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Remaining calm in the classroom

There are many benefits to meditation, one of them is remaining calm.  When one is calm, their heart rate is slowed and blood pressure decreases.  Mentally, we are able to make better decisions.  We do not make decisions that are rushed or are made out of raw emotion.

I have spent 13 years working with young adults who have emotional, physical and mental disabilities.  It is hard work, but also rewarding and important. It tests my patience and ability to remain calm.

One such test came a few years back.  I was still relatively new to the New York City Department of Education.  I had a 7th grade class of about 7-9 students.  Some of the students had learning disabilities, some had ADHD and others had what is called emotional disturbance or ED. (I do not like either term.)  The period before me they had a substitute and they completely trashed the room.  When I came into the room, desks were turned over and the room was littered with paper, textbooks, and food.  I told the class that this was unacceptable and that they need to clean it up immediately.

Most of the kids realized that they were wrong and begun to clean up.  However, Jayden did not feel that way at all.  (Jayden was a disruptive influence in class and as a result we had a strained relationship.  Jayden was classified as ED, he was  prone to lying and at times violence.).  Jayden said he was not involved in the mess and therefore was not going to clean.  In my mind I felt that Jayden was involved, but instead I told him that he was part of a class and that they were all in it together.  He did not buy my response and said he was going to the bathroom.  I told him he could go after he helped clean up the room.  At that point, starting to feel frustrated I took some slow deep breaths and turned to work with another student.  About a minute later I heard Mr. Purnell turn around! I looked Jayden was urinating into a soda bottle.

I asked Jayden to stop and told him to “put it away”. Instead he took the bottle and threw it at me, I ducked and it went out the window.  At this point all eyes on the class were on me, Jayden was screaming and was ready for me to react.  I took some breaths, and just put my awareness to the anger boiling up in me.  I, then, in a stern but calm matter asked Jayden to step outside the room so we can talk.  We had a conversation where I asked him why he reacted in such a manner.  He told me he was upset about having to clean up the room.  I sent him to the assistant principal.  When I walked back into the room I was pleasantly surprised to see the students working together to clean the room.

There is no silver lining between Jayden and I, our relationship never got better and he was one student I could not reach.  But I will say this, I think remaining calm in that situation was a good lesson for the other students.  By remaining calm I eased many of their nerves as they felt the tense situation themselves.  If I would of started screaming and hollering, (which I have definitely done my fair share as a teacher) I would have lost them.  Instead, I think I gained respect from my srudents and I modeled for them how to respond to a tough situation without making it worse.  Coming back into the room and seeing them working together to clean the room set the tone for a relaxing rest of the period.  I think we all needed it!!

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