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.