Whether you're a first-year teacher or a seasoned pro, effective classroom management is a critical piece of any successful classroom. Share what works.

How Do You Control Your Temper In The Classroom?

Larry Ferlazzo I teach English & Social Studies at inner-city high school in Sacramento,CA

Hi, and welcome to the Edutopia Classroom Management discussion group!

Alice Mercer and I (I'll definitely be the junior partner, though) will be facilitating here, and I'm looking forward to learning from the wealth of experiences that are out there.

I'd like to start off with a quick observation and question:

I've found that one of the keys to helping students develop self-control is making sure the teacher does the same. I had a recent experience that I wrote about in my blog and titled it I Was Disappointed With What Happened Yesterday…”.

What techniques do you use to control your temper in the classroom?

Comments (28)

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Elementary Computer Lab Teacher

I like to remember to breath

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I like to remember to breath BEFORE I say something hotly in response to a student. It makes it easier to speak civilly in those situations. Here's a post with more on the subject.

Middle School teacher from Alaska

Teachers don't often realize

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Teachers don't often realize the power they have. Behaving badly in front of students only serves one purpose - to make students feel powerless. There are times when it's tempting - because we can. Middle school students have a knack for finding buttons and pushing them - that's their job! Sometimes it's hard to resist jumping into the fray - we can so easily win a test of wits! Those of us who have given in to the temptation know quite well what that will lead to...we take away what little empowerment a student may feel, and we feel bad. It never leads to a feeling of triumph for us or a moment of learning for the student.

I think probably the worst times are days when I am feeling stressed - I'm behind on grading, I have some things to do that administrators or parents are waiting for, I have a pressing personal issue at home - things that are MY problems. Those seem to be the times when I am most apt to have my buttons pushed. I have to remember that they do not know any of these things that are going on with me. As far as my students are concerned, I am 100% available to them mind, body, and soul. And I really should be there 100%. I try as much as I can to put everything aside during class - my students are my #1 priority during this time. I find that the more present I am for them, the less I feel tempers rise.

I think another helpful thing to remember is to always avoid taking any situation down a path that will lead to a point of no return.

Elementary Computer Teacher

A Point of No Return

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That's a great way to put it! Any time that a power struggle could possibly happen is when I realize, thank goodness, to stop and remember who the adult is. I am lucky to work with elementary age kids, but even at this age once in a while a kid will try very hard to push my buttons. I just have to remember this is a kid...and I am in charge. I am the adult, I have to step back and not let this kid get my "goat" or the end result could be me losing control. That cannot happen. It would surely be the point of no return for my employment!

I teach English & Social Studies at inner-city high school in Sacramento,CA

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Good points! One hopes that teachers realize that it's never possible to "win" a power struggle with a student -- over the long run, it just never works...

K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

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Whenever I am having a hard day I have three things I try to remember. One: Many of my students' days are 50 times worse than one of my bad days. Some come to school after no sleep because of a family dispute or no heat in the house, and some come without having eaten breakfast or even dinner the night before. Two: You will never regret what you don't say. Three: I have 2 degrees--I should act like I do!

K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

Sorry, I posted twice by

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Sorry, I posted twice by accident!

Upper elementary teacher in Garibaldi, Oregon


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Sometimes, I just don't say anything for a while. This gives me time to think and it makes the kids wonder what I'm going to do. I usually end up smiling and either dealing with the problem or just moving on.
I've got lots of other ideas, but that one seems to work best when I'm starting to get really angry.

Algebra teacher, Maryland

Tolerance line

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If i feel my blood pressure rising or the desire to cut a couple kids at the knee caps it normally is because of a whole class issue-- it seems like the whole class suddenly turned crazy. In those cases I sometimes revert to a "tolerance line." I draw a line on the board and write tolerance under it and I start making hash marks representing the "tolls" on my tolerance. At least a few kids have to realize you are making marks for it to work, but it normally doesn't take long for the "guys stop it she's making marks" to spread. If I ever get to the end of my tolerance they know there is going to be a cost. The cost depends on the circumstance. If we are in cooperative groups doing an activity we'll switch to a workbook page. etc. I rarely hit the end.

I sometimes use this for days that kids just seem squirrelly; they aren't crazy but they are just "coloring outside of the lines" even though they are still learning.

I created the tolerance line my first year teaching across the street from the Daytona government housing. At that point I was terrible at emotional control (thankfully I've drastically improved) and my kids gave new meaning to behavioral issues. It suddenly occurred to me that I knew my internal temperature was rising reaching boiling by their absolutely absurd behavior but they had no idea until I blew a gasket. So I created an outward monitor to signal students.

Middle School teacher by day, Tweenteacher by night

What did I do?

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When my blood is rising and that kid who can really get to me actually is, I find other faces to look at. In the time that it takes my eyes to find those looking to me for guidance, I've used the following sentence stem to begin my own silent reflection, even while simultaneously teaching: "What did I do to allow this to get to this point?" I also always remind myself that even while I learn from my students on a daily basis, I am still the wisest in the room. I must model. I must be the adult that they may not have outside of school. In fact, many time those students are testing to see who you do respond in order to learn from you in a way they may not learn from other adults.

By always looking at myself first, I can weed out what I need to own, and what I need to expect from that student. So many times in a situation that's frustrating, I can trace it back to a signal or sign that I didn't respond to. And who can blame teachers for not responding to every single signal when so many are being thrown our way? Nevertheless, it is our job to have our antennae up.

Having said all that, however, I believe that humor is the best prevention for conflict. And modeling is the best way to show students how to avoid conflict and how to deal with it when it happens. If students see that we are well-intentioned, rooting for their success, and skilled in helping them achieve towards success, those fire-tempered moments are few and far between.

Thanks for the discussion thread!
-Heather WG
aka Tweenteacher

Eighth Grade English Teacher

Disruptions limit learning

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I currently teach 5 classes of 8th Grade English and I have one class (most of us do :) that tests all of my skills. I only have 12 students in this class...but it feels like 35. A couple of students in particular will start conversations about who knows what in the middle of class and limit the learning of everyone else. I have tried holding them accountable with cards that signify a call home (this was ineffective), I have placed a desk in the hall and on the second warning to the hall (this is not proving all that effective either).

I welcome suggestions on techniques that others have tried that have been successful... One of the students who is the main instigator of the problems is so bright and intelligent, yet chooses to not use what he has for productive and positive outcomes.

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