• Teacher Tips

5 Ways To Cope With Those Comments

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

People sometimes think that they are helping by making a comment on your class’s behaviour or the routine you follow, but this can come across as being critical without cause. This means we can often over-think or mis-interpret the comment, or even let it eat away at us for at least the next few hours. The comments might leave you thinking, “hey, what did they actually mean by that?” Be the change and think with difference. It will help you to cope and put it in perspective.


Technique 1: Step back and breathe

You might feel embarrassed that a senior member of staff has just told you, “come on, you should know this by now,” or a more experienced teacher who has taken your class for an hour said, “your class are awful at sitting at carpet time”. Straight away you will feel that flush to your cheeks and probably think ARGH or “but, but, but...” because you thought the children were actually really well behaved and you were proud! Now you are wondering whether you know what you are doing at all! We naturally turn a negative comment in on ourselves because in our profession we feel the need to prove ourselves a lot. Well... be the change. Just step back. Be in the present moment and pick something positive that is happening right now. This can be done. You will need to train your brain to avoid being defensive and panicking, and to begin thinking, “I can see the display in my classroom that I am really proud of,” or “I know that Charlie used to find sitting still hard and actually he’s much better now”. Take a deep breath and remember you’ve got 20-30 small ones who are waiting for your next awesome lesson. That’s where you should focus your energy.


Technique 2: Bag it, leave it or deal with it.

Some advice I once received on CPD with Jenny Moseley (education consultant) has never left me. I sat in the INSET, first day back at school in September after a pretty rough few months. I was wishing the training to be over with because I wanted to be anywhere but at school. The training began with a display of her books on Golden Rules and Playground Chants and I thought, yep, they could be good, but I still don’t want to be here. Jenny then started talking about children and how they are so robust and resilient through the day. She then flipped it on us. How can we be robust and resilient through the day? It went something like this...

Imagine you have a little zip wallet. Someone makes a comment or says something to you, or there’s a situation happening at home or at school. Instead of reacting there and then, put it in your bag. Now that it’s in your bag, you are in control of what happens. You could choose to bin it, because it’s not going to have a positive impact on the future you. You could leave it in the bag and deal with it later if it’s not going to have an impact on you immediately, or you need to give it more thought and attention at a quieter, calmer moment - not whilst your focus should be on your class. Or you can face it right away, but remember to step back and breathe first. You are in control of that choice.


Technique 3: Consider the value.

So. Let’s be real. The comment that was made...about your class being poorly behaved...or that one - “you should know this by now”... is there any truth in it? Take your defence system down and reflect. The best teachers are reflective teachers in my opinion. With an open mind (and it has to be open to be successful at this), just think about the situation at the time and be honest with yourself. Have you already been told about the behaviour in your class? Is it new to you? It might be that you reflect on a time someone made a positive comment on the behaviour in your class. However you decide to look at it, remember that you need to own that decision. You don’t need to be bolshy and think “well actually, they’ve got it all wrong, my class are doing just fine”. Try seeing it as, “okay, so they have a different opinion that me, and that’s fine. I know where my class started and how far they’ve come since I’ve had them. We will keep on improving.” You might actually see some truth in it. But instead of thinking, “oh my, they’ve told me they are awful and they are! That means they can see I can’t manage and I’m already dreading the next time I see them!” Try thinking, “well if I’m being honest with myself...perhaps Charlie could move nearer to me for the next few lessons so I can keep a closer eye on his behaviour. We can work on his behaviour together.” It is okay to accept the comment! It’s up to you how you deal with the comment.


Technique 4: It’s a two-way street.

This might seem obvious, but remember there were two people engaging in that comment. Even if you hadn’t said anything, you listened to it, so there are two people. Remembering this is key, because you should consider the feelings of that person. We’ve talked about how you can cope with it, but how are they coping? Are they in a position where they need to be seen taking charge of something and your class got the brunt? Are they having a tough time at the moment? Alright granted you might not know if they are or aren’t having a great time, but consider it. What might have caused them to say what they said? Did they have good intentions but it didn’t come across in the right way. I’m just asking you to think about that person before you take something personally. It might not all be to do with you in this one.


Technique 5: Response.

How did you interpret it? Were they out to get you and show you up? Were they stressed and over loaded and you were in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or did you take value from what was said and you’ll make a positive change next time?

Choosing how to respond can make a huge impact on your mental well being because you can box it off and get closure. You’ll be able to feel proud of how you handled that situation when you remember it further down the line (us teachers don’t forget things like that do we?)

So, I recommend you approach the subject without sarcasm and defence but open-mindedness, and pat yourself of the back for dealing with something if it’s been eating away at you. You may ask, “I just wanted to go back to the comment you made about my class behaviour, do you have advice for me on how I could have managed them in a better way?” By asking for advice, firstly, you are in control (the person with the question leads the conversation) and secondly, you are showing that you are open minded and willing to take on advice. Even if you disagree with their response or guidance, you have put yourself out there as a reflective practitioner who takes other ideas on board - a valued characteristic in education. You may even later return to them and say, “thanks for your comment about the behaviour, I’ve worked on X,Y and Z with my class and I feel they have really improved.” It will make them feel like they’ve helped you and you will feel better knowing you’ve turned the negative into a positive.

We need to deal with things and not let them eat away at us. Be the change and model to others how to handle situations like these.

This post was originally posted on Laura Ellen Blog on 23rd October 2018

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