When you’re angry

There are times we all get angry with students. Not just red but boiling, lava infused, steam producing fury.

This was put in our teacher's lounge when our PTO gave us a surprise breakfast recently. We do give kids a great start, but what happens when something they do starts our blood boiling? How do we react and stay professional?

I think it is important to be self-aware and determine what you will do when you are that angry. I've developed a method that has helped me from making mistakes.

When you're angry, and I'm talking anger at a student here, usually the student has done something very very wrong. You know they are wrong but you don't know their side of the story. You are furious but you aren't listening. Now, if you go and say something awful or get so mad that you can't control yourself then you will do something wrong and it will be YOU in trouble.

Losing control in your anger is kind of like this. If you've ever had one string loose on a pair of pants, and those pants were, perhaps, a little snug. When that string broke and boom – you realize that you now feel air where no air should be hitting and run to go see what happened (to the bathroom or some other private place.) That is what this kind of anger is like. You're about to expose a part of you that must remain hidden.

When I am experiencing britches splitting anger – and it usually only happens about once a year — but it happened to me recently… I do the same thing I would do if my britches busted wide open — I run. I get away to a private place so I can calm down and think clearly.

I used to stay and confront.

That was until I had to reap the consequences of the stupidity and lack of clear headedness I have when I really lose it.

Now, I go take a moment.

Now, if I have a class and lose it, I stick my head next door to the teacher I know very very well – she's seen me lose it the other 10 times in the last 11 years and knows when I'm unglued — I will tell her – I'm at my limit, I'll be right back, can she keep an eye on them. Meanwhile, I'll send the student to the office immediately and I'll go to the ladies room in the back and catch my breath and calm down. I call on other teachers to stand in the gap until I can sew myself back in and gain composure.

Recently, I lost it with someone but wasn't in class. I said, “I'm sorry, I can't talk about this right now, I'm about to make a scene because I'm so upset. I WILL talk to you first thing in the morning after I can think through this clearly.” I did immediately speak with the principal.

The tough thing about this method is that the child will usually realize that he is in trouble and will run home to Mom with a fabrication (if he's smart.) But if I tell the principal while I'm upset – he can understand that this IS a big deal and he can think clearly for me but he can also know and see in my face, a face that is usually smiling and kind, just how mad I am. He needs to know what a big deal it is to me.

Again, this DOESN'T happen often and shouldn't. You shouldn't be one of those teachers who comes uncorked ALL of the time. If you are, see someone, talk to someone, try to get at why you're having these problems. Learn to change how you deal with behavior issues so you're able to only rarely be in those flame up moments infrequently.

But there are times you will get upset. Very upset. And when you do, go ahead and think about what you can do to prevent your own words from becoming nails to crucify yourself and your career.

When great educators say dumb things, it is usually in the heat of anger when they are not thinking. But it is still you and you are responsible for yourself. We are adults and there is no excuse for us not having control over ourselves.

Plan your escape route and take it. Plan ahead for when you lose your head or you may just lose your job. Good teachers do lose their temper, but good teachers know how to keep a bad situation from getting worse. Kenny Rogers sang “you gotta know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em” — a teacher version of this song is “you gotta know when to scold 'em and know when to withhold 'em” — you don't HAVE to say everything.

I wonder. What are your tips for when you get really really angry so that you can be a professional, an adult, and do the right thing. It usually only takes me 5 minutes to calm down, but before I did this, I regretted it later. Now, I recover, and can move on and move ahead.



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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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