matter, those involved typically use YOU MESSAGES when talking to others. YOU messages are orders, threats, commands, put downs, name calling, ridicule, sarcasm, criticism, lecturing, etc. They usually involve pointing a finger at others. YOU messages are driven by anger. Anger typically begets anger in return. If one dog growls at another, the second one either whimpers and runs away, or growls back, and maybe even attacks. People too often do the latter when confronted with anger, YOU messages and finger pointing. YOU messages invite power struggles, and for people to adopt “mistaken” goals, and to behave in stupid, self-defeating ways. Remember anger gives people a false sense of power, righteousness, permission and protection. And if someone is plugging into the fight half of their fight or flight response, it’s about fighting to the death if need be, even if only verbally. He who gets the last shot in wins.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO TO PREVENT SUCH ALTERCATIONS?
We need to teach people to have better control over their FEEL or emotional thermostats, and how to keep them turned down, not turn them up needlessly, and turn them down quickly should they go up. One reason is that peoples’ behavior will always follow their emotions toward their life events. If people get angry, they’ll probably act like angry people do. That’s especially true since most have practiced and rehearsed doing so many times before in their lives and have some deep emotional and behavioral “ruts” they can easily slip into. Most do, and the anger keeps them from seeing the “error of their ways”.
A second reason is that anger is like emotional nitroglycerin. People are often sent to anger management. That usually means trying to teach people to learn to have impulse control and to not do what human beings so often do when angry. To me, that's a fool’s errand in many ways given that anger is emotional nitroglycerin, and that’s what nature intended it to be to help save our lives. It’s like trying to close the barn door after the horse is already out. It’s like trying to get the Incredible Hulk to not smash things after he’s already hulked out. I’ve always felt a more rational goal is to teach people to not get angry in the first place.
By the way, most people believe that it’s better health wise to “get it off your chest”, to vent when you get angry instead of “keeping it in”. Actually, there’s no difference in health outcomes between those who get angry and let it out, and those who keep it in. The only people who fare better health wise are those who don’t get angry in the first place.
Yes, anger is part of being human and half of our fight or flight, but as I noted in the beginning, people too often simply needlessly plug into fight or flight, and needlessly make themselves angry simply because of how they choose to look at things before, during and after things happen. They do that by thinking they NEED things they simply want, by treating simple preferences as NECESSITIES, and by DEMANDING what they simply desire – often by SHOULDING on others. They do it by AWFULIZING, telling themselves they CAN’T STAND things they simply don’t like, and by LABELING AND DAMNING others.
ANGER AND CONFLICT PREVENTION
An ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure. Nowhere is that more true than with anger and the conflicts caused and escalated by people making themselves angry. Plotting a course of action is relatively simple once you’ve identified the real underlying causes of altercations. It’s like a doctor correctly identifying the underlying causes of a patient’s ailment. It’s much easier to prescribe a treatment.
STEP 1 – GIVE PEOPLE A THINK-FEEL-DO THERMOSTAT MODEL
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That’s true when it comes to teaching and helping people to better manage their feelings and behavior. The THINK-FEEL-DO thermostat model helps people see where they are emotionally, and how that affects their behavior. It shows them why they are where they are emotionally – it’s because of the way they choose to think or look at things. This model also helps them see where they might want to be instead emotionally and behaviorally. It also shows them what it will take to get there in terms of their thinking – that the key to turning their FEEL and DO thermostats down is learning to turn their THINK thermostat down, keep it there, and turn it down quickly should it go up.
There's an article about the thermostat and a diagram of it at:
STEP 2 - TEACH AND ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO HAVE UNCONDITIONAL OTHER ACCEPTANCE AND SELF ACCEPTANCE.
This means choosing to see whatever they and others think, feel, say or do as being understandable given that they and others are human, fallible, and what they each have been through so far in their lives. That doesn’t mean they have to like, agree with, or tolerate what others think, feel, say or do. Choosing to look at what others say and do this ways just helps temper their emotional response to it.
Looking at what they themselves think, feel, say and do this way combats shame and guilt. Shame and guilt are often the precursors to both anxiety and anger, the two halves of fight or flight. Anger is often a secondary emotion, and often secondary to shame and anxiety. Shame about the past, and anxiety about the future because of it make everyday life events, including others comments, bigger threats than they are or need to be. This makes people more likely to be “turtles”, or even worse “rattlesnakes” who are quick to coil, and even strike out at others, verbally or perhaps even physically.
You can read more about UOA and USA at:
You can read more about teaching students to have UOA and USA at:
STEP 3 – TEACH PEOPLE TO HAVE AN INTERNAL LOCUS OF CONTROL
Teach them that it’s really what they choose to think about what others say and do, and what happens that really determines how they feel. Their thoughts about the events of their lives cause their feelings, not the events themselves. Teach and remind them, and encourage them to remind themselves of all the cognitive choices we all have, all the time, and make constantly, usually without being aware that we do. Help them see that these are choices they alone can make – that no one else can make for them unless they let others do that. Most people do, but with practice, people can be taught to stop doing that.
