(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)
This “tool” has since helped me remain calm in many stressful teaching situations. Without this, I probably would have changed careers many years ago. I discovered this tool during my first month of teaching ESL when I was in Africa in the Peace Corps.
Here is what happened that first time in Africa. One day early in the term, I was conducting a lesson in a class of 35 students. Sitting in the front row were two popular students, Kato (the class president) and his best friend, Abdula. They were have a good time privately whispering and laughing while I was explaining the lesson. I could tell the other students had noticed them, so I knew I had to do something before the other students would start talking and I’d lose control of the class. Because Kato and Abdula were popular, I knew that I could alienate the other students if I didn’t handle this situation delicately. I could feel my stomach churning and blood pressure rising. Probably many teachers would have the same initial inclination that I had which would be to just tell them to stop talking. But what if I did that, and they continued talking? Then what could I do? I decided to not say anything right then and to think about it after class.