Anger Management Skills for School Teachers: Managing Your Anger Inside and Outside the Classroom


[The text of my speech @ an in-house Teachers’ Seminar held in Ifako International Secondary School, Lagos]

According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, ANGER is “the strong feeling that you have when something has happened that you think is bad and unfair.”
ANGER is frequently a result of frustration, or of feeling blocked or thwarted from something we feel to be important.
ANGER is also a kind of response displayed when some expectation is not met, thereby resulting in shouting, scolding, striking, hatred, and often, silence.
The organs of the body with which ANGER is commonly expressed are the hands, the legs, the head (all used in physical expression of anger), the tongue (used in the verbal expression of anger), etc., but the TONGUE is the commonest organ, and perhaps, the most powerful weapon through which we vent our anger. ANGER is commonly expressed through verbal actions, such as verbal warning or threat, yelling, screaming, cursing, and sarcasm. It may also be expressed physically by raising clenched fists, throwing objects around or at the offenders, hitting a wall, hitting the offender, scattering or messing up everywhere, etc.
– Mrs. Bepo stamped her foot in annoyance because of the parent’s rude comments.
– Because Mr. Adetola couldn’t stomach the students’ arrogance, he left the class in anger.
– I warned the new teacher to be careful how he deals with you, because I know how jocular he can be and I know how you get easily moved to rage about silly jokes.
– Trust me, Miss Adewunmi may look gentle-natured, her wrath is beyond description.
– Non-payment of salaries by the government provoked the teachers’ ire.
– What is all this craze about? I only told her the truth.
When we are angry the body releases stress hormones, such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. The heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and breathing rate increase. Regular episodes of anger can eventually make people ill. Also, the recurrent unmanaged anger may result in a constant flood of stress chemicals and associated metabolic changes that can eventually undermine someone’s health.
Many people say ANGER is a normal and even healthy emotion, and I totally agree with them, but it’s very important to be able to deal with it in a positive way. Uncontrolled anger can take a toll on both our health and our relationships.
While some people are very prone or quick to anger, some others hardly get angry. Some people are easily aroused and quickly respond to stimuli. They rapidly become angered by bad smells, heat and annoying noises. Others are slow to react and seem not bothered by such stimuli. Genetic variability plays a big part here. Many factors provoke anger in people:
Erratic driving and frustration over long traffic gridlock; worrying or brooding about one’s personal problems; alcohol and drug abuse; failure in life or the feeling of hopelessness about certain future events; someone’s careless handling of our property; irritating comments from people and negative evaluations by others; silly behaviour from one’s children; offensive acts by one’s spouse or sexual starvation; memories of traumatic or enraging events; lack of money; joblessness; delayed salary; terminal illness; a cancelled flight; long queue at motor parks or airports; failure and disappointment; pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS); hunger; tiredness; teasing; perceived injustice; violent games; violent music with violent lyrics; discomfort in the environment, etc.
ANGER TRIGGERS refer to such acts or things that provoke anger in people. Such triggers are commonly found in classroom settings, as well as in the school environment. Various acts by students may provoke anger in the teachers. Common triggers include:
a. Unclean Classroom and Uncleared Refuse
b. Undone Class Tasks, Group Projects and Homework
c. Students’ Deep Spite For School And Nonchalance To School Work
d. Truancy
e. Bullying Inside Or Outside The Classroom
f. Persistently Low Performance Of Some Students
g. Noise Making
h. Students’ Playing Prank on Teachers
Our world is not all about goodness, sweetness and positives alone. There are many bad events and ugly situations that often threaten our existence, and because we need to react to these incidents for the sake of our survival, a certain amount of ANGER is needed at different times of our lives. Yet, we must express our anger within strict limits. Such laws and norms that help us caution ourselves against excessive anger are part of what we call SOCIAL CONTROL. A Yoruba proverb says, “Omo ale eniyan ni i r’inu ti ki i bi, beeni, omo ale eniyan laa n be ti ki i gbo”, literally meaning, “Whoever does not get angry is a bastard; and whoever refuses to be consoled in his fit of anger is equally a bastard”. This proverb justifies the inevitability of anger, but cautions us to tame our rage, when necessary.
ANGER may provoke the thoughts of revenge, nurtured by people who feel hurt about something or somebody or somebody’s unwanted actions. Anger often energizes us to retaliate, as we can read in these sentences:
i. I’m going to pay him back in his own coin!
ii. The whole class must be punished for my lost wallet.
iii. I’ll make sure you fail this course!
iv. I’m going to kill him for saying that about me!
v. For not fulfilling his financial duties on me and my children, I won’t let him touch me for a whole year!
