So I recently became a fan of TikTok. My daughters were always sharing different videos with me so I broke down and created an account. I had an account back in 2020 when COVID closed down the schools. It came in handy when I couldn’t locate my students through the traditional ways. I made a few videos and started messaging my students through the platform. Guess what, it worked! I was able to get them to attend their online classes.
Once we moved on to hybrid classes, I didn’t see the need for TikTok, so my account just there collecting virtual dust until 6 months ago. I realized some of my fellow educators were creating followings displaying the comic relief that being an educator can be. There are days we need as much laughter as possible. You just need to laugh to keep from crying. I’m not an actress and sometimes it takes me a million years to get things accomplished on technology. Even after creating my own website, an online course, and trying to keep up with this blog I still struggle at times.
I enlisted the assistance of my middle child who was more than happy to teach me the ropes. It was all fun and games until last week. I posted a video using audio from the platform not from my classroom of a student clearly yelling in distress. Not a fight, just a student yelling. I did so to show what educators are dealing with during the month of May or some of us for the entire school year. I teach a self-contained behaviorally focused classroom so there are often days when a student is yelling in distress.
Well, I ruffled a few feathers because I got some negative comments on my post. I was told I suck and some profanity was used. I’m an empath so I felt really bad and after consulting my daughter aka social media manager, she thought I should comment. So I did and the person continued to berate me. Now, I was feeling like I should delete the post, but saw supportive comments from those in the education field. They shared their understanding of what was happening in the video. That is when I decided to leave the post there, but make it into a teaching moment. Hence this post and an upcoming new TikTok and how to deal with a student who is in distress especially for my newbie self-contained teachers.
What to Do When a Student is in Distress
At the beginning of the school year, you should create your evacuation plan. This has nothing to do lockdowns, fire drills, or tornado drills. Your evacuation plan details where you take a student in distress to calm down. There will need to 2 parts to this plan because if the student in distress is refusing to leave the area, then you may need to evacuate your other students. It is also good practice to conduct practice evacuation drills as with other drills so students know what to do and where to go. Make sure you have a point person they will go with if it is not you. If your class needs to leave, then the area needs to be big enough for them to be comfortable and have adult supervision. You may need to stay behind with the student in distress.
Consistently Teach Skills
Now I’m going to get on my soapbox. You should be teaching social emotional skills daily. If you need SEL curriculum suggestions, drop me an email. Students should be taught how to identify their emotions and ways they can self-regulate. We all know that this does not always happen but most students make considerable improvement in their behavior when replacement behaviors are taught on a regular basis.
If the student in distress is at the point of the student in the audio, there is not much talking or reasoning they want to hear. You can drop gems like, “When you are ready, I’m here “ or “When you are ready, I want you to know how I can support you.” Then walk away but keep the student in your proximity and line of sight. Give them the time and space to calm down.
Keep Them Safe
In my video the student in distress is yelling and I’m sitting at my desk looking from the “student” to the camera, not saying a word. I’m not making any comments, yelling back, or trying to come in contact with the student at this time. I’m watching to make sure they are safe and not trying to harm themselves or anyone else. That is why it is also important to have an evacuation plan in place. Remove others so they do not try to provoke the student or make matters worse. You may even have a crisis team at your school. If so, follow the protocol.
Make sure to take time to follow up with the student when they have calmed down completely and are ready to talk. This may even be the next day, but make sure you follow up! Talk about what happened, why, what they could have or should do differently, and what you can do to support them in the future. Depending on the severity, frequency, and duration of the situation you may also need to call home, especially if the student has a goal on their IEP tied to self-regulation or behavior. Keep parents in the loop as much as possible or to the extent they would like to be included.