1.3 Managing emotions

On this page

  1. Importance of managing emotions
    1.1 Managing emotions
    1.2 Not managing emotions
    1.3 Start managing emotions
  2. Moods
    2.1 Moods and spoken language
    2.2 Stationary mood
    2.3 Flexibility with Moods
  3. Influencing the energy of a group
    3.1 Different approaches to teaching
  4. Classroom with attic and basement
    4.1 Empathy
    4.2 From the attic to the classroom
    4.3 From the basement to the classroom
  5. Fair, friendly or friendly+fair?
    5.1 Only fair
    5.2 Only friendly
    5.3 Strict and righteous
    5.4 Friendly and reinforcing positive behaviour
  6. Summary
  7. Credits

Teaching proceeds better when teacher and students are constructive and cooperative, when students and teacher are on the same wavelength in terms of subject matter. To get on the same wavelength, teachers manage their energy. Under all circumstances, they remain friendly and fair, even during challenging, dynamic situations. Students follow suit. Friendly and Fair Teaching (FFT) provides teachers and students with a model for regulating their energy.

We tend to copy each other’s body language. I take advantage of that when I teach. If the class is restless, I stay calm and don’t take over their restlessness. If the class is passive, I enthuse my students. I show them an amount of energy appropriate to the situation with the expectation that they will take over my energy.

He who cannot get angry is a fool; he who does not want to get angry is wise.” (Seneca)

Introduction video

For more information check out our other introductory videos here.

Why should you regulate your energy? In this video, see what happens to students when their teacher is angry. You’ll also see how by consciously displaying a mood, you can improve your teaching.

Current approach:

How do I manage my emotions now?

Future approach:

How do I manage my emotions in the future?

Examples of managing emotions

  1. Openness about emotions in Primary Education
  2. A new group goes through a number of stages: Storming, forming, performing.
    With a class that is in the ‘storming phase’, you adopt an opposite energy: you remain calm, friendly and fair. With this exemplary attitude, you are more likely to get your students into the ‘forming phase’ than if, ignited by their energy, you also behave nervous and restless. In the storming phase, use work forms that allow your students to release their energy (moods).
  3. With a Fitbit watch or a similar device, you can see how fast your heart rate is. With such a measurement tool, you can accurately determine your ability to regulate your energy and control your heart rate while teaching. Too often a fast heart rate is exhausting.
  4. This example takes place in 2010 during a First-ID project of the Rapucation Foundation at a secondary school with workshop leaders Peter van der Bosch and Johan ‘t Hart.
    During a creative writing workshop, Peter van der Bosch first asked students to take turns naming a word. When he had listed seven words, he asked students to write their own text using these seven words. While the students wrote their stories, Peter van der Bosch (the Rapper Tony Scott, the chief) played quiet new-age music. After some time, the teacher who usually taught this class and who was present at the lesson came up to us. He pointed us to a text a student had just written and Peter asked the student to read her text aloud. She burst into tears. Her fellow students comforted her and in response, everyone had to cry even though nothing had been read aloud yet! What was going on? In reflecting on this situation, Peter and Johan later realized that the peace created by playing the new age music and the open question to write their own lyrics gave the students the opportunity to bring up unconscious (and in this case traumatic) memories. After the class ended, all the students wanted to shake hands with us. Some students who had already left the classroom came back to shake hands with us again. What we learned from this is that students need both expression and connection.
  5. An app that allows you to do all kinds of exercises with dance, language or music. In doing so, participants respond to changing ‘Moods‘. These examples of mood programs were created by the Rapucation Foundation. On the Scratch site: https://scratch.mit.edu/
    enter in the search box: rapucation
    Then choose one of the options provided.
    More about ‘4 moods’ can be found on this site: conductorsband.com.
  6. What is the connection between energy and the way you talk? In music with a Cool down, i.e. a decrease in energy, Melvin Dorn (rapper) shows how he uses his voice in a different way and how he changes the lyrics with every change of mood.
    What is the connection between tempo and relaxation? Read the explanation and listen to the Conductors Band’s album “Classic Slowdown” on Spotify. This music helps you fall asleep.


‘Managing emotions’ is one of the four modules of the perspective ‘Setting a friendly tone’ of Friendly and Fair Teaching (FFT).

