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Pushing Past Challenging Behaviors in the Classroom

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When teachers face challenging behaviors and emotions in the classroom, it is important for them to check in with themselves as they seek to guide children in the best way possible. You can't have calm, regulated children without calm, regulated adults! Angela Searcy, EdD—former neurodevelopment specialist with more than 25 years of experience in education and author of Push Past It! A Positive Approach to Challenging Classroom Behaviors—shares her strategy for teachers to calm themselves, then their children, and push past challenging behaviors and disruptions in the classroom. 

See the full “Push Past It” acronym and exercise in Cooling Down Strategy for Teachers

Hi, I'm Angela Searcy, EdD, and I'm the author of Push Past It! And Push Past It! during this time is more important than ever if you're dealing with challenging behaviors in your classroom. You can't have calm, regulated children without calm regulated adults. So let's go through it together! 

Take out a piece of paper and a pen. At the bottom of your paper, I want you to write down all of the negative feelings that you're having right now, especially when it comes to challenging behaviors. Yep, write about the 28,000 emails in your inbox. This is a time to write about that child in your classroom that wreaks havoc and curses nonstop. And that's on a good day! 

I want you to write about that family that called you and said that even though the school is closed, they're bringing their child to school anyway. Yeah. Take this time to write down all of your feelings around challenging behaviors with children, families, and your coworkers.

And even though some of the things you're writing down are pretty harsh, I don't want you to feel guilty. Because the expression of negative emotions is a sign of a healthy human being. And it's natural and normal to feel negative when challenging behaviors occur. 

So while it’s normal to be negative, it can be unproductive and unhealthy to stay negative when challenging classroom behaviors occur. The reason I told you to write down everything at the bottom of your paper is because when we are emotional and when we’re negative, we're accessing the lower part of our brain. And when we have a challenge in the classroom, we need to really access our thinking brain and our higher order thinking skills. 

So what do we do to be able to problem-solve effectively? Well the first thing you need to do—before you can expect a calm regulated child—we need to be calm regulated adults. And frustration is a sign that you need to “Push past it!”

So how does that look? Let's do it together!

So the first thing I want you to do is, I want you to pick out the positives. Yep—Friday comes every week! It's on its way! 

I want you to understand everyone's perspective—the perspective of the child, the family, and your coworkers. Maybe that child is using curse words because those are the ones that get the most attention. 

Seek neutral support, and home in on everyone's attention. Young children can not get their needs met without often infringing on the needs of others.

Pay attention to your own behavior. Are you tense? Are you stressed? 

Ask questions.

Step back, take a deep breath, and take care of yourself.

“Pushing past it” isn't a one and done, but during this time, and especially during challenging behaviors, we'll keep “pushing past it” together. 

Get the book, Push Past It, for more real-world examples, proven solutions, and new approaches to overcoming challenging behavior and classroom disruptions.

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