During late summer I worked with an organisation who provide anti-racism talks to schools around the country.
Trainers are from (mostly) a football background, whether high profile players or coaches. It was such an interesting day with them, because the reasons for the need of classroom strategies became clear.
In the world of high discipline training schedules during a football career, followed by after-dinner speaking engagements, and perhaps an element of sycophantic followers, you have a captive audience. Nobody thinks you are DOING this talk to them – far from it! Many will have paid good money for the privilege of being in the same room.
So with that background, nothing can prepare you for a class of young teenagers.
In their sessions at schools, the trainers were finding it difficult to maintain ‘control’ of difficult (low level) behaviour.
“They don’t listen to what we say” was part of the problem, “I get really irritated when they talk while I’m talking” someone said.
These fellows were undeniably having to lower their expectations – nobody was interested in their opinion. And they took it personally.
The task, then, was that they needed to learn how to bring something else to the party (not just their former fame) and flip their thinking.
So how do you avoid taking it personally?
All behaviour has a cause or a trigger. When you know the potential triggers, you need to pre-empt them by setting up as many preventative approaches as possible. The top short term trigger is boredom. So having a variety of activities in their anti-racism sessions - which those in the classroom could engage with and relate to - was important.
The other approach is to separate the behaviour from the person. Once you see how to recognise the trigger and then de-personalise the behaviour, you feel less annoyance and more inclined to support in a positive manner.
And there are many of us who will never avoid the conflict cycle if we react to low level disruption with anger, sarcasm and one-upmanship.
Of course not all tactics will work 100% of the time, so you need a toolkit of strategies to manage situations when they come about – which they surely will.
So remember, fame and fortune means nothing in the classroom.
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