Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Day I Got Angry

“What do you think? Did I go too far in yelling at the kids? In general, I would say it's never appropriate to yell. How else could I have handled this situation? What are your thoughts on dealing with your anger as an educator?”

I usually pride myself on staying calm in the classroom and do not usually raise my voice or get angry in front of my students. I tell them we all may get frustrated and annoyed but I don’t usually get angry. If I raise my voice or my body language shows I’m frustrated, I know that I can work to find some kind of solution. I might need help or I might need to take a break but this is solvable. To me, angry is a useless emotion that has very little redeeming qualities other than to let off steam. The after effect usually makes me feel tired, depressed, and not very productive.

One day, many years ago, I took my students to the local zoo. We went with another class from our high school along with a large group of small children. My class went our separate way from the other class once we got to the zoo and we had a good time. When lunch time came, some of my older boys had forgotten their lunch so I allowed them to go to the concession stand to get lunch while I stayed with the rest of the class at the picnic shelter. They were gone for a long time and seemed like forever so I gathered up the rest of my class and we went back into the zoo to look for them. I was filled with so much worry that something happened to them. I didn’t know if someone had gotten hurt or in trouble but I felt frantic. Eventually I saw the boys heading to me, laughing and having a good time without a care in the world. This made me so angry that when they approached me, I know I looked like a thunder cloud! In fact, they were scared and thought about going the other way but I screeched like a witch for them to not move another step! When I caught up to them, I unloaded both barrels. Then we all walked back to the picnic shelter where I tried to calm down and they looked sad and scared to death. Keep in mind that most of these kids were all bigger and taller than me so looking back, I bet we looked like a wild group!

Eventually I calmed down and apologized to them for losing my cool and explained about how worried and scared I was. Later, a parent with a child in a stroller came up to me and let me know that all the boys were perfectly behaved and ate their lunch at the concession stand. They didn’t know that I expected them to return and eat their lunches with me. In fact, I’m not sure they could leave that area with food. After this conversation, I felt so bad.

I must have made a big impression on them because for many years after, the older students passed on this message to the next class, “Remember the Zoo!” with an ominous tone and warning not to make me mad!

It was not one of my proudest moments. In fact, as much as they remembered how angry I was, I also remembered so that I didn’t repeat the performance. I just hope and pray that this is not the only way my students will remember me and the time that they have spent in my class.

I was lucky in all my classes because even though I wanted to make a difference in their lives, they really made a difference in mine. Many of my students made a lasting impact on my life and I believe they have made me a better teacher and a better person. What is amazing is that I’m still in touch with many of them through social media even though it has been years since I’ve seen them.

So, to be honest, I don’t think it is okay for a teacher to get angry, but sometimes it happens. Teachers are only human and it can’t be helped. When it happens, it is time to admit a mistake was made and apologize. Recognize it so that the situation doesn’t happen again, learn from it, and move forward from there.

What do you think? Do you think it is okay for a teacher to get angry with students? Please share.

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