“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”
– Proverbs 29:11 NIV
My first year returning to the classroom, I worked at a school that was identified as a ‘turnaround’ school. So after being out for 10 years I was coming to a school that needed help. It was one of those schools everyone gasps at and is aghast that someone works there. “Oh! You work there,” kind of schools. For the first time in my professional career, I would now be working at one of those schools. By the manner things came about that led me to that school community, I was hopeful, encouraged and motivated, because I realized it was schools like this one that needed professionals, like me, who were motivated, enthusiastic and willing to make a difference. Some would say, as I was told, that I was a hopeless optimistic, but I sincerely believed as a Christian educator, at this point in my career, it was worth the investment of time, energy and faith to be where I was directed to go.
Though, at times, being there was intensely frustrating, challenging and difficult, it was also rewarding and reassuring to see my own growth, maturity and professional development that had occurred during the course of my professional career. We had a new administrative team and a new staff with a great population of new teachers to teaching. Most of the staff from the previous year were removed with a few who remained. I had a lot to relearn returning to the classroom, but I was up for the challenge.
One thing I noticed during the process of my progress in transitioning back into the classroom, was a significant number of students who seem to only respond when they are being yelled at. There was a lot of power behavior, but I resolved I would not yell to try to manage my classroom. Eventually I learned to communicate to students who chose not to listen unless being yelled at, or respond only to a hands-on (authoritarian/autocratic) style of classroom management, that only in prison and in the armed forces will you find yelling as a normal means of communication. I maintained that they should not diminish themselves by choosing only to respond when being yelled at. It dehumanizes them and the person who engages consistently in that manner of communication.
One fateful day, I too, became infuriated due to an increasing sense of frustration with the power behavior on display I felt being directed at me and I released the Kraken! It was a short burst of anger (no curse words or venom filled with criticism with the intent to humiliate) expressed from my gut to silence the barrage of disrespect being directed towards me. Momentarily it accomplished the goal of silencing the behavior, but it also reminded me of the power a student can have to influence me to take the bait if I let it continue to dangle in front of me. I had mentioned later that day to a professional colleague I had to release the Kraken, out of frustration, which can and will happen from time to time, but I am learning to keep it restrained.
The wisdom I have learned over the years with regard to power behavior was to no longer yell, raise my voice, towards students who are currently not listening. If they’re not listening, how will yelling cause them to listen? Experience has taught me if I make a habit out of yelling, it’ll be the way I manage until I change the habit. Besides, the only students who will respond to yelling will be those who choose to.
May God bless you and help you to restrain the negative energy within you, ignited by power behavior, and empower you to use graceful exits to avoid escalating conflicts within your classroom and still be able to teach, influence and inspire learning.