An insight into what causes teachers to feel angry and full of rage.

I consider myself to be a calm mediator in conflicts between children and effective in classroom management.  A few years ago, however there was one little boy aged 3 whose behaviour was very difficult to contain.  He was disruptive, rude and aggressive. He made me despair and there appeared to be no way forward with him. I presented the case at my teachers’ support group seeking their help in understanding the relationship between the child and myself.   I was working with a co-teacher who had different views on how to relate to children. We had reached the end of our tether trying to work out how best to help this child.

The child was making me feel a failure and arousing much anger in me.  To my amazement, what emerged was that the problem was not so much the disturbed child but the conflict between me and my co-teacher which was preventing a sensible intervention.  Teachers need to be very careful about their own baggage that they bring into the classroom and which can so easily be projected onto the class or onto an individual child.

There are times when teachers struggle with their feelings of rage/anger.  It would be helpful to understand what causes this rage.

Everyone has a strong need to be successful at their job.  Teachers put a great deal of time and thought into planning good lessons for their pupils.  Teachers are committed to ensuring that the pupils in their class make good use of their time and use every minute productively.

So, what could go wrong?

  • Children sometimes come into school in the morning having had a difficult time first thing in the morning. The day starts badly and they are left with negative feelings throughout the school day.  What can the child do with the feelings that pervade their thoughts and prevent them from concentrating on their lessons?
  • Relationships at home could be difficult leaving the child unhappy and pre-occupied
  • Children may not have managed to have anything to eat in the morning leaving them hungry and uncomfortable
  • The child could be struggling to succeed and the feelings related to his own failure could result in behaviour which disrupts the whole class. The child who feels they are “not good enough”. Rather not even try than try and fail.

What does this all result in?

  • It could result in disruptive behaviour, taking up an inordinate amount of teaching time
  • Feelings of frustration on the teachers’ part because she must give her attention to one or two children at the cost of the educational experiences of 28 other pupils
  • Pupils’ inability to make use of the learning opportunities provided
  • Teachers’ anxiety about accountability and the outcome of an OFSTED Inspection

 

How does this affect the teacher?

  • He or she experiences a feeling of worthlessness
  • A feeling of failure
  • A feeling of frustration, especially if he/she has tried many strategies to control the children’s behaviour
  • Teachers’ anxiety about accountability and the outcome of an OFSTED Inspection
  • Teachers’ workload often leaves them exhausted, reducing their tolerance levels

 

The feeling of failure is very hard for the teacher to live with.  She has a strong need to be effective, to be a good and productive educator, but situations out of her control prevent her from being successful.

This may continue for some time until the teacher cannot cope anymore and begins to feel a rage with the perpetrators who are preventing her from being successful. There were times when I felt “at odds” with my class rather than “at one” with them.  A very uncomfortable feeling which leads to much soul searching.  Teachers assess their effectiveness every day and reflect on what went well in their lessons and what they need to change.

Teachers need to be helped to be insightful about what pupils do to them.  What pupils make them feel and why.  Teachers’ own lives impact on their coping mechanisms, and on their tolerance levels.  It is vital for schools to provide opportunities for teachers to meet regularly in a “safe” environment where they can explore their own feelings together with an experienced facilitator who is skilled in working with groups of people and enables them to successfully gain insight into their own feelings and to be supported by colleagues to develop effective strategies to keep the feelings of failure and rage in control.

See article in TES, Friday 10 February 2017 – TES talks to Ryan Martin about anger management.

https://www.tes.com/news/tes-magazine/tes-magazine/tes-talks-toryan-martin

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Leonie Sher

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