Did I Just Say That? A Review of Triggers in the Classroom

“No one should be talking!” Have you ever heard these words come out of your mouth?  “Oooh! Ooooh! Pick me! Pick me!” teacher hand waving wildly in the air.  I call it: adopting the Teacher Tone and it’s something that tends to happen to me a bit more towards the end of the year. I turn into that crazy-manic teacher who says things that I’d never want said to me. But why, after all of these years, does it still happen?  Now seems like a perfect time to review triggers, and ask: How do you know you’re creating a culturally responsive and inclusive environment?

I. ADL Training

At the start of the 2016/17 school year, one of the buyback days included a 75 minute training provided by representatives from the Anti-Defamation League.  The beginning of the training started with defining R-E-S-P-E-C-T by creating a word for each letter that embodied the concept.  In this way, a safe environment is established to discuss any sensitive issues.   Sometimes, I feel this might be a good reminder and an excellent way to begin department meetings towards the beginning of the year.  Likewise, I made a mental note to incorporate this into my classroom at the beginning of the year, or whenever the class will be discussing sensitive issues.

The next portion of the training involved reflective worksheets.  The first one dealt with evaluating yourself and your school for providing a bias-free environment. Luckily, these reflection sheets are available online and the first one is here.  The second reflection sheet focuses on conflict triggers.  “What are Your Conflict Triggers?” is the title of that reflection piece, but I could not find it available on the internet.  I feel this piece is the most beneficial for my current growth and I will use the rest of my time discussing conflict triggers.

II. What are Triggers?

The following  bulleted definitions and ideas are taken directly off the “What are your Conflict Triggers?” sheet produced by the ADL in 2005.

  • A conflict trigger is an experience, incident or words that trigger emotional feelings in you and therefore, can create conflict.
  • Conflict triggers are unique to each person based on their life experiences.
  • Awareness of conflict triggers and constructively addressing them strengthens one’s effectiveness in responding to conflict.

The following is a list of personal variables as enumerated by the ADL that can serve as conflict triggers.  On the sheet, each person reflects on how these personal variable impacts him or her specifically. Here is my reflection:

A.  Communication and Language

Communication and Language can be a conflict trigger when it involves a specific, unfriendly tone or a feeling of being talked-down to.  Also, unnecessary cursing can be a trigger.  Communication and Language is also a trigger for me when students talk  when I’m talking.  Sometimes, I recognize they are simply helping each other and clarifying instructions, concepts, etc, and then it is not a trigger.  This behavior seems to be a part of human nature because adults do this equally.

B. Time and Time Consciousness

Time and Time Consciousness can be a conflict trigger for me when someone (student or staff) is late.  Likewise, if the limited time available in the classroom is wasted, I can become frustrated.

C. Sense of Self and Space

Sense of Self and Space can become a trigger for me if a student or staff member is unnecessarily loud in an effort to draw attention.

D. Dress and Appearance

Dress and Appearance can be a conflict trigger for me if staff do not represent themselves in a professional manner.  While I do typically wear jeans on Fridays, there is a line.  As an example, there are teachers who wear sweats with t-shirts, or flip-flops to work.  While appearance does not indicate knowledge, I feel if someone is too casual, it devalues the profession.

E. Relationships (Professional and Personal)

Relationships can be a conflict trigger for me if a supervisor uses phrases like: “You guys need too. . .”; “You all need to read emails. . .”; or: “I’m really, really busy, can you make this quick?”

F. Work Styles and Habits

Work Styles and Habits can be a conflict trigger is a student or staff is unorganized and equally, does not follow-through with tasks.

G. Ways of Dealing with Life (Harmony vs. Confrontation)

Ways of Dealing with Life can be a conflict trigger if someone is very blunt and confrontational.  Conversely, if someone hugs me as a means of conflict resolution in the workplace, I am uncomfortable.

H. Decision-Making Styles (Concensus vs. Autocratic)

Decision-Making Styles can be a conflict trigger if dramatic decisions that impact the day-to-day classroom procedures are made by or for the special education department without teacher input.

III. Conclusion

Of course, acknowledging conflict triggers is only the first step. Next, a plan needs to be devised to help one manage each situation.  Since our PD with the ADL was so short, this is where the training ended. In trying to address these conflict triggers, I realize the think-pair-share model would be more effective!

What are your conflict triggers? Do you have a plan to manage each situation?




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