This section gathers all the frequently asked questions teachers could have before implementing DoE at school.

How to incorporate techniques in school life?

A very important approach of Didactics of Emotion is to have it incorporated into the daily life of schools. There are some schools, where they integrate emotional education into the curriculum and therefore they have specialized time slots or lessons for them (in reform pedagogy schools), but most schools don’t have this “luxury”.

Therefore the following options are available for teachers:

  • To dedicate time before classes: it is possible to have a short discussion circle time or DoE technique time before the classes in the morning. This way teacher asks pupils to come in 15 minutes earlier. This can work well with young children (up to 10) before adolescence, because it needs to be arranged with the parents. It works quite well, as it also gives a smooth start to the morning.
  • We can also use the in-between classes times, the breaks for DoE techniques, however only occasionally. Breaks are important needs of children too, but if any conflicts occur, it might still be important to use break time – advisebly also together with lesson time (see “break from lesson”). Pupils are more willingful to offer their free time if there is a compromise also with school time (time from lesson, time from break).
  • After classes: in case we have a full-day school curriculum, it might also work to dedicate regular time slots in the after-class period (the same way as for any extra-curricular class). It is important to find the slots which are good to all children. If not possible we do NOT advise to make DoE techniques with a large subgroup of the class, as it might make an emotional cleavage within the class. However it might happen that we offer a facultative DoE extracurricular class option for a broader group, and organize a specialized “DoE group”, which could provide opportunity for pupils to work more in-depth with their emotional intelligence.
  • Form teacher lesson: in most schools there are dedicated time (for example one lesson per week) for the class. This can be a great opportunity to use DoE techniques, and form teacher will see that by talking about emotions the feeling of community also increases a lot.
  • Class excursions / out-of-school activities: in most excursion, even if half-day, one-day or multiple days usually there can be time used for DoE. This will help pupils to get more connected to each other and to the teacher – above their basic impact on emotional intelligence. A modified Roll-Call of Emotions (showing numbers with their hands) can even be used during waiting for the bus back, or at the bus or train too, to discuss how they feel before the excursion or after.
  • During classes: in most cases we can outreach for pupils during the classes. While it seems sometimes impossible to incorporate DoE techniques, actually there are a lot of advantages: if there is a low-level of motivation within pupils because of emotional distress, then it would inhibit learning anyway. Teachers using DoE have experienced that dedicating 10 minutes for an exercise and discussion have helped pupils to re-focus and after that the effectivity of the class increased.

However we can also built in the DoE technique in our lesson plan according to the theme of our lesson.

Some ideas for connecting DoE techniques to thematic issues:

  • Biology: when learning about the body, the Body and Emotions game (exercize 10) can be integrated easily. Also, we can have pupils making video clips on body and emotion issue (exercise 9), and we can use the box of emotions, the roll-call (with integrated “where do you feel?”). We can also discuss more in-depth the biology of emotions within the class.
  • Literature: emotions are very important part of literature. When we make up a lesson plan (for example on Romeo and Juliet as it happened in a DoE pilot class), we can use some DoE exercises to get pupils attuned, such as the Association Game (exercise 4), College of Emotions (5). We can also use the Puppet Game where we use puppets for the protagonists of the literature text we work with, to play a part of the storyline and try to emphasize with the feelings of the people. It is also important to reflect upon the pupils’ own feelings regarding the story, for which we can use Bag of Emotions, Roll Call of Emotions, or Cards of Emotions (or a lot others).
  • History: the same as literature, history is made up of stories, where there were lot of emotions in-between the people. Working with their emotions (for example by making short video clips) can be a good opportunity to reflect on the pupils’ feelings.
  • Chemistry: even if it seems far-fetched, emotions have their chemical background, and by connecting to this issue, we can talk about emotions within chemistry. Or when talking about molecular bonds, we can also make parallels to human bonds.
  • Foreign Language: the easiest subject to integrate DoE, any techniques – just in a foreign language! Definitely there will be a nice vocabulary developing on personal feelings and stories.
  • Physical Education: any exercise where moving is either included or can be included (like Music Stop and Go, Train of Emotions).

As the above examples show, emotions are so deeply connected to all areas of our lives that with some creativity they can be connected to several issues, themes, topics – go ahead!

How to facilitate discussion about emotions? What to pay attention to?

When talking about emotions and feelings, the style of communication is a key factor. To be able to develop the pupils need to feel the comfort of emotional safety and acceptance according to Carl R. Rogers, famous person-centered psychologist. It is our responsibility as educators to create an atmosphere where students feel this safety to express themselves freely, without being afraid of judgement or being attacked by others. This atmosphere is essential when our aim is emotional education.

To think about the ways our communication can be helpful in this regard, the model of nonviolent communication by Marshall Rosenberg[1] is a useful framework. Rosenberg described two modes of communication: the language of jackals and giraffes. Jackals see social situation through the lenses of power, therefore they usually communicate in two ways: if the other is weaker than it, it attacks the other, but if the other is stronger, the jackal leaves quietly. Whereas the giraffes are big but very gentle – it could destroy its enemy by one kick – but it doesn’t want to. These are the two basic patterns of communication: violent and nonviolent communication.

