Anger in the classroom

(Please note that this won’t be an entire picture of the classroom God has given me dominion over, as nothing that I write truly can be. The entire picture of this classroom is a myriad of relationships and classroom history. But I am going to try to learn what God is teaching me through these experiences.)

Today my blood boiled during 1st/2nd period. Boiling blood aptly describes how my face felt. Anger. I’ve been reflecting on whether teacher anger is at the root of most write-ups, referrals, and poorly considered consequences. I think it is. Repenting of sinful anger is a key to classroom management.

It really started yesterday.

Yesterday, MW, who was being punished, wrote an impassioned note to himself that he hated me because I let JP get away with everything. MW wrote that he thought I was scared of JP. He gave me the note when I asked, and when I asked if I could keep it, he let me. I kept it in my stack of edits for that night (writing workshop produces a lot of those right now), and whenever I came across it I read it and considered it..

Today I moved JP away from MW at the start of the class, citing instructional reasons. During silent reading JP was moving over by the couch and talking to the people there, so I told him he couldn’t sit there. He asked me, “Why?” The tone of his voice and the look on his face made me angry. It appeared that he was trying to… what, bully me? Be tough?

He stared at me and I stared at him. Then I knew he was trying to be tough. This thirteen year-old boy, part of the mentor/mentee group I go to Cici’s pizza buffet with on Wednesdays, was trying to intimidate me in my classroom! I was outraged. So I stared at him. I was mad. The fight sensors were blaring in me. I wasn’t going to back down. When JP sat at his desk, he reached his hand out–challenging me to arm wrestle! He seriously challenged me to arm wrestle. Part of me wanted to try it. He’s a big kid, but he’s a kid! I could beat him… but it was absurd. He really wanted to make clear that he was the big dog in the class.

I sent him outside. He went out and slammed the door. I gave him a minute to cool down out there (and, truthfully, for me to cool down).

Practical application: Give myself time to cool down when I get mad.

When I went out there, I was able to coolly explain to JP what had been unacceptable about his behavior. He listened, and seemed to soften a bit. I told him that the Lord had given him a great, athletic body, but that it wasn’t for that. It was for glorifying God on the field, sticking up for bullied kids, protecting women, but not for what he pulled. I told him to come in when he was ready, and several minutes later, he did–slamming the door.

But by then, I was having an issue with DT, who was talking during reading workshop (of course, it didn’t help that I’d been outside for some moments now–but the classroom was still quiet, if not inactive). My anger went up quick, and, in the anger, I assigned him lunch detention.

Practical app: Don’t give consequences in anger. The tone this gives them is one of resentment. Give consequences after both parties have had a chance to cool down.

Final digression: I’ve got these two boys JD and CJ who made a girl cry today. JD was saying something smelled, and Clifton was saying it was LG (the girl). These boys are pretty quiet about what they do. They have been infuriating me this week because of their coldness; even though they’re always giggling, there’s a lot that’s mean and cruel about it. They’re not taking anything seriously.

Lord, I praise You for making them, for Your plan for them that I can’t see. I confess that I am angry and bitter towards them; I resent their attitude. You made them in love, have a purpose for them in perfect love. You are unconditionally committed to getting them into your arms at the future feast. Lord, I want to know their hearts; I want to know how to teach them; I want them to stop being mean and start being young men. Father, with Your Spirit I repent of my feelings towards these boys, and I forgive them. I ask that You would grant LG the same overflowing grace. Because we have been unconditionally forgiven, we can forgive–all because of You.

Practical app: Father, praying about students is of infinitely greater worth than worrying about them or being angry at them or bitter towards them or indifferent about them. All of these approaches besides prayer is idolatry. I repent of today’s idolatry and turn back to You, my Father.


About davestuartjr
Dave Stuart Jr. is a full-time teacher who writes about becoming better, saner teachers at He is a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband to Crystal, and a father to Hadassah, Laura, and Marlena.

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