A Story of An Angry Child and a Teacher Who Tries

“I don’t want to!”  The child’s face is inches from my face and the anger emanates out of their whole being.  I say nothing but stand my ground.  The child steps back, kicks the trash can and leans sullenly toward the wall.  I have been screamed at for over 5 minutes by this child.  Witness to a child so angry that any direction is interpreted as a reason to fight, any instruction is a chance of failure.

The old Pernille would have marched them down to the office, left them there to simmer in their anger, left them there to let someone else deal with it.

The old Pernille would have asserted herself, reminded that angry child that I decide and they are going to do exactly as they are told…now.

The old Pernille would have raised her voice, pointed her finger, and perhaps even gotten a little red in the face.

But not this time, not this Pernille.

Instead, I remind myself to stay calm, that this is not personal.  That this child that so wants me to become a dragon does not need another teacher yelling at them.  That this child that stands before me has had nothing but adults telling them exactly what to do and repeating it over and over.

So this child needs a new start, someone that gets it, someone that sets boundaries but does not hold a grudge.  This child needs an adult that sees more than the anger, more than the noncompliance, hears more than the angry words.

So I try to be that teacher.  I try to shrug it off, to smile and crack jokes to alleviate the tension.  I try to help before it gets to this.  I try to get the child to trust me.  To have them feel that I am worthy of them letting down their guard.  Even though sometimes I want to scream and point my finger.  Even though that sending them to the office would be so much easier.  Even though I am not sure this will ever end.  But I still have to try.


3 thoughts on “A Story of An Angry Child and a Teacher Who Tries

  1. Pernille, Your reflections and thoughts should be read by all teachers, as it if often that teachers take a child's anger or reaction as personal, add their own frustrations to the situation then multiply the problem. As a result it is the child who we are letting down. I have had that child and I was that 'old Pernille' for far to long and sometimes it sneaks back into the equation. Thank you for sharing Luke

  2. I call it emotional equilibrium. When a child acts out with such a torrent of emotion, it takes an equal amount of calm, acceptance, and gentleness to diffuse the tension. Anyone that emotionally out of control cannot see anything but red and escalates out of fear and a need to feel in control. Any time I react with calm and kindness when a student expects rage and a power struggle, it helps push us both toward trust. How else is a child supposed to react in a situation where she is so powerless and feels so desperate? Adults have the privilege of power, authority, and autonomy. Children are at our collective mercy, so why not show them the power of mercy, acceptance, and forgiveness. Your students are lucky to have someone willing to model appropriate use of power with them.

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