A Gray Ram Tactical instructor teaches a class using a school bus.
Pay attention to sentence structure
When speaking to an angry or frustrated student, it is vital to place the most important information that you want to convey to the student at the beginning of your sentences.
“When people are agitated, they’re not going to listen to the whole sentence,” Brooks says. “So whatever you say first is really the only thing that they are going to hear. You need to say what is most important to the other person, not necessarily what is most important to you, as the driver.”
For example, if a student is getting out of his or her seat because he or she is in a hurry to get home, the school bus driver should say, “I will get you home soon if you sit down,” as opposed to, “Sit down and I will get you home soon.”
“By just simply changing that sentence up like that, what the student hears at that point is, ‘I’ll get you home soon,’ and that’s what they want,” Brooks explains. “They want to get home soon. So the most important thing to the [student] needs to be stated first.”
Paraphrasing students’ words can help
A form of verbal de-escalation called paraphrasing can also help you to start a calming conversation with a frustrated student.
When the student says something to you, Brooks explains, you should repeat it back to the student in your own words. This will demonstrate that you are actively listening to his or her concerns.
“People who are agitated or possibly on the verge of becoming aggressive, they want other people to respond to them, just the same way that a person in a normal conversation would,” he continues. “So when you start to paraphrase … a lot of times people will pick up on the, ‘Oh, there’s a different way to do this; I didn’t realize that we could approach this from this angle over here. I was just thinking we’ve got to go A-B-C, and I never thought we could go from A directly to C.’”
In the same vein, Summers suggests that you can offer students a second chance by asking them to start explaining their problem from the beginning.