Managing the Classroom When You’re Angry

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Helping your teachers manage their classroom

Managing students while angry makes teaching a complex activity so providing your team with strategies to help them deal with it in the heat of the moment is critical.

The anger emotion can generate a rush of blood that can bring on poor choices and impaired decision making. It is widely recognised that often teachers experience anger because a situation has struck at the very core of why they became a teacher in the first place.

Teachers invest a great deal of emotional capital into their profession and their students so it is easily understandable why teachers can fire up when objectives aren’t being met or certain students are negatively impacting the learning experience for others.

Top 10 tips to impart on teachers to help manage their students while angry

#1 – Count to 10

…. Or 100, or 1000! An oldie but a goodie. Physiologically this gets the blood flowing into the reasoning sections of the brain. While your blood is pumping in the reasoning section, you can take control of your actions and make rational decisions.

#2 – Speak quietly …. you can even whisper!

Speaking quietly reduces the tension in the classroom and gives teachers the semblance of being in control. When students suspect a teacher is angry, they increase their attention and focus on the teacher waiting to view the outcome. Stay calm – and regain composure control by speaking quietly. It really mixes things up!

#3 – Keep it short

It is said that when a student is being told off, they recall the tone of what was being said rather than the words of what was said. Harping on about the number of times a teacher may have told them, how sick and tired the teacher is of the bad behaviour, why they should put more effort into their work…. All the student is hearing is Blah! Blah! Blah!

#4 – Never get into an individual dialogue

Letting snide or pointed comments go ‘through to the keeper’ can be the best strategy, rather than confronting the student about something they said or their attitude. Teachers can choose not to respond and therefore often avoid a verbal stoush that often distracts for issues.

#5 – Invest in the positives

We often lose sight of the forest for the trees. Not every student in class would be causing grief, despite how often it feels like that, but it is unlikely to be the case.

Quickly scanning those positive students who rarely cause problems and start interacting with them. Check their understanding. Offer help. Provide positive feedback about their work, or their attitude. Start teaching them directly.

This will not only make the teacher feel more positive, but we bet that other potential troublemakers will also be listening to the interaction.

Perhaps, they might decide that they want “IN” on this type of feel-good discourse.

#6 – Revisit your goal

Nothing gets the purpose “juices” flowing than revisiting the learning goal. Restate the purpose of your activity to yourself and the students. At the end of this hour I would like you to;

  • Write your own story
  • Learn the names of Australian States
  • Identify the main point of recent news articles

#7 – Focus on the behaviour

Try to quickly ascertain the seriousness of the behaviour and choose your battles. Yes, students make decisions and choices about how they are going to behave, however, this should be kept in perspective. Often teachers will focus on a small behaviour like breaking a pencil, throwing paper, whistling or swinging on a chair when there are bigger issues to deal with and hopefully, more important learning goals to focus on.

#8 – Get back to learning

The only reason teachers need to manage student behaviour in the classroom is to bring about effective learning. It is NOT about punishing kids, retribution, proving a point or causing fear. It is about setting the best possible environment for learning.

So as soon as possible, get back on track!

#9 – Never ask ‘why?’

Asking, “Why?” of a student, in the heat of the moment, is very (repeat VERY) dangerous. If the teacher is carrying out an investigation then by all means; ask away. If the teacher is trying to manage students while angry and perhaps telling kids off or highlighting poor behaviour, never ask a question.

Honestly, the kids are probably more street wise than the teacher and asking them a question gives them power, the stage and the audience. The kids will come back with a smart answer, the other kids in the class will laugh and quite frankly the teachers’ authority has dramatically reduced.

It is very difficult to recover. Often, teachers really didn’t want to know the answer, anyway.

#10 – Make sure the teacher has it right

Teachers want to TEACH and want the kids to LEARN. Usually, there is a whole range of mitigating circumstances and as a classroom teacher, you may not know all the facts. But facilitating an investigation inside the classroom is not appropriate. That can come later.

Irrespective of what comes before or after, make it clear that the behaviour you are dealing with is interfering with your class. Deal with the other issues at another time.

Overall remember, anger is a normal human emotion that all teachers can use as a sign or a guidepost in their classroom management.

The goal is to help teachers respond to anger and not react.

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