Figure 7: Establishing a friendly tone (overview)

With this module you avoid letting your emotions take control, instead you purposely show the most appropriate mood to students. You avoid anger.

1. Importance of managing emotions

1.1 Managing emotions

First you observe the energy of your students.

  1. When a class is busy, you remain calm (outwardly and preferably inwardly). The students see that you adopt a calm appearance and that you don’t copy their restlessness. With this gesture softer, you ask the group to speak more softly. If one of the students remains restless, you reinforce positive behaviour by giving instructions in a calm manner first using body language.
  2. If you feel the class is too passive, adopt an energetic attitude to get the group moving.

Your observations allow you to choose and show the appropriate energy. The energy you choose is then an example for the group This way you avoid engaging in a power struggle. The way you respond to a busy student helps the student relax. If you succeed as a role model for energy, busyness is no longer threatening to you and a power struggles is no longer necessary.

1.2 Not managing emotions

If the restlessness of a class is stressful or threatening to you, you can respond with display of power. You look threatening and say, for example, “This is the first warning”. Unintentionally, you are now in a power play. A student may think “I must obey, i may not have fun, I don’t like this teacher” after which this student may start disrupting the lesson. Then you need an “escalation ladder” (Teitler) that causes the student to recoil from your increasingly severe measures.

1.3 Start managing emotions

You can start purposely managing your emotions immediately by dosing your energy in a conscious way.

2. Moods

In everyone, both you and your students, different moods ‘Moods’ alternate.

Figure 24: 4Moods Axis system

This model allows you to map moods without making judgments about them. The x-axis shows calm on the left and busy on the right. The y-axis shows heavy at the bottom and light at the top. This creates four “Moods.

  1. Light+calm: Unicorn, a non-existent animal, belongs to your imagination and dreams. Whether you are asleep or awake, you can always fantasize and be creative without worry.
  2. Heavy+calm: Owl, the owl represents thoughtfulness. Thinking can be done with eyes open or with eyes closed.
  3. Light+busy: Puppy, this little dog is happy, cheerful, bouncy and carefree.
  4. Heavy+bussy : Woodpecker, the woodpecker makes a lot of noise. The woodpecker has a lot of energy.

If you are able to switch between these four different levels/moods then it is easier to connect with your students than if you show only one energy state. If you always want your students to be calm and focused, you give them little opportunity to explore the whole energy spectrum.

Read more at 4 moods on this site: conductorsband.com

2.1 Moods and spoken language

Pay attention to your own language and manner of speaking as well as that of the students. If a student speaks in an inappropriate way, then reinforce positive behaviour. Rough language will emerge mostly in the last Mood: woodpecker (Heavy + busy). In the first Mood: unicorn (Light + calm) it is very unlikely that you use rough language. More information at perspective ‘Observing’: ‘Observing spoken language‘.

2.2 Stationary mood

The engine of a car (with gasoline engine) is running. You do not touch the accelerator pedal. The engine is running stationary at a quiet speed. If the engine is not properly tuned, the engine has too high a speed or a to slow speed.

If you compare this to your moods, you also have a ‘stationary’ mood that you naturally adopt. There are differences from person to person. Where one person is usually calm, another is usually busy.

For every person the stationary energy is important because this energy level feels familiar. A possible function of this ‘Stationary mood’ is to shield yourself from unwanted experiences or moods in which you do not feel comfortable.

2.3 Flexibility with Moods

Everyone has a ‘Stationary Mood’ with a certain amount of energy. Through yoga, meditation, new-age music, you can lower your energy. Exercising like dancing or sport can increase your energy. Both increase and decrease can produce positive or negative feelings.

  1. Positive: Relaxation that you enjoy.
  2. Negative: Unpleasant repressed memories can emerge through relaxation (see example-3 above).

If you process unpleasant memories properly, you will be less bothered by them in a similar situation. If you suppress an unpleasant memory, this unpleasant feeling will continue to recur in similar situations and continue to bother you.

Exercising can actually increase your energy. That increase can also bring both positive and negative feelings.

