Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

You Wouldn't like Me When I'm Angry: Comment

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

You Wouldn't like Me When I'm Angry: Comment

Article excerpt

When the red mist descends, Catherine Paver summons all her strength to keep her cool.

I have always had a temper and teaching makes it worse. There is so much to do and so much stopping you from doing it. Anger does have its uses, though. It can have a certain theatrical value in the classroom - if you can control it.

When I started teaching, I was unprepared for the fury that some pupils provoked in me. I once filled a piece of paper with swear words in a lesson to stop myself from shouting them out. "It's the pupils who should be getting lines, not the teacher," said a helpful colleague. Which was true, so it made me very angry.

The turning point came one day when I was watching Looney Tunes. Slumped and exhausted, I was happily chuckling at Sylvester the Cat. With mounting dismay, I realised that I was watching my own life. I was as angry and powerless as Sylvester. Instead of just one infuriating Tweety Pie, though, I had 30. And I was predictably spluttering "Sufferin' succotash!" every working day. Bad puddy tat.

I looked at some anger management websites. These just made me angry. They were all so bloody reasonable, and they always wanted me to change. What I wanted was the child I was currently angry with to change. Still, I persevered.

Ignoring the strange choice of a red background on one website, I read the section on language. Use "I" rather than "You" statements and be specific, it said. OK, I thought. I'll try.

"I would like to hit you nine times."

Hmm. What's next? "Express your feelings clearly."

"I feel frustrated that we have to share the same planet."

"Try to present a logical case... "

"I know you did that because you are very stupid."

"... and avoid using the word 'angry'."

"I am strongly dismayed by your continued existence."

None of this was helping. Later, I read a news story about two anger management gurus who got angry with each other. The report included some of their maddening dialogue: "I am not being aggressive. I am being firm and clear about how I feel."

Visualisation often appears in anger management advice: green spaces, the sea, etc. Well, the first time I was enraged by a pupil, I imagined putting her into a box and carefully nailing down the lid. …

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