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How Do You Control Your Temper In The Classroom?

How Do You Control Your Temper In The Classroom?

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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?

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Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture

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

Paige Kinnaird's picture
Paige Kinnaird
Eighth Grade English Teacher

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.

Ron Shuali's picture
Ron Shuali
Keynote Speaker and Workshop Trainer at Shua Life Skills

Is there an activity in class he enjoys. One that might be beyond the other children? Or is there an opportunity for him to take on a leadership role and help you teach. Obviously the negative consequences don't phase him. He, like many other genuises, will always find something else to be engaged in, even in the hallway. For me, being in the hallway got me more attention. Not only from the students inside, but also from the students and teachers walking the hallway. Once you figure out a positive reinforcer, only give it to him when he follows the rules "x" amount of days. Up to you to decide.

When they start talking, pattern interrupt. You come up with a story or a funny joke that gets the rest of the class to perk up or laugh. This will intrigue them to pay attention more. I've also taught teachers to stand right next to the talkers and continue your lesson. Let's see if they have the nerve to keep talking while you are standing between them. However, don't react. It may just be a ploy to get your attention. Go Get 'Em!

Alice Mercer's picture
Alice Mercer
Elementary Computer Lab Teacher

First, I feel for you. This is a HUGE issue in teaching at my school, and one of the biggest complaints I hear from teachers about their ability to teach (and raise test scores) is around students who are disruptive.

You've already acknowledged that what you've been doing is not working. I'm going to explain why that might be not to pick but in the hopes that it'll help you see a better way to approach this problem.

Cards, and banishment to the hallway is much too public and confrontational for students of that age. Card flipping is usually only used in primary, and even there can be problematic. I'll ask Larry to pipe in, but in general you should only be using the hallway for students to choose a timeout, or for you to conference more privately with students about their behavior. I'm going to make a couple of suggestions, then ask others to chime in...

1. Self-monitoring. Have the students keep their own post-it, etc to mark down each time they "shout out". Have them set a goal to reduce the number of incidence. I know it sound dumb, but it has been successful for upper grade (4-6) teachers in my school.

2. Silent signals to redirect student. A subtle tap on the desk corner. Pull them away from peers for a talk. Above all, just don't share it with the class.

3. Use a neutral tone of voice (this is the hardest one for me), and put it in terms of their behavior and their choices, not "I'm going to make you pay," but "This will happen if your behavior is thus."

4. Patience; don't try to resolve it all at once (unless it's a potential fight). I use "We'll discuss this later," and then talk about it during a transition (say from lecture to independent work). Once I've done that a couple times, the kids know it will come up. Since I teach "periods" even though I'm in elementary, I'm in a time situation that is closer to what you have in Middle/Junior High.

Paul Jaeger's picture
Paul Jaeger
Learning Helper Seeking Employment

You could try circling up. Next time, if things start getting out of hand, you could make plain the situation (*Things aren't going very well in here today and I'm having a hard time getting through the lesson) and introduce a new way to work through some of the difficulties you're having in class (group circle). Once everyone has joined the circle (*you could try using a talking piece), you could say something like, "Like I said earlier, things aren't going very well in here today and I'm interested in hearing what each of you can do to make things go better." Then, let the students speak. When they share, it is important for them not to slip into playing the blame game as that does little to help. What seems to work best is for each student to talk about how they are being affected by the behavior of their fellow community members and to suggest a course of action. If someone gets off track, feel free to redirect them. Once some ideas have been brought to the table, you can talk about each of them and try to settle on which will work best. If someone is not listening or interrupting, you can ask them to slide their chair back from the circle.

Circling up may sound time consuming and, to be honest, it can be, but it already sounds like quite a bit of time is being wasted so why not try something fresh that allows students a chance to work it out? If there is little follow through with the plan created, you can always ask students if they are going to be true to their word. Just some ideas...

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

I had a similar situation last year, and wrote about how I handled is successfully. Unfortunately, for some reason Edutopia's spam filter is preventing me from leaving any url addresses here today.

If you go to my blog (the first comment in this discussion thread contains a link to it) you can find it by first going to the sidebard link that says "My Best of Series." Then go to the "Classroom Management" section. Then, go to the post titled "Have You Ever Taught A Class That Got "Out Of Control"?

Todd Wandio's picture

Just like the facial treatment, I try to stop problem moments before they occur. I have found that when I am best prepared, I am least tempted to lose my temper. "Losing it", "Blowing a gasket", "Freaking out", are all signs that we have run out of ammunition and are now posturing to try to hold the line. It feels like we have divided the classroom into two opposing armies, us and them. We believe we are owed respect, and that students misbehaving is disrespecting us. In fact, I am constantly amazed by how little I actually figured into their thought patterns. Of course, when I did lose my temper, I got a quiet classroom, but I wouldn't say it was a permanent solution. What I taught in that moment was that students only had to be respectful of the learning tone of the room once the teacher had a fit.

The solution most days was to be very well prepared for the lesson, with resonable consequences clearly outlined, and reasonable expectations for success for the students. When I outlined my expectations clearly and assertively, students responded more positively. They weren't perfect, but they understood that clear consequences followed misbehavior. The more consistent I was in keeping to those consequences, the more cooperative students became.

It's all in the planning. Know what you are going to do, say, and expect, and students will more likely follow. Do this early and consistently, and you will be more successful still. Cheers!

Andrew Pass's picture

I've learned that sometimes instead of speaking up it really helps to become quieter. This helps students refocus, but it also helps me remain calm.

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Erika Saunders's picture
Erika Saunders
6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

Believe it or not, it really helps me to sing. When feel like I'm about to blow my top, I sing. Anything really. It calms me down and stops the kids dead in their tracks. Sometimes I get looks like, "Are you crazy?!" Sometimes, they join in.

Kim's picture

I have enjoyed reading everyone's posts, and I think there have been some great suggestions for dealing with a difficult aspect of teaching. I really liked the comment "You'll never regret what you don't say" - that is so true!!
I have always found that the more agitated the student, the calmer and more "Zen" that I become - getting riled up along with the student will certainly not help matters! I also try not to take misbehavior personally - they're just kids, and like several people have said, they probably have a lot going on at home that affects their behavior. The best thing that we can do is model appropriate adult behavior, since they may not have the best role models at home.

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