  1. Positive: Energy you enjoy
  2. Negative: To much energy can make you unwell (e.g. a merry-go-round that is too violent for you)

Before you are able to regulate the energy of a group, it is important that you can connect to different energy levels, that you feel comfortable with these different levels. Purposely search for moments where you can connect with different energy levels.

3. Influencing the energy of a group

How do you enthuse a group or make a group work quietly? How do you ensure that all students work independently with concentration?

Eidhof (2021) mentions slowing down, interrupting and coaching.

Following this, FFT advises you to use your energy to influence the energy of a group. To do this, you must first be able to switch energy levels yourself. You then choose an energy level with which to direct the class.

You observe and act in a visible way. You estimate the energy level of the group (Observe body language). After your observation, you make a decision: You aim for a lower or rather a higher energy state.

In the two columns below you can see how FFT deals with the differences in approach in teacher-centred and student-centred education.

3.1 Different approaches to teaching

Teaching the entire class

When you are teaching the entire class, it is nice if the the students have the right energy. If you want the class to go to a lower energy state, you yourself take a calm attitude. If you want the class to show a little more energy, assume an energetic posture yourself. By switching energy levels yourself, you regulate the energy level of the class.

Avoid automatically going along with the energy level of the class and thus (unconsciously and ineffectively) taking over their energy.

Cool down – warming-up

To work well with a class, it is important that not only you regulate your energy, but also to enable the group to handle different amounts of energy. On the Conductors Band website, this theory of ‘Moods’ has been turned into a series of musical pieces with varying amounts of energy. These ‘Moods’ in a certain order have an effect on your students. With decreasing energy (Cool down) they can then concentrate better. With increasing energy (Warming-up) you activate your students. Check out the links at examples 4 and 5 above.

Students are working independently

In order to concentrate during independent work, students need peace and quiet. How do you provide that?

  • By speaking softly, you set a good example for your students. You talk to a student only when you are close together.
  • Move calmly.
  • You observe.
  • You act in a visible way (non-audible).
  • If everything is going well, you do not intervene. Parenting is the art of letting go more and more.
  • Give compliments with the thumbs up.
  • You coach, guide and motivate.
  • If a student disturbs another student, you reinforce positive behaviour (First with Body Language, then Tips and if necessary a ‘Future behaviour letter’).
  • If there is a serious disruption, you interrupt working independently. You pause and take time to reflect with the group on what just happened and on your own reaction.

4. Classroom with basement and attic

Next is a model of how processes work in your classroom. In this model, an imaginary basement and attic have been added to your classroom. The classroom contains a fire alarm that goes off when there is a conflict. Your classroom also contains a chest of drawers. This chest of drawers represents the ability of you and your students to communicate and show empathy. The chest of drawers also represents the ability of both students and you to use memory. In the attic or basement, no one has access to this chest of drawers. Communicating and deliberating no longer works and no one makes good decisions. In the attic or basement, empathy disappears and and memories are strongly coloured by conflict.

Figure 25: Classroom with basement and attic

Like you, students each have some proportion these four moods within them. The classroom is a pleasant and social place where you and your students want to be. All moods belong in the classroom. As desired, you ask a student who is too busy to slow down a little or you ask an overly passive student to show a little more energy. Your classroom is on the first floor. Those who wish can go outside.

Everyone has a range of emotions in the classroom: the four “Moods. If you recognize these energy states in your students, if you can demonstrate these emotions, and if you can show how to release energy or how to build energy, you enable your students to handle energy in a similar way themselves.

When you react angrily to a student, the fire alarm goes off for everyone in your classroom. Some students flee to the attic and some to the basement. You prevent that if you regulate your energy.

4.1 Empathy

You can use your memory in a good way if you feel at ease. The chest of drawers in the classroom represents memory and empathy. For your students, the fire alarm goes off If they are in conflict with each other or if you act too angry or rough on them. They then flee to the attic or to the basement. In either place they cannot use their memory properly. If you were too rough they do not feel empathy for you and neither do you feel empathy for them,

  1. Students who flee to the attic have to much energy (fight/flee).
  2. Students who go to the basement have too little energy (freeze/faint).

Both in the basement and attic they cannot use their memory properly. Precisely in order to learn, they need their memory.
Therefore, reinforce positive behaviour with your students in a friendly and fair manner. Then students will not end up in the attic or in the basement.