ANGER may be said to be good:
– when it is used as an appropriate response to injustice, as seen propelling many solidarity protests, social movements for equality, workers’ union demonstrations, etc.,
– when it is used to right the wrongs found around us, seen, for instance, in the Nigerian Army’s reprisal fight against terrorist groups,
– when it is used to force people to pay much needed attention to us, as seen in children’s throwing tantrum to get the attention of negligent parents, or seen when wives withhold sexual favours from irresponsible husbands,
– when it is used to make stubborn people comply with generally accepted ways, rules and regulations, as seen in teachers’ meting out punishment to repeatedly errant students,
– when it is used to claim our deprived rights and win back our lost items, as seen in self defence fight against bullies,
– when we let it propel our positive determination to achieve success, as seen when a person says his anger to make it
in life made him work extremely hard, or when a students’ anger for success pushes him/her to read voraciously, as if books were food.
When we become angry, the **autonomic nervous system** is aroused. For example, when you find out about your wife’s secret affair, the consequent anger will likely lead to the arousal of the sympathetic nervous system and associated hormonal and neurochemical changes. These physiological reactions can lead to increases in cardiovascular responding, in respiration and perspiration, in blood flow to active muscles and in strength. As the anger persists, it will affect many of the body’s systems, such as the cardiovascular, immune, digestive and central nervous systems.
HEALTH EFFECTS Hypertension and Stroke, Heart Disease, Gastric Ulcer, Bowel Diseases, Slower Wound Healing, Increased Risk of Some Types of Cancers, Persistent Headache, Redness of the Eyes, Ulcer, Insomnia (Sleeplessness), Skin Disorder, & Depression.
OTHER EFFECTS (SOCIAL AND SPIRITUAL) Destroys Peace and harmony, Destroys Relationships with Man and with God, Destroys Chances of Success, Damages your Career, Causes Stigmatization and Lowers Self-Esteem.
Anger management is a procedure of acquiring the skills to recognize signs that you are becoming angry, and taking action to deal with the situation in a positive way. Remember that anger is a normal human emotion, a healthy one when it is expressed appropriately. Some degree of anger will be with us throughout our lives.
When anger is mild, infrequent, and expressed without aggression, and it diminishes quickly, then professional help is NOT NEEDED. However, if your anger is immoderate, experienced frequently, and endures to the point where you are holding a grudge and are planning to get revenge, and is expressed in the forms of aggressive verbal and physical actions, then THERE IS CAUSE FOR ALARM. In this situation, one is likely at risk of losing relationship, suffering health and sometimes legal repercussions, as a result of inappropriate expression of anger.
The knowledge of anger management helps us to recognize frustrations early on and settle them in a way that allows us to express our needs, while remaining calm and in control. Coping with anger is an acquired skill which requires unlearning some of the bad behaviors that result from frustration.
The knowledge of anger management helps us to identify what triggers our emotions, and how to respond to such things, so that things work in our favor, instead of working against us. Below are tips on how to manage your ANGER:
COGNITIVE RESTRUCTURING: When people are angry, their thinking tends to get exaggerated, such that whatever they utter, they say it with so much force. While in the fit of anger, you should try to change your thoughts. Rather than continue thinking about the cause(s) of the anger, try think of positive things. For instance, if the cause of your anger is a person (student, colleague, boss, etc.), you may at that point try to remember the great and good things that person had done for you before the current situation. Such thoughts may help lessen your anger. You may use words like, “It’s well with my soul”, or self-consolatory words like “Salau, you need to calm down now.”
ENGAGE IN BETTER COMMUNICATION: In a fit of anger, don’t jump into conclusion, especially based on spiteful information you got. Try to discuss the issue provoking the anger very thoroughly, especially with the supposed offender. You might have got the wrong information about the situation. Besides, the supposed offender may not even be aware he has offended you with his words or actions.
APPLY SOME HUMOUR: Often, you simply need to laugh off the cause of the anger. You may call the offender some funny name that will provoke laughter, but try not use harsh jokes that may degenerate into a bigger problem. Use some humour and laugh off the cause of the anger.
ENGAGE IN SOME FORM OF EXERCISE: Engaging in some physical exercise will help divert your attention away from the source of your anger and help calm your nerves.
CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT: Often, the environment you find yourself at a point in time may be the cause of your irritation and anger. You may need to leave that environment temporarily. Leave an annoying gathering, an irritating office, a noisy environment, etc. if you feel uncomfortable being there at a particular time or if your being there will push you into a rage.
