Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Anger: The Least Effective Tool for Teachers (and all of us)

Anger is least effective tool in a teacher's tool box.  And I think that extrapolates out to almost every relationship we have.

Like all emotions, anger can feel so good, and that's the problem.  Righteous anger in particular imparts a satisfaction we rarely get elsewhere.  "I'm angry, and I should be!  You deserve this!"  While it might feel good, anger often does more harm than good.  Ben Franklin said it best, "Anger is never without reason, but seldom a good one."

A few ideas I've learned from teaching

Apply consequences to actions without emotion, kids notice when you get rattled
Kids will do stupid stuff.  Constantly.  Like the kid I saw doodling on a desk today.  Or the kid who paper glued paper towels to the paper towel dispenser.  "WHY!?" , you want to ask (or scream), but there's no answer.  They're kids.  And at my age, middle school, they are learning their value system and figuring out who they want to be.  Part of that is making mistakes and knowing you never want to do that again.  More often than not, there is no need to blow up at them because their guilty conscience is probably already doing that.

You can get angry at this constant parade of idiocy, and if you do you'll be angry a lot.  That's a tough way to spend your days.  Plus, you'll teach your class that you're easily rattled.  Provide discipline.  Be firm.  Deal with issues calmly.  Let your word be final.  A teacher in control of his/her class has no need to raise their voice.

Anger may stop the symptom, but rarely the cause.

Sometimes students do something they know is wrong.  Like the kid my first year who wrote F*** in big letters on my whiteboard while we were lining up for lunch.  While anger is the natural response, 99% of the time anger works against you.  It throws up barriers and you become an enemy, where you should be a mentor and a guide.  Students that act out, never do so without reason.

While your anger might shut them up, it sure won't help you why your student is acting up.  As teachers we get so busy planning lessons, grading papers, and going to meetings we can forget some of our students' lives are terrible.  Hunger.  Abuse.  Abandonment.  Neglect.  It's no surprise that those students are the ones that cause the majority of the issues.

As their teacher, you need to be their ally.  Apply discipline, always.  But take the time to talk to the student and understand them a little better.  See where they're coming from.  Ask them about their day, their night before.  Sometimes the answers will horrify you, but it will provide you a crucial window into their life, and potentially a chance to make a difference.

If your whole class is acting out all the time...
Don't get angry.  It's you.  Your lesson plans suck.  Don't take it personal, just learn from it and move on.  I've taught some really awful lessons before, and I always have the most issues when my students aren't engaged.  Good lessons=good students (most of the time).

If you use anger, do so rarely and only when you choose to.  And make that anger positive.

The longer I teach, the more I check the impulse to act in anger.  If I do get angry, I choose to.  And it's usually to tell a student that I know they are better than what they've been doing.  I direct that anger in a positive way, so they have to nod their head when I'm yelling at them because I'm actually complimenting them.  "I know you're a good kid!  I've seen you do (good thing) and (another good thing), so why on earth would you (bad thing)!"

They'll always agree with you.

Above all else, kids need to know you like them, and care about them.
If they know that, than they'll listen to your words however you say it, because they believe it's in their best interest.  And if they're listening to you, there's no need to be angry.

No comments: