Teachers face challenges. Often.
Some of our students work against our efforts to help them learn. Some of our students’ parents treat us as opponents rather than partners in their children’s education. Some of our colleagues may decide that something petty should rise above a commitment to sharing ideas to see how we might inspire students.
Every time we are challenged by bad behavior or petty communication, though, we are given an opportunity.
The colleague who leads with something petty may be craving some validation that they have something worth sharing. Respond to the barb with “I think we see that differently, but I’m up for sitting down in a few days to talk further,” and then walking away if nothing positive comes back at that moment.
In other words, it’s an opportunity not to give the aggressive move a bad reaction that could be used against you.
The parent who comes at you often assumes you aren’t organized enough to respond to whatever substance may be within the attack. If you are (organized to do so), you can reply with, “Here’s why I did what I did [citing your evidence], and perhaps we can meet and figure out how we can make this something that will help your child take a next step academically.” That may not solve the problem, but it certainly means (particularly if you sent your reply in writing) that there is something to point to showing you took a good shot at dealing with the issue constructively.
In other words, the opportunity is to go with a reply that helps you in the eyes of your leadership and creates a potential positive move with the parent.
The student who acts out in class makes the entire room the audience of your reaction. Know that how they see what you do is at least as important as what it might mean for the student who acted out. That can keep you calmer than focusing specifically on the conflict with the student in question.
Let the student know what your focus is. “My goal is to help you make the most of what we are doing together. I have some questions about your behavior that I’d like us to discuss after class. For the moment, let’s get back to the lesson, and we can decide how to learn from this later.”
The child may be too amped for that to work. If it does work, though, you’ve de-escalated a potentially disastrous moment. If it doesn’t, you’ve modeled a calm response in a way that may be powerful for others in the room.
Is any of the above easy? No.
Is the payoff for rising to the moment with something calm worth the try? Absolutely.