Managing Confrontation: "Keep Your Cool"

by Carolyn Ito

The student is counting on you, the adult, to hold it together. Model appropriate behavior. Control your voice, body language, and words. Your emotions are spoken through your voice and body language. Monitor and control what you say non-verbally.

Voice-flat, controlled, respectful

Pitch: Vary it and keep it normal. High-pitched signals agitation and tightness, perhaps leading to out of control. Low-pitched signals tiredness, depression, relaxed.

Resonance: Originating low in chest is best. High is in head.

Tone: Combination of pitch and resonance, aim for firm.

Volume: Keep it low. Breathing: steady, inaudible.

Speed: Normal and increased signals eagerness, embarrassment. Decreased signals negative, boredom.

Body language-minimize, hold still

Movement: Slow, deliberate. Avoid display of panic or anxiety.

Position in relation to student: About 3 feet. Close but not "in the face", don't crowd, allow for cultural differences.

Eye-level: To establish eye-contact, block student' s vision/access to source of confrontation.

Facial expression: Pleasant, not laughing.

Relaxed stance: Loosen joints, unclench hands and teeth. Arms at sides in non-threatening position, avoid pointing.

Choice of Words
  • Use student's name

  • Length of interaction: brief- less than a minute

  • Content: stick to one behavior, don't get sidetracked. Tell the student what to do, not what s/he is doing wrong. No-nos: threats, sarcasm, references to poor past performance.

How to Make a Request
  1. Issue a short polite request/command.
    - Don't use question.
    - Only one request at a time.
    - The content should tell student what to do rather than what not to do.
    - Use please the first time.

  2. Allow 5 to 10 seconds for the student to respond.
    - Verbally reinforce compliance.
    - Do not nag.

  3. Make request a second time including "I need for you to..."
    - Remind student of consequences

  4. Compliance: verbally reinforce compliance, say thank you, reinforce making a good decision.

  5. Non-compliance after second request: apply the consequences set out in your classroom procedures.

First request: What is the first request you could make to your challenging student?

Second request: What is the second request you could make in response to the student's non-compliance?

What are two different statements that you could say to acknowledge the student' s feelings?


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