George Lucas Educational Foundation

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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mh's picture
High School Mathematics in an alternative setting

Hats off to you Kim. You have listed the most important qualities adults should display when working with children(or anyone for that matter): modeling appropriate behavior, staying calm,and not taking the misbehavior personally. I'd like to add to that being consistent, having a backup or alternative activity when things are just not going as they should (oftentimes children act out when the activity is above or below their confidence level), and choose your battles(remember, you can lose a battle but still win the war.)

Paige Kinnaird's picture
Paige Kinnaird
Eighth Grade English Teacher

I do agree that the more I am prepared for class... the better the behaviors. It is my goal in the classroom to always move to deeper level questions - instead of the yes or no type. I need to be sure that I am prepared when opening it up in the particular class that the discussion will indeed open up.

I do like the idea of the circling up and think I will try that on Monday. Sometimes I think my main goal is to help the students become more self-aware of their own behaviors and reactions as they transition into their teenage lives.... not necessarily preparing for the all encompassing state test.

Rebecca Alber's picture
Rebecca Alber
Edutopia Consulting Editor

I'm enjoying readings all these great insights and suggestions!

Also, thanks for opening with that thought, Paige. Sometimes when I would feel that heat rising under the collar, it was more anger towards myself for not properly preparing for the day! Once I'd realized this, I'd calm down, forgive myself and move on.

Another little trick for squelching that anger: Step outside the classroom door, look at the trees, feel the breeze and take a deep breath. For those few seconds I could be out of the teacher role and just be an average person trying to get through a frustrating moment.

Lee-Ann Williams's picture
Lee-Ann Williams
ESOL teacher, former graphic designer, from Atlanta, Georgia

I like the idea of a class discussion to solve problems. I teach 2nd grade, and I know you high school teachers will laugh, but I am having a terrible time with classroom management. It's my 3rd year of teaching and I want OUT because of this issue. It's not that my kids are so bad, I just can't seem to find a system that works for me to keep my kids calm and on task. I hate reward-and-consequence schemes with points and tokens and stuff. I can't keep track of them. I prefer to talk calmly and ask kids to use self-control, but that only works on the ones who are naturally compliant. The ones who want to shout out, talk, leave their seats, are just making my class so disrupted. Then I end up yelling at them, which I know is bad, and makes me feel bad, but it does shut them down for a while. And, they all talk too loudly, no matter how I remind them to keep it down. They don't stop talking when I need to address them (like, transitioning from work time to time for me to tell them something). I feel stupid and incompetent. I am at my wits end.

Gwen Hope's picture

I model how I want to be respected by respecting my students. I remind them to treat people the way they want to be treated. I stay calm when I'm dealing with behavior problems and I give my students a chance to tell their side of the story. It's hard sometime because there are some students who will challenge you and your authority. If I do lose my cool I will go back and apologize to the student and then we talk about things once I'm calm and they are too. I will not talk to a child when he/she is yelling or screaming at me. I will ask them to go sit down until they can talk to me with the upmost respect.

Gwen Hope's picture

I can see how leaving the room would help. A lady from my church who is a first grade teacher once shared with a group of educators at my church about taking mini vactions in our mind. This has helped a lot because when I feel like I'm about to explode I take a vacation in my mind to the beach and I can hear the waves crashing against the shore and feel the breeze on my face and I can feel my anger slowly but surely leaving my body.'s picture

Counting to ten worked for me. Although it was less about losing my temper and more about trying not to lose total control of the situation in my classroom of students with autism.

Meredith Foster's picture

I am a High School H.O.P.E teacher which is a combination of Physical Education and Health and Wellness. I am 24 years old, 5'1 and this is my second year of teaching high school.

I love teaching and being in the classroom, however my difficulty comes when I start to loose my temper. Because I am so young and little, I always have to make that clear distinction that I am not a student, I am the teacher.

My question is how do I control my classroom environment to make it a more positve learning environment, while not coming off as a mean teacher that yells to much or a laid back teacher that lets them get away with everything. I feel I have to be stricter than most teachers, because I am so young and little that I do not want my students to think I am one of them and they can treat me as such. Then the second I don't hold the reins as tight, they go crazy! I just want to find a happy medium!

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Hi Meredith!

There's an element of earning the respect from your students, that shouldn't have much to do with size, but with authority in general, but I can see as a tiny person (I'm 5'3" and my kids are all taller than I am now and let me know daily...) there is a tendency for kids to think they can push you around a bit.
Sometimes coming out and saying- "Listen, this is the sort of relationship I want with you students. I will respect you, and I hope you will respect me in return. I have a zero tolerance policy for disruptions that affect the learning of others. That said, I want to make sure this class has a positive environment where everyone has a voice and respects each other as well." If you can kind of lay the groundwork for mutual learning, and what crosses the line into the danger zone, (and follow through on that stuff immediately) your authority should be clear.
All kids test authority, and none more so than teens. (I have two teen boys, and I can tell you, if they drive you crazy, they are driving their parents even more so at home.) Sometimes understanding why they are picking this particular battle is important. The best piece of advice I ever got was from Rick LaVoie, who said at a presentation "You need not attend every battle to which you are invited." Picking your battles carefully, and being absolutely intransigent on the important ones establishes control- the rest is daily practice and enforcement :)

Stacie's picture

You make a very good point. Sometimes we need to remember who the adult is. I always try to take a breather before saying something.

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