After that day, which left me in tears, I searched for ways to prevent such horrible fights from occurring. While tension and anger between class members can’t be helped, knowing what I knew about the two students I feel that I should have done more besides separate them when I saw the anger rising. So after this experience, here were some strategies that I began using in my classroom to de-escalate an angry child or when tension was rising between class members:
- Assign them a ‘special’ task, such as sorting the stationary tub, sorting paper clips and rubber bands, straightening up the teacher’s desk, ensuring the computers are all shut down (basically anything that gives them a chance to stop focusing on their anger for a while and give them a chance to calm down).
- Send the angry student to another classroom to do some ‘assistant work’. Write a note to another teacher about using “Student A” to help out for a bit in his/her classroom (decide on a teacher or two to pair up with for doing this so they know why you are sending the student to ‘help’ as well). You could even have a special code to write for these circumstances, such as “I believe that you needed a special student to help out in your classroom for a while”.
- Always remain as calm as possible when dealing with the student. Ensure not to stare or take a stance that would seem threatening to the child.
- Show empathy as soon as possible, for example you could say to the student, “I can see that you are angry, and when you are ready I would like to understand why.”
- Set some limits if it is escalating, for example “I want you to stop swearing before we talk.”
Unfortunately, there may even be the situation where none of these strategies work depending on the individual student; yet still I have found these strategies useful on many occasions to put out potential 'fires' within the classroom.
If you have any other strategies and/or experiences that you would like to share I would love to hear them. Feel free to use the blog comments section down below.