These cognitive choices are the source of their power and control over how they feel – and their emotional destiny. No one upsets them, they upset themselves – and that’s good news. It means they can choose to feel whatever way they want to, and as good as possible regardless of what happens. Whatever they think or feel will always be understandable given that they’re human, fallible, and what they have been through. But it is their choice how they want to look at things, and therefore it’s their choice how they want to feel.
Developing an internal locus of control also means to learn and remind themselves of what they do and don’t control in their lives. No one controls what other people think, feel, say and do. Many people think they can and do, and talk and act as if they do. However, we only control what we think, feel, say and do. We can influence what others do, but if we try to dictate what they do, that just invites conflict. The more people focus on trying to control what others think, feel, say and do, the more conflicts and power struggles they''ll end up in, and the more out of control their lives will feel. The more people focus on and try to control what they themselves think, feel, say and do, the more in control they’ll feel, and the less threatened they’ll feel by others words or actions.
To read more about developing an internal locus of control as a teacher, go to:
To read more about teaching students to have one, go to:
You can also go to my website on Mental and Emotional Karate:
STEP 4 – TEACH PEOPLE TO RECOGNIZE IRRATIONAL THINKING
Dr. Ellis provided us with a simple model for doing this. As noted above, he said people engage in four basic types of irrational thinking to needlessly disturb themselves: demandiness, awfulizing, can’t stand it-itis, and labeling and damning. It’s fairly simple to teach people to recognize this pattern of thinking in themselves and others. For more about how to do so, go to:
To learn how to recognize it in yourself, go to:
To learn more about teaching students to recognize it in themselves, go to:
STEP 5 – TEACH PEOPLE TO CORRECT IRRATIONAL THINKING
Teach them to correct irrational thinking in themselves and tactfully challenge it in others. There are a host of simple ways to correct irrational thinking. For example:
1) Teaching and encourage people to apply the scientific method to their everyday theories and hypotheses about the way life is, or should be. Every thought we have, or comment we make is really our personal theory or hypothesis about the way life is, or should be. Does the evidence of life support or refute our theories and hypotheses? Does it suggest better ones?
2) Simply asking “Is that a fact or opinion?” People disturb themselves needlessly because they think in terms of opinions instead of facts. The more people think in terms of facts, the less they’ll disturb themselves needlessly, the better mental health they’ll enjoy, and the less conflicts they’ll get into. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Looking at things this way helps avoid conflicts.
3) Teach them to ask simple but direct questions, and to answer them correctly. Encourage them to practice doing so until it becomes automatic, and functions like grammar check on a computer. For example:
"Why do they have to do what you say? They have to, or you just want them to?"
The only correct answers are:
"They don't have to, I just want them to. They don't have to do anything"
4) Earlier I said that a common hot thought people have when the go ballistic emotionally is "HOW DARE YOU?". The answer to this question and others like it is alwayss the same. EASILY!
You can read more about how to correct irrational thinking at:
STEP 6 – TEACH TEACHERS TO SHORT CIRCUIT ANXIETY
Remember that teachers can start to imagine all kinds of things happening when a student misbehaves. Those are things that could happen, but haven’t yet, and often never do. However, imagining them can contribute to manufacturing a threat where one really doesn’t exist, or magnify one that does way out of proportion to reality. So a simple strategy to short circuit this process is for a teacher to tell him/herself:
“That might happen, but it hasn’t happened yet. And if it does, I’ll deal with it”
And he/she could add:
“Just like others do. Just like I have in the past. And just like I probably will have to again in the future.”
A second strategy is to brainstorm some coping statements a teacher could say to themselves or out loud to combat the second ingredient in the formula for anxiety, awfulizing. For example, “It wouldn’t be the end of the world” or “I’ve survived it before, and will again”. A teacher could even have a “coping card” handy, or even a poster on the wall for them and students for whenever anyone starts to openly awfulize in class.
A third strategy is to challenge awfulizing in the ways shown above. It also helps to challenge demandiness. When teachers turn their THINK thermostats up and start to think they need things from students, i.e. respect, and demand them, they are more likely to catastrophize and awfulize.
STEP 7 – TEACH AND ENCOURAGE THEM TO ASSERT THEMSELVES WITH I MESSAGES
YOU messages are also called solution messages because they try to take away from others their right to choose what they will think, feel, say or do. No one likes when others do that. I messages simply give others information, and leave it up to them what they want to do about it.
You can read more about I MESSAGES at:
THE MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL TOOL KIT
These are six of the ten tools in the Mental and Emotional Tool Kit for Life. I believe we should teach all ten “tools” to every new and current teacher. Then we should enlist their help in teaching the same ten “tools” to ALL students, starting in age appropriate ways as early as possible, and continuing to do so through college. You can read about all the “tools” at: