Updated: Feb 28, 2022
Following are some examples shared with us through reflective logs. Thinking about our use of Emotion Coaching, reflecting on how we felt, what we did, what we said and how the other person responded is such a vital part of our own Emotion Coaching journey, and there are always surprises and lessons to be had.
In this scenario, a 5 year old was getting dressed after P.E. The teacher observed her getting really angry, very quickly. She was concerned for the child and those around her, and felt an immediate need to comfort her and understand why she was so angry.
Initially, the emotions looked like anger and frustration. The teacher knelt beside her, stroked her arm and asked if she could tell her why she was so cross and upset - and if the teacher could do something to help her to feel better.
The 5 year old revealed that she couldn't get her tights on. The teacher told her, in a calm tone and with a soft facial expression, that it was okay to feel cross and that they were not the easiest of clothes to put on. The teacher shared that she also struggled with tights sometimes, and suggested they work together. The 5 year old accepted assistance.
However, having initially responded to the teacher's facial expression, tone, and stroking, it was clear that the 5 year old was still very anxious. She told the teacher that they had to "hurry up before the timer bleeped" - revealing the anxiety that was underneath the anger and frustration.
It also revealed that the timer that was being used to help the children get organised and stay on task, was a 'double-edged sword', and made her (and possibly others) very anxious.
In this example, the teacher noticed that one of the students wasn't starting the early bird activity. The teacher prompted her a couple of times but the little girl continued to sit and do nothing. Moving closer, the teacher asked if she was alright and the girl's eyes filled with tears. Feeling worried and concerned for the child, the teacher invited her to go outside to a quiet area for a chat.
The teacher observed that the child was upset and shaky, so stayed close by while the child cried. She remained calm and kept her tone of voice steady and calm, too. When the child had settled, the teacher told the child how crying was "natural and sometimes it's good to cry to relieve our pent-up emotions".
The child then disclosed that her dad had a new girlfriend but she hadn't met her yet. Several weeks had passed and she didn't know how she felt about it. They discussed how normal it is to feel anxious when something new and different happens. The teacher empathised, saying she may feel scared about new dynamics in the family - and that the teacher would, too.
The teacher then talked about how it could be a good thing for there to be another person in the family unit for the child to do things with, and another adult who could care for her, too.
The child visibly relaxed and seemed calmer. The teacher gave her a hairband to wear on her wrist to pull on if she became anxious. The child drew on a small card, things which made her feel happy and more positive.
At the end of the chat, the little girl said she felt 'way happier' and thanked the teacher for talking to her as they walked back to class. She went back to class happier and joined in the lesson.
By acknowledging and accepting the child's worry about imminent life changes, the teacher allowed the child to progress through her stress response herself. The teacher kept her own response calm and empathetic in a bid to avoid escalating the child's response and to allow the vagus nerve to regulate her stress response. Similarly, by normalising the child's feelings and talking positively about new opportunities, the teacher helped her to understand her new situation and not perceive it as a threat.
Ultimately, the child felt heard and able to approach her day, and the teacher felt happy to be able to help the child manage her emotions so that she was able to access her learning.
In a broader sense, this situation gives us pause to reflect on what children bring to school, what issues they're coping with, how the 'quieter' emotions are expressed, and how we can help them self-regulate when dealing with these additional stressors.