Everyday chaos seeps into the classroom. It does not come with an invitation, announcement nor permission. It is not factored into the lesson plan nor is it given a place on the grading scale, but it is ever so powerful and even controlling. What is it? The short answer is the student’s emotions. The longer answer is the mismanagement students have over their emotions. This mismanagement is simply due to a lack of training. You would think that the study of ourselves, the way we behave, how we behave and why we behave would take precedence in every classroom beginning as far back as when a student first learns to read. This is not the case. So when a student gets angry, he or she feels justified saying whatever comes to mind. If a student is sad or down, he or she might do less work. If a student is nervous, his or her focus can shift even to the point of erratic behavior.
Emotions trump every other aspect of what a student knows, as a Huffington Post examiner touts. Emotions trump student learning. Emotions trump student concentration. And emotions trump student dedication. A student can have these great intentions and aspirations, but let human emotion overwhelm him or her and it is all bad news from that point moving forward. When I refer to emotions hindering the learning process I am speaking to the imbalance of one or more emotions. As one or more emotions increases it takes more will power from the student to manage those particular emotions. The only way to get it under control is to practice keeping it under control. The long-term plan is to start teaching students in kindergarten how to handle their emotions. Which would be going a few steps further than what is received on Sesame Street. Sesame Street is good, but there is no real world accountability. Within the educational structure there is great opportunity for accountability. Annually, the growth of each student would be measured with regards to her or her understanding and knowledge of how to one’s own emotions. So as life throws curve balls their way, they already have an action plan for how to handle failure and not throw a temper tantrum in the middle of the basketball court when they lose the All-Star game. The short-term plan is to better equip students experiencing everyday life with some quick tools to place within their warehouse of academic weaponry. I find that my own students need help with rejection; how to cope, how to move forward and how to stand his or her ground once rejected. My own students also need help with understanding death and addressing birth, life and death as a part of the human life system. Understanding how to grieve and letting go is not only important, but healthy.
One might think these are cases for the school counselor and in some regards they are. Many students are suffering from various environmental factors which can cause a myriad of issues in school. There simply are not enough counselors to fully equip hundreds of students and respond to hundreds of student emotional concerns on a continuing basis. Also, the practice of handling emotional turmoil must become proactive versus reactive. We have to put in place training modules so that students can learn how to manage their emotions even on a functional level. It is like having the introductory class the first quarter or semester of college. That class gets a student ready to handle college life. So too, we as educators must have a short-term solution to help students handle what could become hazardous to the learning process, their own emotions.
Anger is probably the most serious emotion that gets the best of students. Research shows that it takes twenty minutes for the anger to subside allowing for the person to think clearly. Trying to make a rational decision prior to the expiration of the twenty-minute deadline could prove to be reckless. I have a student who constantly apologizes for his actions. He would not have to apologize so often if he would only take a chill pill while he is angry. What is so important about a student’s emotions is that they will stay with the student for the rest of his or her life. They are not going anywhere. So students either learn to manage them while in school or they learn much later in life. What is unfortunate, however, is that some never do learn the keys to controlling their own emotions, hence controlling themselves.