Stop and count to 10. I remember an era of social skills instruction that focused on counting to help kids control their temper and modulate their responses to conflict. I ditched that strategy because it never worked. No one ever counted, and if they had, would they have been better off? After reading Crucial Conversations (through chapter six), I’ve been thinking about the best ways to help kids step outside a crucial conversation and adjust their responses.
The first steps described in Crucial Conversations are already a part of my social skills instruction. Identifying potential conflicts and working towards a mutually satisfactory outcome are not too difficult for most kids. In fact, those skills form the basis for most of my role-playing and social skills narratives. But the “Learn to Look” aspect (chapter 4) is exponentially more challenging. Can kids learn to step back and analyze their feelings when they feel unsafe? Can they do that for others as well? And having noticed that other kids feel unsafe, will they avoid responding in kind? I think so. In fact, many kids already have some of these skills because their parents and teachers model them effectively.
What if teachers routinely modeled these skills? Imagine I am teaching a small reading group. I ask a student to share their personal connection to the text. They respond by saying, “This was so boring! Why did we have to read it?” I can use think-aloud as a strategy for modeling the Crucial Conversations-type response. My key word for potentially difficult conversations has been safety. I nod and say, “I need to step back a moment and think about whether this discussion is safe for all of us. What do I really want to happen here? Should I get grumpy or can I find out more about what you mean? I believe that you really want to do your best in reading, so I need to find out what your strong feelings are all about. I’ve already told everyone that I want discussions to be safe for all of us.” I would then ask my student, “Can you tell us more about what you mean? I want to keep this discussion safe for all of us.” This can’t be the kids’ first exposure to this strategy, but it will reinforce previous structured instruction on keeping discussions and interactions safe.
I like it. What about you?