4.2 From the attic to the classroom

In the attic, you have too much energy. How do you release energy so you can return to the classroom?

  • Diaphragmatic breathing (deep and slow abdominal breathing)
  • Shaking off or stomping off excess energy
  • Heavy work, running around the school
  • Music (soothing and calming music and sounds)

4.3 From the basement to the classroom

In the basement, you have too little energy. How do you increase your energy so you can come back to the classroom?

  • Anything that stimulates the senses
  • Movement
  • Dancing and music

5. Fair, friendly or friendly+fair?

Fellow teachers often give this advice, “First be strict and then slowly let go of the reins.” The idea behind this advice is that in this way you first enforce order in a strict way and then you remain in control in a slightly friendlier way. FFT gives a different advice: “From the first moment on, be both friendly and fair.” Which advice should one follow?

Adjustment can be done in two ways: You can resolve a disturbance in a strict way or you can reinforce positive behaviour. In the latter case a student accepts your approach. If you do it in a strict way, you disrupt the relationship with this student.

The problem is not what happens, or what setbacks you experience, but how you deal with them” (Fundamental Principle of Stoicism).

5.1 Staying strict

In this paragraph we use strict with the connotations: severe, rigorous, stringent and stern.

By addressing students in a strict way, you send some students to the basement or the attic. Who will guarantee you that you can let go of the reins and then have a good rapport with your students? Perhaps you have permanently repelled students from you and you have to remain strict.

picture 4 scared and angry

Perhaps the cause for your strictness is that the alarm has gone off in you. You are so to speak ‘in the attic’, and tend to impulsively resolve the disturbance by threatening and by reacting violently and/or angrily. In doing so, you put pressure on your students. Depending on the nature of this student, this student goes to the attic or to the basement. When you are both in the attic, the fight continues.

  1. To basement: quiet, cramping or fainting. In the basement students do not disrupt the lesson but are tense, under pressure and unsafe.
  2. To the attic: action, fighting or fleeing. In the attic students continue to disrupt the lesson, they feel tense and unsafe.

In both cases you do not reinforce positive behaviour. In the absence of a relaxed atmosphere, students find themselves energetically in the attic or basement, where they cannot concentrate. Moreover, being strict costs you a lot of energy and you are unable to make good decisions in your anger. When you are angry you have blinders on. You don’t see anything except the conflict. You can’t observe properly when you are angry.

A strict approach can have the desired effect (students are calm). If you are generally kind, but sometimes find it necessary to be strict, you will be successful with some groups. Unfortunately, it can happen that a group reacts the opposite way to strictness. They engage even more in the conflict.

If you are strict, you are in the attic in terms of your energy. You are then no longer able to have empathy for disruptive students, and you can no longer interact with your students in a good way.

By reacting angrily to an uncooperative class, you disrupt your own lesson. If students know that you get angry easily, you enable them to wilfully and collectively undermine your authority by making you angry on purpose. You are then the puppet and they pull the strings. The content of the lesson does not come into its own.

Giving air to anger and to let it pass, is as effective as using gasoline to extinguish a fire.’ This quote is from Brad J. Bushman. He took it to the test. He angered no less than 1,600 subjects. Immediately afterwards, half of them were given a punching bag to beat out their anger. Without exception, they became even angrier. Angry behaviour only makes you angrier, with more and more hormones coursing through your body. Much better to do something else: pet your cat or count to ten. One hundred is even better. After that you won’t need the [boxing] ball anymore.” Dekker (2006), Midas

5.2 Just friendly

Just being friendly can also be too friendly. When you are aware that the class is not functioning properly but you hesitate to take action, you allow too much.

Maybe you think that if you’re good to people, people will be good to you.

On the contrary, by combining being too friendly with not reinforcing positive behaviour, you yourself are the cause of unrest.

5.3 Strict and fair

Teachers sometimes say that being strict can be useful. The following quote confirms this thought and also advocates leaving out anger if possible:

He who cannot get angry is a fool; he who will not is wise.” (Seneca)

For teachers, the qualification ‘strict but fair’ is usually a compliment. With that style of teaching you can accomplish a lot. Yet with ‘strict but fair’ there is a catch:


Who checks that your strictness is not too strict? With this style of teaching, only you can do that. If you choose this style of working, then you are the only one who regulates your strictness. If you are accidentally too strict, do your students still perceive you as fair? Soon they will dislike you or you will make them anxious (attic + basement). In doing so, you damage your relationship with your students.


