How many times have you had a learner disconnect from the present making the teaching role impossible? And how often have you felt like shouting at said learner? We’ve all experienced this, right? and here is how I learnt to manage it.
Learners disconnecting, whether it be in a 1:1 environment, home-schooling or in a classroom, can be a challenging behaviour to manage. Without knowing what a learner is thinking, how can we help them? How can we re-engage the learner into the present and be open to learning if they are not hearing or even seeing the educator? It is a challenge and often as the educator you may well want to shout and scream albeit in the cupboard!
Many teachers, trainers and parents have experienced such behaviours, and many will have found solutions. Here is my top tip for managing the behaviour and it comes from NLP – neuro linguistic programming.
The behaviour of the learner is a response to an internal dialogue or emotion, so as the ‘adult in the room’ it is our responsibility to establish how to bring them back to the present state and be focused. Sometimes we may think we need to know why they are feeling this way, and sometimes the learner genuinely won’t be able to answer this question because the response is a deeply embedded automatic response to this situation. In order to help the learner access a learning state, it can be useful to distract them, in order that they can forget they wanted to respond in that way. This is breaking the neural pathway pattern of behaviour, thus enabling them to come back to the present and be open to learning. Simply inviting them to write the date on the board, sharpen the pencils, or asking what they’d like for dinner, will be enough to change the thought response and bring them back to a learning state.
Another alternative is to shout and scream, though I’ve never found this to be wholly satisfactory for any person in the room; I don’t know about you?
Frustration can build when learners aren’t engaging, and you’re trying your best though nothing seems to be working, so all that’s left to do is? Scream! You’ll not be surprised to know that this is just about the worst reaction, as it risks putting learners into a further disconnect with the teacher/trainer/parent, and the cycle begins all over again. In addition to this, it is challenging your own mental health and wellbeing. When entering a stress response, we are firing up a series of unhealthy neurology, which over time can result in illnesses affecting the auto immune system. The best thing here is to change your own state. We cannot change other people or their behaviours, so it is best to change our own, and this is surprisingly easy to do. Just as we distract our learners to bring them back to task; we distract our own neurology. To do this, you can change position for sitting to standing, or vice versa; move position in the room/at the table; drop you shoulders down low from your ears; breath out for longer than you breath in. Any and all of these techniques will bring you back to a calmer state and then you can focus on constructive ways of brining the learner back to a learning state.
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