While it is natural, and sometimes appropriate to communicate as jackals, when emotions are at stake, it is important to get more in the zone of the giraffe. For this, we need to do the following steps:

  1. Observation – do not interpret, just observe what the other is doing (but be precise!) („When I suggested to go outside, you laughed.“)
  2. Feeling – talk about what you feel („It made me feel left alone and unimportant.“)
  3. Need – talk about what you need („I would like if you took my ideas seriously.“)
  4. Ask – If you need something, you can ask the other something („The next time I suggest something, please listen to it so we can think about it together.“)

An other tool we might also follow is the approach of helping communication by Thomas Gordon[2]. The foundation of his model is similar to that of Rosenberg’s: we should pay attention to our own and others’ feelings and maintain open communication. For this, we need to avoid the communication barriers, which can halt the other person when sharing his/her emotions, and use active listening techniques, which encourage the other person to continue sharing.

Some of the most common communication barriers are the following:

  • Commands: When we are giving commands to others, we demonstrate our power over them. This might lead to the other person trying to hit back, which can result in a fight.
  • Threatening: It is similar with threatening the other person – it make him/her feel attacked and creates fear. He/she might change the behaviour, but on the long-term, this strategy disturbs the relationship between people.
  • Lecturing: When we start lecturing someone when they talk about their feeling, it can easily create a sense humiliation in the other person.
  • Advising: When we give advise to others when they are in a difficult emotional state, it can create similar effects as lecturing. The other person might feel “stupid” for not finding out the right solution themselves.
  • Own stories: If someone talks about his/her feelings, and as a response we start to talk about what has happened to us, it demonstrates to the person that we are not really interested in what his/her state is – we rather shift the focus on ourselves.
  • Logical arguments: Logical arguments are similar to advises in these kinds of situations, as a person who is overwhelmed by his/her emotions is usually not able to listen to reasons, therefore they don’t help to solve the situation.
  • Encouragement: Encouragement can be useful in certain situation, but when for example someone tells us that they feel sad, and our response is “Cheer up”, the other might feel that he/she is not allowed to feel what he/she feels.
  • Criticizing: “You also made mistakes in this situation” – criticizing the other person in this way makes the other person defend him/herself instead of continuing sharing.
  • Joking: If we start to joke about someone’s emotions it can easily hurt them and stops them from sharing more.
  • Labelling: If we put labels on the other person, he/she might feel that he/she is not understood as a person, and won’t feel encouraged to share more.

While it is important to avoid the barriers above, there tools to demonstrate that we are interested in what the other person is saying and that we listen to it. These are the following:

  • Mirroring (“I see that you were distressed when you couldn’t finish in time.”): When we use mirroring, we try to put it into words what we see/hear from the other person. We don’t interpret, but describe what we understood. It doesn’t really matter if we are not exact in our observation, as the other can correct us and continue sharing.
  • Open questions (“How did you feel about the change of plans?”): If we want to know more, we should phrase our questions in an open way, so the other feel he/she can share his/her feelings. If he/she can only answer with a yes or no, he/she might not go into details.
  • Rephrasing (“So you are saying that you were bored during the game.”): Rephrasing the other’s comments serve the aim of making sure we understood him/her well, and also give a chance for the other to describe his/her feelings in more details.
  • Self-exploration (“I also feel angry, when someone doesn’t listen to my ideas.”): We can share a bit of ourselves in order to facilitate discussion about feelings. It is important not to shift the focus on us (as by telling an own story), but show that we often feel the same way.
  • Summarizing: Summarizing what we have heard during a discussion can help people become more aware of what has happened and this way they can take away more from the situation.
  • Informing: In case we can help the other person by sharing concrete information on a troubling topic. This often solves the situation more easily.

When we are working with groups of students, we should set some basic rules of communication, for all of them to follow, and at the same time we should follow these rules ourselves as well, to provide a role model. It might be difficult at first, if we are not used to this way of communication – especially as educators, our role implicates being more instructive. It is also a challenge, as our aim is to deal with emotional responses – but that is exactly the reason for which we have to be really conscious about facilitating the discussion during and after the game. We would like the students to experience their emotions, without anyone getting hurt.

[1] Rosenberg, Marshall (1995). Words Are Windows Or They’re Walls. – Nonviolent Communication: Varighed 145 Min. Create Your Life – Productions

[2] Gordon, Thomas – Burch, Noel (1974). Teacher Effectiveness Training, P. H. Wyden (and 17 more editions)

What to do when difficult situations arise?

Lot of teachers are afraid of having children talking about their emotions could generate situations which they could hardly handle. Teachers often feel disempowered with crying pupils sharing hard personal stories, which is absolutely normal. It is important to see our borders of competences – for some of us helping with conflicts is OK, for others it is hard.

When talking about emotions, yes, it can happen that difficult situations come to light, however it is rare. In most cases pupils regulate what they share with the others or with the teacher. If they share something very complicated and difficult, than they do it because they need help. Giving a ’1’ on the Roll Call of Emotions, putting hard issues into the Post Box – these are important cries for help.

If it occurs, the most important thing is not to get panicked. It never makes harm if we use the active listening techniques mentioned before („facilitating discussions”): silence and listening, mirroring, observing, etc. If pupils want to talk about what is a stressful and pressing issue for them, listening for them is very important. It increases their feeling of safety, and provides a „container” for their emotions, while also helps them to reconnect with themselves, pull them together (Don’t forget about communicational barriers! In this case giving advises or sharing own stories can be even harmful).

If the story, the problem is so intense, or you see any signs that the child is neglected, abused, having depression or any serious mental issues, turn to an expert. Most schools have dedicated psychologists, but even if not, there are regional child welfare centres, where teachers can turn to. If you see signs of abuse (like being beaten) or serious neglect (eg. starving, bad personal hygiene), inform the headmaster immediately and together make the steps neccessary.

If you don’t exactly know what to do, you can also call the Child Helpline in your country. The harmonized number for each EU countries is 116-111, but you should second check in your country. There you can get advise on what to do, whom to turn.