Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #54
Pre-plan your responses to bad news or tough situations.
Okay. I’m stealing this one from the one and only Zig Ziglar. You see, Zig had his responses to most situations pre-planned. He knew ahead of time how he would react to bad news, to delays, to unexpected windfalls, to betrayal, to disappointment, to blessings . . .
Here is a classic example. Since Zig traveled so much, he spent a ton of time in airports. So he knew that he’d run into his fair share of delays. So he decided whenever that would occur, he’d make the most out of it and just get to work preparing early for his next speech or write a new chapter of his next book or knock off a couple chapters of whatever book he was reading.
So one time he was in an airport and the ticket agent informed him that his flight was going to be delayed at least two hours.
“Great!” Ziglar said, shocking the agent.
“I said that’s great!”
“Well, I’m in a 40,000 square foot office. I have all of my work here in my bag. I have access to the best coffee in the city and I have at least ten different places to eat. This is a great opportunity for me!”
You see, he had that all practiced and planned.
So as teachers, what are we inevitably going to run into?
“Mr. Reynolds, I’m sorry I didn’t get the draft written.”
I’ve heard this a hundred time. How can I react to that in a way that won’t embarrass or shame the student (that never ever works anyway) or make me come across as a jerk. How can I grant them a little grace?
Here is a golden moment to begin cementing culture in my classroom.
Here is my pre-determined response. “Okay. Why weren’t you able to get it done?”
This first let’s them know that I’m not mad. Second, it is a chance for me to dig a little and get a window into their lives.
“We got back late from the game.”
“I see. What time?”
This again reassures them, but it also let’s them know that I’m going to do a little follow up. If they say two and I talk to the coach and it was only 11, well, now they’re caught in a lie.
“We didn’t get back to Thief until eleven, but I had to wait 45 minutes for my dad to pick me. We didn’t get home until 12:30.”
“Wow. That was late. Let’s handle it like this - you get one Get out of Jail free card. You can use it now and I won’t dock your draft. Or you can save it for later, and I’ll dock the draft half credit. Remember drafts are 10% of your grade. It’s your call. If I were you, I’d save that Get out of Jail Free card for a final draft, which makes up 70% of your grade. Just take the half credit on this draft. But know you’ll be behind now and not get a good jump start on this theme. You’ll have to dig in and work extra hard on the draft in class and tonight at home. Okay?”
That extends some grace, for I empathize with them. I give them options (suggesting which one I’d choose if I were in their shoes, which shows them I’m putting myself in their shoes).
Here’s another example - you know you’re going to get that call from a helicopter parent. How do you plan to handle it? Come up with a plan and the stick to it when they call. There’s no need to worry or become apprehensive because you already know how you’re going to handle it. No need to let your emotions get the best of you because, again, you’ve already planned it out ahead of time.
Coaches know all too well how this works.
If we score late, do we kick the extra point for a tie or go for two and the win? And if we do go for two points, what play will we run?
If it’s fourth and less than a yard, we always go on two with a quarterback sneak.
If it’s fourth and long at midfield, we will run a fake punt.
That way you don’t have to let emotion get the best of you and make a rash decision that you’re going to later regret.