Teacher Tool #1

Understanding and appreciating the important role of
emotion
in the classroom and everyday life
Home page                                                                 Tool #2
Overview of Emotion
Emotion can be a nice thing to have, like joy and pride at
seeing a struggling student succeed after helping them.  It  
can also be helpful energy to move to make our lives better.  
That's why I often write it as E-motion. Get frustrated or
irritated and annoyed at how a day in class went, and you'll
be motivated to come up with a plan to make the next class
time turn out better.  If you're concerned about being
evaluated the next day, it motivates you to check your lesson
plan, and make sure everything is ready for the next day
before you go home.  If you have regret or remorse about
how you treated a student, it motivates you to seek them out,
to apologize, and try to make amends.
A Dysfunctional Amount of Emotion
Unfortunately, too often, people generate what I like to call a
dysfunctional amount of emotion.  It's easy to do that in a
classroom when you're dealing with 25-30 students, and a few
are not cooperating. The increasing expectations for, and
demands on teachers to raise test scores only exacerbates
any conflicts.  By dysfunctional, I mean the following:
1)  More than is necessary or helpful for the situation you find yourself in
2)  More than you want to have
3)  More than you know what to do with
4)  More than is healthy for you
5)  A type and amount that works against you instead of for you
How it works against you
The main way a dysfunctional amount of emotion can work
against you in a classroom is that it makes you more likely to
react to what happens instead of respond to it.  It makes you
less response-able, or less able to respond to what students
do in the best possible way. One of the rules I lived by as a
teacher was: "There's two ways to make something you
don't like worse.  Do nothing, or overreact to it".  Teachers
more often than not do the latter.  

Anger and anxiety are two emotions that end up being
dysfunctional more often than not. When people say they
are stressed out, it's more often than not anxiety, (worry,
dread) that they are experiencing. These emotions are
designed to make us react. These two feelings are tied to
our fight or flight response to threats. You wouldn't want to
take too long to react to real threats to your well being or life.
The problem is that we can perceive threats where there
really are none, and unnecessarily magnify any that might
actually exist and generate anger and anxiety needlessly.
I call anger the number one enemy of effectiveness for
teachers. Anger can cause otherwise smart teachers do
stupid things with students.  A big part of the reason that
happens is that anger gives anyone a false sense of power,
righteousness, permission and protection. With students
having cell phones, we've seen all kinds of videos of
teachers doing just that uploaded to YouTube.   

I always encourage teachers and parents to see behavior
they don't like in their students or children as being the mere
tip of the iceberg.  I urge them to consider it as a symptom of
thoughts and feelings a student or their child has that they
need our help with.  That said, limits need to be set for kids,
and sometimes consequences are needed to encourage
students or children to abide by those limits.  I was taught
the 3 R's of consequences.  Consequences should be
Related, Reasonable, and dispensed in a Respectful way.  
When teachers make themselves angry, it's easy to violate
these three guidelines.
The Think-Feel-Do Thermostat
I like to use an old fashioned thermostat, one with a needle
you can move up or down, to help visualize what's
happening with thoughts, feelings, and actions.  Imagine the
face of that thermostat being divided into three columns, and
three rows.  The columns represent what you THINK, FEEL,
and DO.
Thermostat goals
Most people see other people and what happens as
being in control of their thermostats. That puts people at
the mercy of others, and what they say and do, or what
happens. People are more likely to feel worse than they
need to, for longer than necessary. More importantly,
when they see others as being in control of their
thermostats, they miss many opportunities to feel better.
By looking at things
this way, people unknowingly give others and events in
their lives power and control over how they feel that those
people and events really don't have. They give away
power and control they do have over their own emotional
destiny without realizing it. There are two goals you should
have with regard to your emotional thermostat.  I can teach
you how to achieve these two goals.

1)  Learn to have control over your emotional thermostat, and take it away
from others and events of your life
2)  Learn to turn your thermostat down quickly if it should go up, and keep
it down more often than not
Emotional Objectivity
Dr. Robert Marzano says that "Emotional Objectivity" is key
to a teacher being effective in managing classrooms.  That
almost seems like an oxymoron, but I've always taken it to
mean that teachers don't want to let too much emotion
contaminate their judgement.  They don't want to generate
so much emotion that they react or overreact instead of
responding in the best possible way to the challenges
students often present them with.  He rightfully says the
key to achieving "Emotional Objectivity" is "Mindset".  

Getting angry can actually reinforce the misbehavior you
don't like and are trying to prevent or stop.  The reason is
simple. When teachers get angry, most kids will believe
they made their teacher angry, and the teacher will believe
the same. Students will not like the consequences that
might come from a teacher getting angry, but it will give
them a false sense of power to believe that they made their
teacher angry. That can give  them more reason to continue
to behave that way. That false sense of power can override
any discomfort, inconvenience or displeasure they might
experience from their consequences. That is especially true
if they had the mistaken goals of power and control, or
revenge in misbehaving the way they did in the first place.  
They are also more likely to seek revenge in the future.  
 
