Anyone suddenly experiencing particularly bad behavior in your classroom???
The school psychologist and I had an interesting conversation the other day:
- The end of the year is coming.
- For some kids in our population, school is the only structure in their lives.
- It is also where they are fed, loved, etc.
- A lot of kids are anticipating the summer recess as a loss of that structure.
- The instability creates a feeling of being upset.
- Instead of becoming emotional, students become angry.
The gist: It is easier to be mad than upset.
Here is an article from Psychology Today that outlines these phenomena. As for the classroom, I found the most applicable part to be:
“…just behind the anger that is so evident, and often encouraged, in our lives, are two emotions that are much harder to express: fear and sadness. Both of these very common feelings are seen as weaknesses and are hard to tolerate for long. One way to escape them is to get mad and allocate blame. If we can find a target, we can indulge our outrage and assign responsibility for our misery to someone else. Now we are a victim.”
My belief is that several kids are using this coping mechanism at this point in the school year. However, that does NOT make it okay to be rude, nasty, or mistreat others. My heart hurts when I hear mean things. I take it just as seriously as a lapse in academic performance.
I want my students to take much more away from my classroom than academic knowledge. I want them to be better people because they were in my room.
So how do we, as educators, tackle this? I feel as though addressing this issue is important, beyond classroom management and counting down to the last day of school. Not addressing this specific behavioral phenomena would be a lost opportunity to a monumental “teachable moment.” After all, this is one that a person will experience throughout their lives, right?!
My mom will be the first one to tell you that I was a textbook case of this phenomena. Precisely the week before I would head 330 miles back to my small, liberal arts college in Ohio, I would become easily agitated and incite arguments over the most ridiculous things.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was an undergrad that I had it pointed out to me, and was then able to recognize when I was doing it.
IMHO, the solution should involve explicitly teaching students about vulnerability. (Yes, I am a raging Brene Brown fan. If you don’t know her, please take a few moments to acquaint yourself. Here is her first amazing TED talk. Here is the follow up TED talk.)
I tell my students that I have been observing an uptick in anger. I tell them that I have been through a lot in my own life, and use the going-back-to-college example.
Anger and sadness are basic feelings. Kids get that. Even younger kids can discuss the differences between being mad and sad. Giving students permission and opportunities to express their sadness, and vulnerability is another part of it. Whether it be in their writing journals, during reading/writing conferences, during transition times, class discussions, etc.
Do you see this in your classroom? In your life?
How do you handle it? What is your approach?
Thanks for reading all the way to this point. And please feel free to create a dialogue below. 😉