Emotional states govern thought and behavior. They connect mind and body and are controlled by the release of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals). All brain-body behaviors depend on emotional states. As Eric Jensen says, "It's the link to how we think." A student’s emotional state is the number one influence on his/her learning and behavior. As teachers, if we can learn to manage emotional states (better yet - teach children to do it for themselves), behaviors will take care of themselves.
How can we manage our own emotional states and serve as role models for others? How can students be more likely to be in the emotional state that matches what they are being asked to do? How can students be taught to manage their own emotional states and develop greater social intelligence?
- Neurotransmitters released by neurons in the brain govern our emotional states and they are constantly changing.
- Planning to manage states and context by building an understanding of how brain chemicals work, works a lot better than trying to manage students and behavior.
- There are strategies that teachers can purposely plan to use to keep students in the best state for what they have planned during a lesson. When behavior is inappropriate, it most likely means that the students are not in the right state for what is being asked of them.
- The brain looks for the stimulation of novelty and the safety of things that are familiar. Novelty grabs attention and generates enthusiasm while rituals help regulate and calm. Classroom rituals are state management tools. Purposefully plan to balancing rituals and novelty. Novelty can grab attention but too much is confusing.
- The best rituals are predictable, create unity, are easy for everyone, and put learners in a productive state.
- Knowledge is also state dependent. Something learned in one state is more easily retrieved when in the same state.
- Use cues from students to guide choices in state changing activities and teaching strategies. This creates a habit of "with-it-ness" for a teacher.
- Movement is a positive state changer. Get kids moving as soon as they enter.
- Use humor as a state changer.
- Music that is enjoyable for students can put them in a positive brain state.
- Always manage your own state first. One of the best tools for self-regulation is deep breathing.
- Learning is state dependent. Plan to purposefully put students in the state that matches what you are going to want them to do.