As we increase awareness of our own internal and external states, we also become more aware of these cues in others. Students are constantly communicating with us, mostly without any words at all. By paying attention to student’s body language we can adjust our interactions with them to be more appropriate to their current emotional state.

A student with clenched fists, tight jaw, dilated pupils, rapid breathing, furrowed brows, and perhaps even beginning to sweat, for example, is clearly experiencing a fight-or-flight response. These are all clear ways that the student is communicating “I’m not ready to talk. I don’t feel safe right now and I need space to calm down.” Listening to these cues rather than trying to override them with force or reason could be the difference between a student calming down and returning to their work and an out of school suspension.

We may also encounter students who are unusually collapsed in their posture and presentation, overly tired and fatigued, experiencing frequent mysterious physical symptoms and are generally disengaged from the classroom experience. This is a strong indication that the student is experiencing emotional distress and needs extra support and attention as a result of overwhelming or traumatic experiences elsewhere in their life.