At some point in your career as a teacher, you'll likely run into trouble with at least one of your students -- no matter what age group you work with. Whether a student is angry at you because of a grade you gave him or at another student after a disagreement on the playground, it's essential that you know how to appropriately diffuse the situation. Dealing with angry students can be challenging, but there are several ways you can make it easier on yourself.
Give Them Space
It's normal for children and teenagers to initially become so overwhelmed by their anger that they're unable to rationalize their behavior or look at the big picture. This is the result of the many physical changes anger causes in the body, including increased heart rate, raised blood pressure and a release of hormones. Students may instinctively lash out physically or verbally, only to regret their actions a few moments later. As soon as you notice a student is becoming hostile, offer her the opportunity to cool down in a quiet space for a few minutes. If she's fighting with another student, separate them immediately and provide them each with their own place to sit. Allowing students to quietly reflect on their anger may help them realize that they overreacted, and once they've calmed down, it will be easier for you to discuss the situation with them.
Talk it Out
Anger is often a secondary emotion that masks a bigger issue hiding beneath the surface. Students may act angry when really they're feeling insecure, depressed, scared, rejected or maybe even bored. Once a student has calmed enough to discuss the situation with you, offer him the chance to fully explain his side of the story. He might reveal that he's going through a lot of stress at home, or that he's frustrated because he worked really hard on the assignment he failed. After you've identified the real emotions that caused the outburst, calmly discuss possible solutions. Be proactive and willing to brainstorm together. Listen to his ideas and offer a few of your own. Focus on what you can do to help him rather than what you can't do. For example, you might be unwilling to change his grade, but you can offer him the ability to retake the test or complete an extra credit assignment.
Arrange a Meeting
In some cases, you won't be able to deal with a student's anger on your own. If a student broke a major rule or refused to cooperate when you tried to calm her down, you might need to send her to a higher authority for discipline. If she revealed that she's depressed, anxious or feels incapable of controlling her anger, it might be best to refer her to the school counselor or psychologist, who will be able to better address her issues. You might also feel the need to contact her parents to let them know what happened, so that they can reinforce her discipline or help her cope with her emotions outside of school.
Tips and Considerations
When dealing with an angry student, it's essential that you remain calm and professional no matter how much he puts your patience to the test. It's easy to allow yourself to feed into his anger, but this will only make the situation worse. Don't threaten or intimidate the student, as this could cause him to become more angry and combative. Speak with authority but also convey your compassion and sympathy. If the student is open to talking it out and finding a solution, use your conversation as an opportunity to help him learn proper coping techniques and develop his problem solving skills. If at any point you become worried that a student poses a physical threat to you, call for help immediately.
- University of Oregon: Strategies for Dealing with Angry Students Outside the Classroom
- Eastern Washington University: Defusing Anger in Others
- Monterey Peninsula College: I Have a Student Who Is Angry About a Grade
- Northern Illinois University College of Education: Anger Management: A Guide for Teachers to Manage Student Anger
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