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How to Process with Upset & Distressed Students: De-escalate, Relate, Evaluate, Teach New Skills, & Reintegrate

This day-long workshop is for educators who work with upset and distressed students.  Some of the strategies can be used by the teacher in the classroom.  Others will be useful to guidance counselors, assistant principals, and others who work with upset students.

De-escalate: De-escalation techniques deal with the process of lowering the emotional temperature of a situation.  You can use them with a student who is very distressed and needs an adult to help them reach an emotional state where they can hear and process what is going on.  Or they can be used with an entire group–for example, to help a class stay focused the day before a holiday break.  The first rule of de-escalation with a distressed student?  You need to keep your cool.  But unless you know how to manage yourself when you see a student starting to lose it, it is so easy to inadvertently contribute to making it worse.

Relate: If a student doesn’t trust you, then you might as well be talking a foreign language.  Learn the key elements of relating to a student in distress.

Evaluate: You’ve got to make some judgments about the student’s overall safety and ability to maintain control.  You need to decide what the student may need, whether it be a counselor referral or new skills.  How did they get into the escalated situation?  Anger?  Frustration?  Misunderstanding of language?  Lack of social skills for the given situation?  Cognition?  If you can evaluate well, you’ll know what the next step is for the student.

Teach New Skills: Once you have evaluated, you can usually see that the student lacks a specific skill or set of skills.  Then you can figure out what resources you have in your building to offer to this student to help them learn new ways of behaving.

Reintegrate: Any plan for re-integration needs to include a plan for what the student will do if s/he feels her/himself heating up again.  But beyond that there needs to be a plan to solve the problem that set the student off.  In other words, there needs to be a plan for helping the student to acquire the skills they generally need to succeed in the environment in which they lost control of themselves.