3 Questions to Help You Manage Aggression in Classrooms

There’s an unfortunate reality about teaching that you’ll eventually comes across: you’ll eventually end up angry at one of your students or your students will be angry or aggressive towards you. It’s hard to  know how to manage aggression we might have towards students who aren’t behaving in class. We might feel ridiculed, disrespected, not listened to, or more. As Social Emotional Learning teaches us, our emotions don’t exist in a vacuum. One bad day at home or a bad week outside of school can be compounded when a student acts up, causing us to lash out or turn to aggressive behavior.

On the flip side, your students can also end up angry at you, or their classmates. Just like your emotions, your students might not be able to manage aggression, because they don’t understand where it comes from or how to cope with it.

It’s important to recognize this behavior and work on steps to prevent it. The best way to handle the emotions we have is to give names to them and understand the process behind them. This is a huge part of Social Emotional Learning: by understanding how we react to emotions we can change those reactions into something positive!

Here are three questions you, or your students, can ask yourselves when you feel anger coming to help you manage aggression.

  1. What behaviors tend to annoy me or make me angry?
  2. What does my body do when I feel angry?
  3. What does my mind do when I feel angry?

 1. What behaviors tend to annoy me or make me angry?

Don’t feel ashamed about this! We all have different things that make us angry or annoyed, it’s part of being human. By identifying the types of interactions, situations, or even noises or movements that annoy or anger you, you can understand where anger stems from and cap it at its source. You can also work on becoming more tolerant of these types of actions, or removing yourself from them to begin with.

2. What does my body do when I feel angry?

All emotions have some sort of physical response that work with them and each person can have a different reaction. By identifying the physical signs of anger, you can remove your situation or start taking steps to counteract this anger before it becomes aggressive.

You could be one of those people whose heart starts beating faster when they’re in a conflict. If you know this, you can work on slowing your heart beat down in these situations. Once you’ve combated the physical symptoms of aggression, you might even notice the mental symptoms going away too!

3. What does my mind do when I feel angry?

Emotions aren’t always logical. That might sound like a contradiction, but it’s true! Sometimes we aren’t always 100% in control of our emotions. Feelings might pop in and out of our head throughout the day, and that’s fine, what’s important is dealing with those emotions in an appropriate and productive way.

By knowing what your mind does when you’re angry you can monitor your thoughts and feelings related to that anger. For example, if you start having angry thoughts related to a student who (once again) has to be told to sit down, you’re well on your way to becoming angry with them. There’s nothing wrong with having these feelings! However, if your anger impacts your interaction with this student, you know this is wrong and could be problematic.

Once again, by monitoring how your mind feels during bouts of anger, you can strike before those emotions mature. You could take a couple of deep intentional breaths to get you back in the logical productive mindset as opposed to the emotion-driven mindset.

Aggression in the classroom can be a scary or frustrating situation, but by practicing mindfulness and awareness of your emotions, both you and your students can work to decrease these interactions. For more tips on how to manage aggression in your classrooms,  check out our Satori Alternative Methods to Aggression certification course, where we teach you everything you need to know to deal with these frustrating situations.

Monica Kurtz is a Behavior Specialist at Region 13. Her background includes over 10 years of experience in early childhood education, as well as 15 years at the Texas School for the Deaf working with students from Kindergarten to adult-learners who are deaf and also have additional disabilities. Her work at Region 13 includes supporting and coaching behavior teachers and programs, supporting the PREPARE curriculum, and working with educators to support individual students. Monica has a master’s degree in education, focusing on trauma and resiliency in curriculum. She is passionate about working with educators in understanding the effects of childhood trauma and how to build resiliency and student coping skills.

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