Most educators agree that classroom management and discipline are significant factors in educational success. Without it, learning is a challenge.
Each school year brings more social upheaval. Bullying is pervasive from kindergarten to high school and beyond. Look towards the calming powers of emotion coaching to bring an air of stability to your classroom. Use it school-wide to have an all-inclusive effect on the students. Emotion coaching will help build resilience and resilience is the enemy of the bully.
What is emotion coaching?
Emotion coaching is an empathetic approach to classroom management and discipline. You learn about the emotional needs of your students, and they learn about each other.
Emotion coaching is not a top-down way to discipline. The emotional needs of the students are central to this type of classroom management. Emotions are viewed as ‘teachable moments’.
The Elements of Emotion Coaching
A classroom is not a class of sameness. Every child sitting in front of you comes to school each day carrying their own positive and negative emotions. Make a point of getting to know the whole student. Many children have lived a lifetime before they get to school.
Everyone reacts differently to different situations with each child having varying degrees of resilience. Unknown triggers can be an impetus for a surprising reaction to an event. As you get to know your class you will understand more about their different emotions. Emotion coaching begins with the awareness that every child is unique in their own way.
Emotion as a Teaching Tool
There is a wealth of classroom material available for using emotions as a teaching tool. Every emotion is a lesson and an opportunity for your class to learn that we all experience emotions differently. What someone likes another will dislike. What someone fears, another does not.
Sample Lesson Idea
Boredom is an emotion we all feel but often for entirely different reasons. Have fun with boredom as a lesson topic as it is an emotion that is inoffensive. It is a soft entry to teaching emotions. Begin with a discussion that will clearly define boredom.
Have everyone write down one thing that bores them on a piece of paper. Then read them out and try to guess who goes with what boring item.
From there you can discuss how we feel when we are bored. Different people have different reactions to boredom. Putting words to these emotions and giving the emotion context helps a child understand the concept in a more thorough way.
The objective is to help students realize that their emotions are valid, and everyone’s reactions can be different. We are all entitled to feel these emotions in our own way.
You can do this lesson for any type of emotion and for different situations. The emotions of fandom are one example of connecting to the student’s outside life.
During one social skills lesson in my class, we talked about the emotion connected to clowns. Several students expressed their fear of clowns. Others found them comforting and fun. With any lesson like this, it is important to make the point that emotions are personal reactions.
Fairness makes another worthy topic for emotional understanding. A sense of injustice often precedes an intense emotional reaction. Fair is not always equal in life and that topic could form a class lesson. The goal of emotion coaching is to connect emotion to understanding.
Labeling /Knowing their Emotions
Although students may have the language of emotion, they do not necessarily know what those emotions are when they experience them. This is where a lesson on connections comes in handy. We know that making connections in our subject lessons increases learning. So too does making connections with their emotions.
It can be as simple as posing the question: How do you know when you are feeling happy, sad, or afraid?
Empathy and Understanding are Key
The importance of empathy and understanding cannot be understated. Becoming absorbed in the daily schedule of getting the teaching job done can often mean that we can forget these children and their needs.
Growing up is fraught with frustration, fear, and worry. This can lead to intense emotions. Focusing on empathy towards a student’s emotional reactions takes an educator’s classroom discipline to a new level. Instead of being reactive, the teacher is proactively dealing with the student as an individual.
Social skills are not one-and-done lessons. Learning about ourselves is a life-long journey.
How to Start Using Emotion Coaching
Use everyday situations in your classroom as teachable moments to connect emotion to understanding. It does not always have to be a stand-alone lesson. Weave it into the very fabric of the school day.
Novels and stories provide a wealth of opportunities for using emotion as a teaching tool. Ask how the character feels and why they feel that way.
Have fun with it. It does not have to be limited to novels and stories. Do numbers have feelings and if so, what are they and why? This type of question expands their creative thinking too.
Research shows that developing social-emotional skills helps students manage stressful situations. That is a lesson for life.
Decrease Moral Disengagement with Emotion Coaching
As educators, we have seen the ‘good kid’ who behaves badly. We have all been incredulous when a child has said or done something out of character.
Moral disengagement can happen to anyone. You combat this by emphasizing cooperation and self-control.
Cooperative group work helps to foster classroom connections. Try to have input on the group selection and shake up the classroom dynamics.
Motivation is a key to engagement in their tasks. Positive engagement requires cooperation and self-control.
Open the school day with a short emotion coaching soundbite. Make it a positive, dynamic coaching session. Avoid the do and do not approach and use collaborative language reminding them a classroom is a shared place of learning. Look at them, let them look at each other, smile at each other, and help them make a connection to a positive emotional climate in the classroom for that day.