Who checks to see if you are fair? With this style of teaching (Strict and Fair), only you can check if you are fair. Suppose you accidentally make a decision that is not fair, are students allowed to react to it? If not, students no longer perceive you as fair. They notice that you are not listening to them. Then they mirror your behaviour and no longer listen to you either.

The catch here is: ‘strict but fair’ seamlessly turns into ‘too strict and not fair’.

Avoiding snags

In FFT, you first agree on a framework (friendly and fair). Then everyone, teacher and students, is entitled to call each other to account for it. If someone is angry or unjust, everyone helps each other return to friendly and fair. The fact that everyone is allowed to help with this ensures equality and this makes the framework credible. This creates an attractive learning environment where talents come into their own and everyone can be themselves.

What is the difference between “strict and fair” and FFT?

  1. Without FFT the teacher regulates his or her own energy.
  2. With FFT the regulation comes from all sides. Not only do you help your students, but your students help you.

5.4 Reinforcing positive behaviour

Instead of being too strict, you indicate your limits in a friendly and fair manner. With ‘reinforcing positive behaviour’ you avoid handling your energy wildly. By remaining calm and by taking four steps of the ‘Ladder of action‘ in the same order, you are consistent and maintain a good relationship with your students.

With calmness and the ability to regulate your energy, you can teach undisturbed and create an attractive learning environment. Concentration requires calmness. Therefore, always respond to your students in a friendly and fair manner. In the model above, there is an alarm in the classroom. If your alarm goes off, if a student disrupts your lesson, act as follows:

  • Instead of being strict, you first use body language (Using body language). If that doesn’t help, then you give a positively formulated Tip.
  • You stay calm, you breathe calmly, you stand up straight and move slowly.
  • You give compliments when things are going well.
  • You stay positive. Your students notice that you resolve disruptions in a friendly way.

The combined advice is: be both friendly and fair. This is effective and costs you little energy. You then use all your energy for teaching. You avoid going along with a student’s negative behaviour; you do not mirror the student.

6. Summary

We tend to mirror each other’s energy. FFT’s advice, as an exception to that rule, is not to take over your students’ busyness or passivity. Instead, display the amount of energy you want to see back in your students. Most students mirror your energy. In turn, they pass that amount of energy back to each other. By paying attention to energy from students, you can immediately see if it is necessary to reinforce positive behaviour.

  • If a student is angry, ask: “What makes you angry, can I do something for you?” This will prevent you from going along with the student’s anger.
  • Young children tend to and quickly go to the highest energy (woodpecker). If students get too busy, ask for attention with a gesture and start the next exercise. Therefore, devise in advance for these young students for a lesson several exercises of different character. Start each exercise with the lighthouse gesture. With this you make sure that they calmly start the next exercise. When everyone is paying attention, you indicate what the next exercise is about.
  • If you talk too much, you are too present and you are unintentionally  disrupting your students. The fewer words you use the better. If possible, give a verbal cue.
  • If the students are paying attention you can speak softly. Therefore, first ask for silence with a gesture. Too high a volume will cause annoyance, if you speak too softly your students will not understand you. Adapt your volume to the circumstances. If everyone is working independently, speak softly or whisper. This way you prevent other students from being disturbed by the instruction you give to one student.
  • If you are teach the entire class, speak softly and kindly.  You determine the timbre of your own voice; you can adjust it at will. By speaking softer, slightly lower in tone and slower, you come across as calm and relaxed. Articulate well and formulate carefully, then students enjoy listening to you.


Darren Abrahams and Celina Souza
During a course called “Train the trainer” by Musicians without borders (Ede – Netherlands), Darren Abrahams explained the ‘mates house’. This theory shows the need for a friendly attitude and therefore fits perfectly with the approach of FFT.  At FFT we turned the ‘living room’ of the mates house into a classroom. See: http://matesbrainregulationprogram.com/