Or maybe the image of an angry student comes to mind - I'm DONE! I'm dropping out! **storms out of the classroom** I'm so f****ing done!
Or maybe the image of an angry school comes to mind- I can't believe that parent- what on earth does this parent even want from me?? The district won't send us a plumber to fix our toilets this week, can you BELIEVE it?? That's the system, that's the School District of Philadelphia for you!
Anger is a powerful, scary, intimidating emotion. We spend lots of time in "teacher school" learning to manage anger in the classroom. You've got an angry kid? Approach the kid calmly and individually, don't make the kid lose face in front of the class, but deescalate and problem solve. You've got an angry parent? Acknowledge and validate the feelings, then jump to problem solving together as a team.
So why did my grad school classes spend so much time teaching me how to manage anger in the classroom? Because anger makes me feel hot, sweaty, and scared? Because anger is a threat to my authority as a teacher? Because angry kids, angry parents, and angry administrators undermine my power as the teacher? Well, yes, but also....maybe there's more to think about here.
As a society, we shame and discourage anger. We socialize students and teachers to restrain and minimize responses to anger. We tell students to go for a walk or leave the classroom when they're feeling angry. We socialize teachers to use anger as a tool for controlling kids. We teach teachers to shut down angry students before they create chaos.
What's worse is...we don't teach our kids (or our adults) how to cope with anger or how to use their anger productively. We're too busy shutting anger down.
But...what would happen if we started to embrace anger as an emotionally intelligent response?
Anger is a powerful emotion. It signals to us when something needs to change. It signals to us when we're facing an injustice. It's a motivating emotion. When used respectfully, anger gets shit done. Too often when we're feeling angry, we are taught to express the anger as sadness. But sadness is a different thing. What would happen if we gave our students permission to actually feel anger at its full force and practice expressing anger in respectful and productive ways?
This week I'm wondering- how can I nurture anger in my students rather than contain or control it. Here are some ideas for what nurturing anger could look like.
1. Practice talking about and identifying emotions
2. Practice mindfulness
3. Validate feelings of anger and help students process that feeling
4. Teach respectful and productive coping skills for responding to anger
5. Acknowledge anger as a motivating emotion