Reply To: Meltdowns in class

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In addition to what Maria said, if other students are picking on a child because he/she broke the rules or was doing something he/she wasn’t supposed to be doing, I ask the class “Is it your job to worry about what other kids are doing? Who are you supposed to worry about?” The correct answer should always be “I only need to worry about myself.” I remind the kids it is not their job to enforce the rules; that is MY job, and if they are concerned about whether or not someone else is doing the right thing they are not properly doing their job on our “team” and not being a good team player. The only time that they need concern themselves with what somebody else is doing is if 1) they are doing something that is potentially dangerous and could hurt themselves or another person, or 2) they are engaging in bullying behavior. Otherwise, not their job–and they’re just tattling, which does not help us.. It’s my job as the teacher to determine whether or not someone is following the rules. If they argue about it (it’s not fair, they cheated, etc.), I ask them what happens in a sports game if a player argues with the referee: the ref isn’t going to change his ruling; what will happen is that the player who argues will be given a penalty (like a yellow card in soccer) or kicked out of the game. That usually stops any bickering immediately. There is actually a sign/picture floating around on the internet–I’ve seen it on Pinterest–that explains the difference between tattling and when it’s necessary to tell an adult. I explain the difference as, if you’re just telling on somebody to get them in trouble, and not because they’re doing something that’s dangerous, they’re being a tattle-tale, and tattling isn’t helpful.

If a kid does start to cry for whatever reason, I find that the best thing to do most of the time is just to ask them quietly (calling as little attention as possible to the fact that they’re crying) if they’re ok, if they would like to sit by themselves or go use the bathroom, maybe if they need a tissue, but otherwise just leave them alone. Some kids are just emotionally sensitive and their feelings get hurt easily (in some kids this comes out as crying, for others they get angry and lose their temper), and the fact that they’re crying or that they’ve lost their temper is embarrassing, so if you draw extra attention to it by making a big deal of it or making the other student apologize to them while they’re still upset it will just make things worse and they might not want to participate at all for the rest of class. Most of the time if you leave them to cool down on their own they will be fine again in a few minutes. If you feel it’s necessary to ask a student to apologize to another, I’d wait until later when they are no longer crying or upset. My own son is like this, and the more attention you draw to him when he’s upset, or more special attention that’s drawn to him, period (like if you give him a reminder about behavior in front of the class–doesn’t have to be harsh, just the fact that he thinks other kids are looking at him–or sometimes even if you single him out for something positive), the worse that makes the situation–something that might just blow over on its own in a couple minutes ends up with them not wanting to come back into activities later in class… and if it’s a student who has frequent temper/emotional issues, you’re going to cause him/her to develop a relationship with you where the child feels you can’t be trusted or that your classroom isn’t a emotionally safe environment.

But overall, you kind of have to pick your battles. If you find that such and such a game always causes arguments and ends with kids getting upset, don’t play that game anymore or change the rules. Especially if it’s a game with any kind of competition–kids can get cut-throat about whether or not someone caused their team to win fewer points or if they think someone on the opposite team is cheating. I’m not sure what the rules of the rhythm game are, but whenever I have games with “points” I almost always find a way that each kid can earn at least one point in the game. If the point of the game is for them to learn and to have fun and the competition is interfering with both those goals, tweak the competition aspect of it. Or… you can add a rule that if anybody complains about another student, their team loses a point. THAT usually stops any complaining.