Thoughts On Teaching While Angry

Thoughts On Teaching While Angry

I recently read John Hoffman‘s wonderful blog post about Thoughts On Parenting While Angry. I was really taken by this post, as I realized that it’s not just parents that have these moments. Educators can also have them.

I remember one of these moments for me last year. I walked into school in a bad mood. This is not usually how I feel or how I act, but it was how I was feeling that day. I received some unexpected news about a child in our class the night before, and this news was putting me on edge. I had concerns,  but I couldn’t say anything. I was anticipating problems, but they were out of my control. I had that lump-in-my-throat, I-think-I’m-about-to-cry feeling, and I wasn’t sure how to turn it around. Usually, my teaching partner, Paula, can calm me in these kinds of situations,  but she was also feeling stressed. Dysregulation + dysregulation is not a good equation.

And so, when the kids walked in on this day, Paula and I were both on edge. It should come as no big surprise then that what we anticipated, happened.

  • We saw a decrease in some academic skills, and a willingness for certain children to attempt tasks that they would have before.
  • We dealt with children screaming, crying, running, and hitting.
  • We worked through many meltdowns. 

We tried to remain calm. We talked through the problems with kids as we always do. We helped them find calming options in the room, and we supported these choices when needed. We let go of some of the academic expectations on this day, as we knew that there were bigger concerns at the time. Somehow or other, we made it through until the end of the day, and then we both broke down. How are we going to continue to do this? Would all of our good days quickly become undone into a slew of bad ones?

Thankfully, among other things, one thing that Paula and I do well is we communicate. We question each other, but we also question our experiences and our views. At the time we questioned, “Was it us that made the difference today?” We were both feeling off, and could the kids read our feelings? Did they respond to us, even when we attempted to hide our thoughts? Maybe we needed to reframe what happened today, and realize that we were the ones creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Responding was harder, as we might be able to admit to the stress, but how could we change it? Talking through the problem with each other, but also with our great administrator, made a difference. Then the issue was out there. Then we could move beyond the problem to some solutions, and what would be needed to make these solutions possible. We also realized that we weren’t alone, and somehow, this made things better. It made us see the problem as not just our own, and it made the problem a whole lot smaller.

  • We could re-focus on the kids.
  • We could brainstorm strategies that worked.
  • And we could come into school happy again, which changed our attitude and outlook. 

Educators, parents, administrators: we’re all human. We all have bad days. But John’s blog post reminded me that on these angry days maybe it’s best to stop, see the day through a different lens, and use some of our own Self-Reg strategies to make things better. For I may be able to control my anger, but am I really addressing the problem? How and when do you take a self-imposed time-out, and is it valuable for all of us to do so at times? Remembering this angry teaching day from a year ago makes me think differently about teaching while angry, now.


Aviva Dunsiger has been the Portal Plus Moderator for over a year now and completed the Foundations 1 Certification Program. She has taught everything from Kindergarten to Grade 6 and enjoys blogging about her teaching and learning experiences. She blogs professionally on her blog, Living Avivaloca. Aviva is excited to contribute a monthly post on The MEHRIT Centre Blog.

By | 2019-05-13T11:18:42+00:00 May 14th, 2019|


  1. Connie Li May 29, 2019 at 11:53 am - Reply

    Aviva writes,

    “How and when do you take a self-imposed time-out, and is it valuable for all of us to do so at times?”

    I had a situation recently where the permanent ECE admitted to feeling angry however when I suggested leaving the room (for a breather), they completely flipped their lid. I have been trying to understand/reframe what happened and came to the conclusion that I was probably the wrong person to have asked. I was the supply ECE with them all day.

    • Aviva Dunsiger June 4, 2019 at 7:29 am - Reply

      Thanks for sharing your story, Connie! Sometimes I wonder if the problem is our concern over how people will view us for taking that “me time.” Will they see us as not strong/competent enough to work through the problem? As a supply in the room, these feelings might even be further intensified, as the other ECE might have felt that you were looking up to her, and she wasn’t meeting expectations. Some stressors at play, perhaps. What do you think?


  2. Connie July 4, 2019 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    Hi Aviva,

    I agree that some stressors were at play. I don’t really have a lot of experience co regulating other adults in the room, especially when they are also ECE professionals however since I have had some time to think, the experience makes me wonder what I could have done differently. After it happened, all I could think about was getting away: one of those “I’m never coming back here ever again.” However, I think a part of me, in the moment, wanted the ECE to take responsibility for, to be accountable for, what they were feeling and therefore acting. I remember in one of Susan and Stuart’s Self Reg Misconceptions video, Stuart mentioned how we tend to go in with the accountability piece first instead of starting with Self Reg. Was I truly feeling calm? In red/blue brain balance or did I just want to “call” the ECE on their behaviour because I could which is not technically being empathetic. Lots to think about for sure.

    • Aviva Dunsiger July 5, 2019 at 12:19 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the reply, Connie! So much to think about here. Maybe the answer isn’t necessarily key, but instead, the reflection piece. I wonder how this incident might impact on what you might do if something similar happens again.


  3. Tina December 11, 2019 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    Reframing as a group with he students acknowledging that the day needs a ‘do over’ works for our class. We acknowledge our mistakes, we acknowledge the need for respect, kindness, and extra wait time to make it right. At times, the only thing we can offer is ‘wait time’ where we give each other the time to reframe and recognize stressors to reduce. Restore comes at a later time after Reflection.

    • Aviva Dunsiger December 11, 2019 at 9:15 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing! I think that recognizing when we might all need a do-over is so important.


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