Handling Student Frustrations: How Do I Help Students Manage Emotions in the Classroom?

Handling Student Frustrations: How Do I Help Students Manage Emotions in the Classroom?

Handling Student Frustrations: How Do I Help Students Manage Emotions in the Classroom?

Handling Student Frustrations: How Do I Help Students Manage Emotions in the Classroom?


When students' fears, stresses, and frustrations creep into the classroom and disrupt the learning process, how can you respond in a positive way that results in better relationships and higher levels of motivation and achievement? Renate Caine and Carol McClintic draw on their decades of teaching experience to propose the APA method:

• Acknowledge. Help the student accept the situation, including his or her own reaction.

• Process. Help the student clarify what is actually taking place. Then mutually come up with an action plan for moving forward.

• Act. Help the student implement the action plan.

This approach pulls back the curtain on emotional flare-ups and not only encourages students to recognize emotions in themselves and others but also motivates them to implement proactive solutions rather than let negative emotions sabotage their academic goals. Caine and McClintic also include several grade-appropriate classroom scenarios and relevant strategies that will help you create more peaceful, respectful, and productive learning environments.


Example 1: A student who is usually friendly and talkative is suddenly withdrawn and uncommunicative. When you address her, she pretends not to hear. You recognize her behavior as an emotional response even though you do not understand why it is happening. the student is responding passively to a state of arousal or alarm.

What to Do: Reframe—take a deep breath and try to remain as nonjudgmental as possible. in private—perhaps out in the hallway—ask the student if something is wrong and express your concern for her well-being. Do not suggest an explanation for the student’s actions, which is for her to disclose. If the student doesn’t want to talk, thank her anyway and tell her that you will remain available should she change her mind.

At this point, these are the only steps you can really take. Let your student see your concern and let her go. Move on to the apa process only if the student appears responsive to your intervention.

Example 2: A student who usually loves class discussion is suddenly belligerent and argumentative. You are disturbed by his comments and get angry.

What to Do: Reframe—take a deep breath. Try to avoid getting angry and responding in an authoritarian way. the student is reacting aggressively to a state of arousal or alarm by being inflexible and reactive. You recognize this as unusual behavior because the student is usually open-minded and cooperative. Wait until the situation is somewhat defused before asking if there is a problem. Seek privacy before beginning any discussion with the student. Ask questions gently, and only begin the apa process if the student is being honest and direct with you.

Example 3: Two girls who are usually good friends are suddenly angry with each other. Their anger spills over into your class, with each of them putting down the other. You know that this behavior needs to stop before it escalates. the girls are no longer paying attention to you or the class. They are in a state of alarm, which you recognize because they are highly

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