Management vs. Prevention
We often hear about anger and stress management.  I
believe we need to teach teachers how to prevent anger
and stress from happening in the first place. Dr. Albert Ellis
used to make an important distinction between temporarily
feeling better and GETTING better. There are a lot of ways
to temporarily feel better. Some are healthy, i.e. meditation,
exercise, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, listening to
music. Others are not healthy, i.e. smoking, drinking, using
drugs, overeating.  

To understand how these work, consider this formula for
feelings.

    
 EVENT + THOUGHTS = FEELING

It's really the thoughts we have about the events of our lives
that cause how we  feel. The many ways there are to
temporarily feel better work in one of two ways. One, they
give us a temporary break, time out, or vacation from the
real, remembered or imagined events of our lives, and the
thoughts we have about them.  Two, they deplete the
energy to move, or emotion that has built up from having
such thoughts about our life events.  
In this way, they are much like OTC (over the counter)
drugs for the symptoms of a cold or the flu. As long as they
are in our bloodstream and tissues, they give us relief from
our symptoms. But as soon as they leave, our symptoms will
return because the drugs do nothing about the cause of our
symptoms - a virus infecting our tissues. Likewise, as long
as we engage in the activities suggested by experts to
relieve stress, or imbibe in the other ways, we get relief.  
However, once we stop engaging in such activities, our
events are usually waiting for us, if only in our minds.  Our
thoughts about those are usually well "rutted" in our brains
from practice and rehearsal.  They usually return quickly,
and the feelings we had before start to build back up again.  

Getting better means permanently reducing the frequency,
intensity and duration of emotions like anger, anxiety,
depression, shame and guilt. The only way to do that is to
change the way we think about our life events, ourselves,
others and life.  It's called cognitive restructuring. It's means
achieving the "mindset" Dr. Marzano talks about.

The other four tools on the list on the home page do that.
They will help you GET better, and prevent stress.
If you get frustrated, irritated or annoyed, you have helpful
energy to move, but not so much that you lose the ability to
respond and start reacting.  However, if you generate anger  
you become more likely to plug into fight or flight and react,
or even overreact to what students do.  
In the FEEL column, the bottom represents "calm". The
middle represents "frustration, irritation, annoyance".  The
top section of the Feel column represents "anger".  An
important point is that anger and feelings like frustration,
irritation and annoyance are not just stronger or weaker
versions of the same thing.  They are qualitatively different
emotions.    Frustration, irritation and annoyance come from
wanting, preferring and desiring something, and not getting
it.  Anger comes from thinking you need something, it's a
necessity, and demanding it, and then not getting it. For
example, thinking your students need to be more respectful
and demanding that they be, and then they aren't. You can
have a low to high frequency, intensity or duration of each
of these feelings.  It depends on how much you want,  
prefer or desire something, or think you need it, it's a
necessity, and demand it.
Likewise, anxiety and concern are also qualitatively
different emotions.  The reason is because of how they
come about. If you want, prefer or desire that things turn
out a certain way, and then imagine they might not, you'd
have concern. The amount of concern you generate will
depend on just how much you want, prefer or desire
things to turn out the way you want. However, if you think
things need to turn out a certain way, that it a necessity
that they do, and you demand that they turn out the way
you want, then you'll generate anxiety. The frequency,
intensity and duration of anxiety will depend on how much
you think they need to, that it's a necessity that they do,
and you demand that they do.
Anxiety is the other way to plug into your fight or flight
reaction.  If you have concern, you have energy to move,
but  not so much that you plug into fight  or flight and react.
You still are free to respond in the best possible way.
However, when you generate anxiety, you are  more likely to
react. You become less response-able, or able to respond.
The same can be said for other feelings.  Generate
sadness, regret and remorse and you have energy to move,
but are still free to respond in the best possible way.  
However, generate depression, shame or guilt and you are
likely to react or overreact to your life events instead.
 
Counter
Emotion and Mistaken Goals
People all want pretty much the same things. For
example, to be happy instead of unhappy, to be
successful at what they do instead of fail, to get along
with others instead of disagree and argue. Ideally, we'd all
do everything we could to get those things. Unfortunately,
people often have what Rudolph Dreikurs called
"mistaken" goals that get them off course. Two common
ones are "power and control", and "revenge". Students
can have them with teachers and other students. Teacher
can have them with students.

E-motion can be helpful energy to move  to help us
achieve our real life goals, like being successful. The
more frustrated we get, the more energy to move we have
to do what it takes to be successful. But generate anger,
and you'll be more likely to have  the "mistaken" goals of
"power and control" or "revenge". Both are driven by
anger. The more anger someone generates, the more
driven he/she will be to prove to others they have power
and are in control, or to get even with them. Either will
make it harder to get along, or even be successful, either
as a student or teacher.