When I was earning my certificate, I wish there was a class titled, “How to deescalate a student.” What I learned in that area, I learned on the job. I learned quickly that deescalating a student can be a lot like defusing a bomb. If you don’t have the tools or experience, deescalation can be very challenging. The natural inclination is to try to reason with the student to help them see the situation differently and ultimately calm down. However, this can make things worse. Throughout my time in the classroom, I learned a lot and I became more successful at helping students deescalate. Below are what I believe are the 4 key components necessary to deescalate a student. To help you remember them, they all begin with ‘O.’
1. Offer Empathy
During these moments, it helps tremendously to let the student know that you not only understand how they feel but you can connect with those feelings and and explain them. This sends the message to the students that they are not alone and that they are understood.
2. Observations instead of judgement
Be sure to stay away from judgment. Judgment places the student in a ‘fight or flight’ position. Instead, help them to reflect on the situation by pointing out your observations.
3. Open the door for feelings
As you state your observations, validate the student’s feelings by pointing to the things that would explain why the student is currently upset. Remember, feelings are neither right or wrong. However, they are temporary and making decisions based on feelings could lead to a mistake. Remind the student of this and if they accept this premise, it paves the way for the student to receive help in making their next decision.
Based on your understanding of the situation, offer the student options that they could choose from. This empowers the student to make a decision that helps them move closer to a resolution.
As with anything, there is not perfect solution. But these components have been widely successful for me. What ideas work for you to deescalate a student?