Soft Eyes and a Warm Voice

On Friday, for the Provincial Professional Day, a group of us from our school heard the second part of the workshop by Colleen Drobot on Supporting the Inner City Teacher. Specifically, her workshop was entitled: “Working With Immature, Sensitive and/or Stuck Kids”.  The second part of her workshop she presented was called: “You’re Not the Boss of Me!”  During our day with Colleen, she presented slides from Gordon Neufeld’s material, based on Developmental Attachment Theory.

Colleen talked about how many teachers/schools typically “discipline” students and why these methods often do not work.

“Six Methods of Discipline that do NOT work with stuck kids:

  1. Demanding the child take something or someone into consideration.
  2. Teaching a lesson through experience, including sanctions and consequences.
  3. Applying Pressure.
  4. Raising alarm
  5. Making the Child Accountable.
  6. Demands to get along with each other. 

The stuck child does not have the developmental emergent, adaptive, or integrative processes necessary to be able to be successful with these methods. So, when we continue to use these methods, we are setting the children up for failure and setting ourselves up for frustration.

Instead of disciplining children with the above techniques, Colleen Drobot went into detail about the importance of disciplining in ways that are Attachment-safe and Developmentally Friendly.  She went on to discuss how we need to nurture and safeguard the child’s desire to be good for us.  Educators should not think that sending a child to the office to someone (the administration) whom they may have no attachment to will actually make a positive difference in the behaviour of the child.  Colleen Drobot went on to explain that we need to feel with our heart, and only then can we grow and allow our students to grow.

We must collect before we direct.  We must get to know students for who they are as individuals, “collect” them by asking about them, their hobbies, family, etc… each time we see them to really nurture our relationship with them. We must make these connections with them so they “want” to be good for us.

The entire time Colleen was talking about these kids and how to best work with them so that they cared about school and wanted to do well in school I kept thinking of students who “fit” into each of the categories she described.  I also thought of many situations in which students were being disciplined in ways that Colleen described didn’t work.  I even thought of times when I, as a parent, said a few things to my own children that would go against this developmental approach that Colleen discussed.

Throughout the day, I kept thinking back to one of my students, Kaleb (not his real name). I teach his class French twice a week – 100 minutes in total.  It is his first experience with the French language and to say he is less than engaged, would be an understatement.  I have done so many things to help him be successful: sat him near the front, sat him near someone who could help him, scribed his work, scaffolded his work, sat down next to him giving him individual support. His behaviour and lack of interest seems to be escalating and I have been beating myself up wondering why he was behaving this way.  Friday night, after Colleen’s great workshop, a big “A – HA!” went off in my head.

Kaleb is not connected to me.  Even though I like Kaleb and I thought he liked me, it wasn’t enough.  He didn’t feel connected to me.  Even though I gave him a lot of support and I talked nicely to him, never raising my voice or showing frustration, things were getting worse between us.  He was doing less work (while I was scaffolding and scribing more).  He was showing less interest.  He was making less eye-contact with me.  I was losing him before I ever really “got” him.  I didn’t go through the collection ritual Colleen talked about at the beginning of each class to get him on my side,  to help make him care about what I thought.

I must begin again with this student.  I need to remember that every moment is a new moment to begin again.  I need to have faith and show warmth toward our most challenging students, but I need to remember that this is not enough.  I must continue to do more, make connections, do collection rituals at the beginning of every class, and continue to see all students with soft eyes and talk with warmth in my voice.

“Warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of a child.”    ~ Carl Gustav Jung

“If you treat an individual as if he were what he could be, he will become what he could be.”  ~ Johann Wolfgang Goethe

The messages presented to us by Colleen Drobot on Friday were powerful. The above was just a very small part of her overall presentation.  I could relate so much with all she said – as a parent, a teacher, and even a leader in education.  Not only do we need to treat our children and students with these methods in mind, as educational leaders, we also need to remember to treat our teachers in this way as well.


Published by Tia M. Dawson

There are many things that define who I am as a person. First of all, I am a mother of 3 wonderful children! I can not express how fortunate we are to have our children in our life! Secondly, I am an elementary educator who recently returned to the classroom after 12+ years as an elementary school administrator. Lastly, I am passionate about helping others, learning about abuse, helping others in abusive relationships, and helping others understand their worth.

4 thoughts on “Soft Eyes and a Warm Voice

  1. Tia,
    Your post resonated so much with me as I work to establish connections with each of the students in my new class. Thank you for reminding me to look at each one with “soft eyes”.
    -Megan Birdsall

    1. Megan,
      You are an amazing teacher and person. Your students are very fortunate to have you as their teacher. You will look at them with “soft eyes” and you will learn to understand each of them as their own person. Please take care of yourself too. Coming back to work will have it’s own challenges for you.

      I have gained so much knowledge and understanding by attending the workshops by Colleen Drobot.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: