“QUIEEEEET!” Yes…I, the quiet, mild-mannered, never-loses-her-temper girl, screamed at my 3rd grade class while slamming the classroom door. It was my first year of teaching. We had just come in from recess, and the kids were really wound up. I had tried quietly to get their attention, but to no avail. Frustration simmered inside of me as no one was paying attention, so I “lost it” and screamed at them. THAT got their attention, unfortunately. I’m sure my face was the color of a ripe tomato as every eye was on me, their mouths gaping wide open. I wanted to run away…
Most teachers lose their temper at one point or another with their students. It is not an excuse to do so, but it is comforting to know that we are all human and make mistakes! In fact, it can be a teachable moment. Students want to relate to you, so knowing that you are human and make mistakes like they do will probably be a relief to them. Take these steps to regain your composure:
1. Calm down. Ask another teacher to watch your class for 5 minutes while you get yourself together. Get a cup of coffee or a soda, and just prepare yourself to go back to your class and explain yourself.
2. After calming down, tell the students you were wrong to lose your temper. Explain what made you angry, not as an excuse, but that you should have found another way to get their attention.
3. Apologize and ask for forgiveness. Such an act of humility will speak volumes to your students, and hopefully they will model this in their own lives.
4. Ask the students for stories when they have “lost their cool”, and ask them how they handled it. This is the perfect opportunity to have a mini-lesson on managing anger. Teach them alternative ways to vent their anger (counting to 10, breathing slowly, punching a pillow, taking a walk, etc.).
5. If the students were breaking rules, be sure you follow through with consequences. They need to know you mean business, and hopefully that will deter most future episodes of mis-behavior.
Make sure you are taking care of yourself, too. It’s easy to let grading papers and preparing lessons consume your time, but you need time to relax, exercise, eat right, and sleep well to keep you going.
As long as you take immediate action to regain your students’ respect, they will understand and forget it ever happened. If you do not address the issue and pretend like it didn’t happen, your students will be confused and may not see you as approachable anymore. Take the steps to make things right with them, and they will model you in their own lives.