As with too many subjects, this reminds me of one of my favorite movies, “Young Frankenstein”. In the opening scenes, the medical school professor (Gene Wilder) is in perfect control of his classroom until one of the students asks him if he is the grandson of the Baron von Frankenstein, the evil genius who created the infamous monster.
This infuriates the professor so much that he screams at the student while waving a scalpel, and in his fury he accidentally stabs the scalpel deep into his own thigh. He then, regaining his composure, but obviously in great pain, he says through clenched teeth, “Class (long pause) dismissed.” Although it was all intended as the usual hilarious Mel Brooks comedy scene, viewers must admit that the unfortunate professor created a perfect example of losing his composure in front of his class, then quickly regaining it.
I’m sure just about every teacher since Socrates has lost his/her temper in front of a classroom full of students. In the days before legal constraints and lawsuits, omnipotent teachers had the right to vent their anger on students with physical abuse. In fact, it is still practiced in some areas of the world. I’m sure that at this very moment, some teaching nun somewhere is using a sharp ruler to crack the knuckles of an unruly student. However, at least in the US, teachers who lose their temper in the classroom must use different methods to regain their self composure. Or it could be goodbye to their career and/or bank account.
Of course, the first advice is: don’t lose it in front of your students. Easier said than done, but anyone going into the teaching profession must know the realities of dealing with children, no matter what age, who are cooped up all day in a prison-like room when they’d rather be somewhere else, doing anything else. Taking that into consideration, in addition to working on your own temper issues, consider how you can make your teaching more interesting. You’ll probably only have one or two students who try your patience to the point of exposion, so try to defuse any possible confrontation with those special cases and get on with the work of making teaching interesting.
Although it may sound impossible to you now, keeping your temper in check can be done. In fact, if those troublemakers see that you are genuinely concerned with helping them become better students, you may succeed in avoiding further trouble. It won’t be easy, but nobody said teaching would be easy. The best way to regain composure is not to lose it in the first place.
OK, you’re normal, a person who feels pain and insult as much as anyone else. Why should you be ridiculed and defied in your classroom? So, after many attempts to avoid the situation, you finally blow your stack. This kid is deliberately driving you nuts. You yell, you scream, you threaten, you …. oops … curse. Now what? It isn’t anything new. Are you old enough to remember when teachers used group punishment? You know the drill. When one kid acts up, you all have to put your heads on the table or all miss out on recess or whatever terrible revenge the teacher thinks up. Then, the Nazi theory is that all the students will turn on the bad one, beat him up and warn him never to do it again.
If you lose your temper and that grossly unfair punishment will help you get your nerves back to normal, it could work. It probably won’t work if your students are in the fourth grade or higher. However, the very best way to get back to normal after you’ve blown up in class is to let things quiet down, maybe send the offender (if there actually is one) to the principal’s office, and then apologize to your students.
That’s it. Just something as simple as a sincere apology. You may even add the thought that you will do your utmost that it doesn’t ever happen again. Keep it short. No complaints about lousy students, low pay, severe marital problems, the world at war, sore feet or any other excuse. Just tell ’em you’re sorry, and get on with the professional skills you’re being paid to use … get back to teaching.