AVOIDANCE : Try to avoid seeing, saying or doing things that make you fly into a rage. For instance, if seeing one of the toilets left dirty always angers you, then, you may need to avoid entering that toilet. If you can’t change the situation without being angry, then, avoid it. Also, avoid any interaction that is likely to lead to anger.
DRINK COLD WATER: Some people believe that drinking water in slow sips when one is angry can help calm the rising temper.
THINK OF ALTERNATIVES: If a particular method of doing something is the cause of your anger, then think of an alternative to achieving that. For instance, if coming to school by public bus always makes you come late and makes you lose some amount of money in deductions at the end of the month, you will need to think of an alternative: perhaps leaving home earlier than usual, finding another route that guarantees quicker arrival at work, etc.
BEHAVE MATURELY: It is believed that ability to control one’s anger is a good sign of maturity, as easily angered people are seen as grossly immature people. It takes a lot of courage and maturity to stay calm when provoked.
LEARN TO BE FLEXIBLE: Do you find it hard to understand and accept other people’s points of view? Do you believe that your ways, ideas and opinions are always right, such that you get angry when others disagree with you? You need to understand that no two human beings can ever be the same, and that understanding should make you know that dissimilar human beings can never have similar opinions and interests, at all times. This realization should make you flexible in your expectations from others around you. Stop wanting others to be, think, and act like you. It’s impossible!
BE CONSCIOUS OF TIMING: For instance, the time or period you discuss an important issue with your boss or your colleague may be the cause of the recurring anger. Try to watch this, and then change the timing. Target the time when the person will not be under stress, when he/she is in a relaxed mood, to discuss your issue, such that the discussion won’t degenerate into a heated argument.
DON’T HOLD A GRUDGE: Forgiveness is a powerful tool. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. But if you can forgive someone who angered you, you might both learn from the situation.
SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP: If you feel that your anger is really out of control, if it is having an impact on your relationships and on important parts of your life, you might consider counseling to learn how to handle it better. You may seek the help of a psychologist or other licensed mental health professionals.
These are what may indicate that you need anger management help:
1. If you frequently have trouble with the authorities (the law) [dissident, outlaw, rebel, etc],
2. If you often feel that you have to keep in check your anger,
3. If you frequently have numerous arguments with people around you, especially your partner, parents, children or colleagues,
4. If you find yourself regularly involved in fights,
5. If you have the habit of frequently hitting your partner, colleagues, children, or students,
6. If you are fond of threatening to incite violence or to damage people’s property,
7. If you often have outbursts whereby you break or violently throw around things,
8. If you often lose your temper when driving and become reckless,
9. And if you think that perhaps you do need help.
Islam recognizes the inevitability of anger in human existence but it encourages us to endeavor to shun getting engulfed by anger, such that we will lose our strong connection with God. In SURATUL IMRAN (Quran Chapter 3 verses 133-134), ALLAH says,
“And march forth in the way (which leads to) forgiveness from your Lord, and for Paradise as wide as the heavens and the earth, prepared for the pious. Those who spend (in God’s Cause) in prosperity and in adversity, who repress ANGER, and who pardon the people; verily, God loves the good-doers.”
Again, in SURATUL ASH-SHURA (Quran Chapter 42 Verses 36-37), ALLAH says,
“So whatever you have been given is but (a passing) enjoyment for this worldly life, but that which is with God (Paradise) is better and more lasting for those who believe and put their trust in their Lord. And those who avoid the greater sins, and illegal sexual intercourse, and when they are ANGRY, they forgive.”
Then, once, the prophet asked his Companions this question: “Whom among you do you consider a strong man?”
They replied, “The one who can defeat so-and-so in a wrestling contest.”
He said, “That is not so; a strong man is the one who can control himself when he is ANGRY
While Christianity also acknowledges that anger is part and parcel of human nature, it frowns upon uncontrolled anger. The following verses attest to this:
“In your anger, do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil foothold” (Ephesian Chapter 4 verse 26)
“Do not be quick in spirit to be angry or vexed, for anger and vexation lodge in the bosom of fools” (Ecclesiastes Chapter 7 Verse 9).
“Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James Chap. 1 V 20).
“Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city” (Proverbs Chapter 16 Verse 32)
‘Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the LORD, and He will deliver you”. (Proverbs Chapter 20 Verse 22)
“And the Lord’s SERVANT must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” (2nd Timothy Chapter 2 Verse 24)

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