Today I had my annual refresher in CPI – Crisis Prevention Intervention. The focus of the refresher training this year was on Goals, Power, and Relationships. As I was sitting in the training, I kept thinking how important these ideas are for all the teachers in the building I work in. It seems that some people think that CPI is all about how to put our kids who are in danger of hurting themselves or others into some sort of restraint. Unfortunately there are times that this is part of the process. The reality is that if you are using the strategies put forth in CPI in the best way possible, you are able to avoid getting to the point of using any restraint.
In those early stages of escalation, when students are becoming anxious or defensive, it is all about how we handle the behavior. The analogy that my trainer used today was that it’s like approaching a fire with 2 buckets, one of gasoline, and one of water. The things we say to the escalated student, and how we say those things can act as either the gas or water on the fire.
Sometimes as teachers we get caught up in our own feelings and emotions. We have to remember the Q-TIPs: Quit Taking It Personally! Instead, as a person who is skilled in deescalation techniques, you need to focus on a goal for every intervention, using the power you hold in a positive way, and building relationships with trust and respect.
In a situation of crisis, there are 3 possible outcomes – things can stay the same, get better, or get worse. What we say and how we act can control what outcome we see. If the outcome we seek is for improvement, we have to enter each situation with a goal in mind. As we all know, there are different types of goals – short term, intermediate, and long term. Our short term goal must always be focused on safety. The intermediate goal should be focused on learning opportunities for the student, and our long term goal should be on autonomy. But how do we get to those goals?
Part of the way that we get to our goals is through our use of power. Sometimes power is seen in a negative light, but in the crisis situation, not only is the power that you hold important, but also the power that you give to others is important. By gradually releasing power to our students, we show them that we trust them, and we help them feel empowered to take control of their own situation. Compliance alone should not be what you are looking for, rather you should be seeking cooperation.
Another skill at reaching a positive outcome is that of relationship building. When you have a solid relationship with your students, it is much easier to influence their choices and behavior due to the rapport you have with them. Instead of focusing on rules and regulations, build a positive relationship that makes it easier to have a meaningful learning opportunity for your student. We all know pretty quickly who our difficult students will be. Use something like the 2 for 10 strategy, spending 2 minutes per day for 10 days talking to the student about something that is not directly related to school, or something that they care about. The deposits that you make in a relationship at the beginning of the year will make your life easier later in the school year.
Think about the student that you sense may cause you trouble this year. What steps can you take today, or this week, to build a rapport with that student? At the beginning of the school year this year, I encouraged the teachers in my building to know their kids, and love them for who they are. When they feel valued and loved, its amazing what they will do for you!
What are some of the successes that you have experienced from relationship building? What strategies have helped you to deescalate a student who was feeling anxious or defensive? Share some in the comments below.