We implement a student wellbeing program across our school titled "Play Is The Way" and one of the concepts (common in many of the best social emotional skills programs available in schools) is a focus on making conscious choices when confronted with an issue. In simple words, the challenge to any person who is simmering when things haven't gone their way or feeling like control is slipping away is "Who was in charge of your thinking? Your brain or your feelings?" A recent PD session I attended talked about where your choices are on a five point emotional scale ranging from logical, weigh it all up before acting to reaction, letting the heart rule the way and emotions becoming magnified. I had a timely reminder last week that educators need to ensure that they too have similar control of their emotions.
I came into a building after lunch and saw a child who had been pushing the boundaries all day sitting on top of a set of portable bag lockers, playing with a basketball. Calmly, I ask the child to put the ball down, come down from the lockers and return to the classroom - it is learning time. The child ignores me and I feel invisible. I step closer and ask again, a little more demanding tone as a deliberate choice. Again, I am ignored but there is acknowledgement of my presence as the child spins on their bottom and presents their back to me. Now, I am feeling quite ineffectual now and decide to up the stakes.
"Give me the ball."
No response, so I reach for it to take it myself. The student is too quick and rolls it out of my reach, rolling off the lockers and into a sink that is directly behind. Now my feelings make their surge for attention. I am not going to raise my voice but this child is not having that ball, dammit! I reach over the lockers towards the sink and realise that it really is just beyond my reach. But now I am determined and figure that with a little more stretch I can take the ball for good. I stretch a bit more and lean my mid chest into the top edge of the lockers.
Then I feel it - a sharp stabbing pain in my lowest right hand rib. My lunge is successful, the ball comes away in my hand but immediately I feel winded and hurt. I turn, clutching the painful spot and with as much dignity as I cam muster, take the ball and retreat to the sanctuary of my office. I need to sit down, take deep breaths and work out whether I have damaged myself too much. A trip to the doctor later that week confirms that I have cracked the cartilage in my lower rib and have ruled myself out of playing golf for the next fortnight.
I let my feelings overrule my common sense. In determining that the student would not win that battle of wills, I ended hurting myself in the most literal sense. A painful reminder that teachers must model their own emotional control in all situations if we expect our students to be able to use these strategies for their own wellbeing and future life choices.