PRINCIPLES OF DIPLOMACIA & EMPATHY
- DIPLOMACY: I try to listen to myself talk and keep an eye on the way I come across. I make sure that I say things in a way that is not hurtful at any level and try to take into account who I am talking to. We know that these youngsters can be very sensitive and can (and indeed do!) take comments out of context!! So I make sure that I earn their trust as soon as possible in the school year.
- I check their reaction when I say something and have to decide what reactions they are entitled to (e.g. part of their stage of growth) and what reactions are my projections (e.g. making them accountable for something that they shouldn’t be).
- When the interactions are clean and the boundaries preserved, there is no damage When there is an abuse of power at any level, there is backslash of some sort at some point in the future. Then you know that your integrity and their integrity was not preserved. It takes a keen eye to walk on the neat line of responsibility.
- EMPATHY: If I don’t know / sense / understand where my students are coming from, I can’t go down where they are at and bring them where I want them to go.
- I need to adjust my understanding to what they know and to their level of growth before I can help them learn more / grow more.
- It is about preparing their mind and heart for learning and for making the long-term commitment to succeed, rather than simply teaching them facts and figures.
- STAYING CENTRED: I can’t give my power away so I can’t let them press my buttons. I diffuse, in many more occasions than I can count, the energies on the moment.
- I don’t take everything to heart and I don’t take everything literally. They try to take control by breaking the rules: e.g. swearing, making noise, doing anything inappropriate…And they will do it again and again if I lose it. So if I make a joke instead: “Are you OK? I was worried about you for a minute…”. This diffusing strategy tends to make them laugh so they lose the grip on that particular trick at that particular moment, and the group moves on.
- When they realise that a trick doesn’t work with me, they may take it to the next level and try to disrupt the lesson by finding something else that may be more effective. The problem with this is that they escalate their misbehaviour… At some point, I may see that they simply refuse to be called to order, an open sabotage of the class, then I step up and I use my voice to make this point: a) I summon all my authority, b) I look at them in the eye and hold their gaze and c) I give them a choice and finally, d) I make sure that I say the last word.
- It is at that point where I allow no excuse to step over that boundary. I don’t need to reason and I don’t need to concede – I imply: “I am in charge here, this is my classroom, you will do as you are told”. Normally that curbs the behaviour of the most rebellious at that point.
- This is a point of making them submit. However, I make sure that in my next interaction I show that I don’t hold a grudge = it is not personal, I don’t hate that individual student: I talk to them normal, I give them praise on anything that they do well… They soon learn that the line between what is acceptable and is not acceptable is very clear indeed and that I don’t like or dislike them based on their behaviour. By being neutral and not projecting, they soon go back to the right side of the line.
- I make sure that in these interactions I make it very unpleasant for them to be on the wrong side of the boundary line of acceptable behaviour. And bit by bit by bit, with a lot of patience, love, compassion and empathy, they align themselves with the right direction of things.
- NOT FALLING FOR “THE DRAMA”: which would allow our students to drive the lessons. There is an emotional response to everything that happens in life and it is usually quite
- Because their energies are not fully anchored (not that many adults’ are either!), it is easy to feel for them. But feeling sorry for them puts us at their level and sucks us into their game. For me it is simply a manipulation technique that buys them some time before they actually get on with their responsibilities at the school.
- So I ask them what’s up, then listen briefly to their pains and sorrows but take it with a pinch of salt. If they need a moment to compose themselves, that is fine.
- I do realise that they may feel under duress but I always try to quickly give them a fresh and neutral perspective of what life is about: a different outlook of the issue, which usually has the effect to get them off the emotional hook, at least for a brief moment.
- This brief moment is usually enough to allow the lesson to continue with a certain level of harmony; the effect is usually that of bringing them back to reality and to re-grounding When they realise that they don’t need to feel sorry for themselves, they get out of their victim mentality.
- NOT “PROJECTING” YOUR OWN LIMITATIONS: I have to be very clear whether the issues in the classroom are mine or them. I can’t be projecting my negative emotions, limitations, frustrations, etc, on them because this would be the beginning of the end!
- I need to keep my house in order at all times and be centred. If I make a mistake, if I get upset because they have pressed a button, a weak point of mine, then I quickly must recover and say something along the line: “yes, this is something I still need to work on”.
- Normally, this kills the emotionally charged moment and the imbalance in the class is quickly corrected. They understand that we are all imperfect and we are all human. When this happens, they tend to quickly forget the issue and move on, continuing with their work.
- This can be a very sensitive and touchy state of being for a teacher who may not want to admit that the students are not always wrong; but nevertheless, it is totally necessary in order to keep a good-will / balanced atmosphere in the classroom.
- OPEN-MINDNESS: I can’t come to the classroom knowing everything and deciding what is going to happen at all times. I have to come to the classroom with an attitude of allowing the energies of the moment to guide me where we all need to get to as a group that day.
- I don’t know everything about them and I don’t know what will trigger them that day, so I have to be open-minded. Life is bigger than me and these children have their own destinies. Deep inside they know what is a good or bad path for them, so when you align yourself with them, they will follow your lead without friction, and this feels like effortlessness.
- I also need to realise that their language is different from that of the previous generation so I have to be open to what they mean rather than how they say things, otherwise I might get upset about something that was not even intended!
- ALLOWING FOR THE MIRACLE OF “BEING SURPRISED”: When students go further and faster that you expected, you acknowledge that they are ready to take the responsibility and follow your guidance.
- I must always stay open to the expectation that you never know when this can take place. When they do take place, I acknowledge it and make sure I sound positive and encouraging, but I don’t make a fuss. That would give them power to manipulate you in the future.
- But it is definitely these moments that make everything worth it!
By Dr. Ana Garcia PhD, DTM.