TECHNIQUE #61: Emotional Constancy
#61, Emotional Constancy reads: Manage your emotions to consistently promote student learning and achievement¹. Would that we couldn’t all achieve this, in and outside of the classroom. Doug Lemov refers to the classroom as a ‘social laboratory’, a place for trial and error for students. Social trial and error, but building off of that, a school’s true purpose, academic trial and error. Part of behavioral expectations includes academic behaviors as well; I feel as though Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹ consistently returns to this fundamental premise. That all teachers should insistently return and refer to scholarly attitudes and high academic expectations as the basis for all consequences and rewards.
Emotional Constancy requires “-lessening the intensity of strong emotion, especially frustration and disappointment…students need to be able to figure out how to interact and even make mistakes without being judged too heavily and without seeing you explode.”,(p.440)¹. Intense emotions have averse effects on individual students, but also larger alter the classroom environment. Strong emotion should be converted into feedback, nothing more, nothing less. Here are some TLAC® tips toward toward the emotionally constant path:
Emotional Constancy and Behavior:
- Walk Slowly: Great idea. When in the course of academic events it becomes necessary to approach a student whose behavior is out of alignment, move slowly, in a composed manner. This gives you time to breath and adjust and also removes the apprehension that a swiftly moving adult might trigger.
- Criticize Behaviors Not People: This framework for delivering consequences/correction has come up time and time again; however, it has been a powerful effective phrase that has helped me to phrase my language when addressing inappropriate/off-task behavior. Here’s another keeper: “This behavior is not in line with what we’re learning today. Throwing paper is a discourtesy to the classroom activity.” In stead of “You’re being rude”.
- Take Your Relationship Out of It: Whenever possible, try to keep “I” or “me” from becoming the object pronoun in when giving consequential feedback to a student or a group. Focus your statements on the classroom expectations. Frame things impersonally.
- Avoid Globalizing: Don’t refer to past infractions; avoid statements like: “You’re always shouting when you come into the classroom” or “Why are you always doing X”. A correction shouldn’t feel like a “gotcha!”. Try not to refer to repeated infractions, especially those that were not specifically addressed: “This is the third time I’ve seen you texting in class today”. Keep the event singular and in the present; nothing is chronic unless diagnosed by a larger team of educators, administrators and parents.
Emotional Constancy and Academics:
I am very glad that this segment was highlighted. Emotionally Constant teachers may very well manage behavior effectively and productive but infuse academic impatience and disappointment when it comes to students as scholars. Some of the best behaved students chose to turn in poor quality work or no work at all. Quiet students quickly become some teachers’ Kryptonite when they refuse to participate in group discussions. Mild mannered, productive students stumble and fail when attempting to solve algebraic equations. Likewise, save your pity and try not to make excuses for students’ inaccuracies. A wrong answer is a wrong answer whether you are a quiet or a boisterous student. Here are some tips toward providing academic Emotional Constancy:
- Wrong Answers: Don’t Chasten/Don’t Excuse
- Strive to avoid highlighting wrong answers: “We’ve reviewed this one hundred times; you should have this memorized by now”.
- Avoid blaming the rigor: “That’s OK, Charlie, that was a really tough problem.”
- Wrong answers don’t need a lot of narration. Don’t feel obliged to label every response as right or wrong. Instead discuss the process. Instead of say, “Oops, sorry that’s incorrect”, reset the question/problem with: “What’s the first thing we have to do to solve #4?”. Ambiguous right or wrong answers elicit higher order thinking skills, “Jane, how did we begin to answer to this question; what’s our starting point?”
- Right Answers: Don’t Flatter/Don’t Fuss
- Avoid Exclamatory Narration: A big Hooray! over a correct answer can make a student feel as if you didn’t have confidence that they were capable of answering correctly.
- Establish praise regarding the over all percentage of correct answers; emphasize the thoughts behind the correct answers. Save the number of rights and wrongs for tests and quizzes when there is a little more anonymity involved in the accuracy.