Thursday, March 22, 2012

Truthful vs. Practical Approach to Student Conflict

PE just finishes. All the students are getting in line. One female student complains that one of her male classmates had jumped on her back. A male classmate runs back and he's way behind the end of the line. His jacket is zipped up and he's got his mouth tucked under the top of it. His mouth keeps inflating and deflating like a blow fish. He's coughing a bit and a little teary eyed. The PE teacher notices, so he starts talking to him.

The PE teacher finds out that this emotional student is upset because he believes that someone cut in front of him in line. We don't know whether that is true, but it might not even matter. So, the PE teacher asks him whether it really matters where he is in line? He also asks whether this is being made into a big deal. The emotional student immediately responds by saying the student who was alleged to have cut in front of him was making it a big deal. Really though, it was clear that this emotional student just wanted his spot in line back.

So, on our way back, he talks to another teacher who knows this emotional student well. This emotional student is still pretty upset about it. He starts talking to this teacher about what he's upset about. This teacher takes another approach. He says that she was pretty mean to take his spot, that he agrees that it isn't fair that he lost his spot in line, but that he shouldn't let mean people ruin his day.

Those are two approaches taken towards this emotional student. I call the approach of the PE teacher the honest approach because it's true that it doesn't really matter where the emotional student is in line. He's going to the exact same spot. There's no prize for being first in class and no one is even given claim to be a victor for being first in class. So, I agree that this issue really needs to be played down.

At the same time though, the second approach, which I call the practical approach was much more effective in calming this student down. I speculate that it calmed him down because the emotional is getting someone he takes to be an authority to validate his feelings. It makes him feel justified for his felt injustice. At the same time though, I just speculate about the long term consequences.

In the future, there won't always be someone to validate his feelings. So, to always validate his feelings aids in sustaining this immature mindset of getting upset whenever pointless things don't go his way. What if his feelings are not validated? He may remain upset for longer. But, as upsetting situations happen often enough, he will get more used to these experiences. Further, they would gradually seem to matter less and less. As life moves on, he will gradually come to realize that there are much more significant things in life than a mere spot in line.

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