When I became a teacher I surprised myself. I discovered that I could reach whole new levels of anger. Levels I only dimly knew existed.
One time at primary school I had discovered how angry I could get. I had fallen on the ground playing handball, and some kid decided it would be funny to kick me. For some reason I snapped. I leapt to my feet and started to chase him. Thankfully for him and for me he was a lot faster than I was and I got exhausted instead of revenge. While I was running after him I was aware of the fact that I wanted to seriously harm my attacker, and that my feelings were out of control.
Although I got angry a lot of times after that primary school day none of those later moments were particularly serious or surprising. Things changed in my first year as a teacher. My ego was not at all prepared to be in a room with twenty-five to thirty people, two or three times a day, who disrespected me, ignored me and even, on occasion, were deliberately offensive to me. The simple act of getting the class to be quiet and listen to me for even one minute turned into a battle ground. Some times I pretty much lost the plot and shouted at my class. Sometimes it wasn’t a very controlled shout, sometimes it was the sound of an enraged man.
So I discovered at the age of 32 that I could be the kind of man who would scream at other people. It was a bit of a shock. As it turns out, over the years, I have learned a lot about my job and about teenagers and I very, very rarely even raise my voice. When I do shout it is a conscious decision, done for effect and easily switched off again.
Then I had kids.
And so I discovered at the age of 34 or 35 that I was the kind of man who could shout at his kid. Let’s be clear: I am not talking about all the time, or every day, or every week. I am talking about very occasionally, when my daughter is tired and obstinant, and I am tired and over it and we are trying to do something simple we have done a million times and she is refusing, and screaming, and then, well, I can shout back.
It disgusts me. I dislike myself when it happens.
So I went to the library and looked at their books about anger management. I felt a bit conspicuous standing in the library holding books about anger management, but I got over it and I picked one that looked ok. I’m reading it now.
The book has been interesting so far. Interesting for what I am learning for myself, but also interesting professionally because in my job I work with a lot of teenagers who get angry quite a lot. In particular I seem to quite often deal with very angry young men. My book tells me that how we deal with our anger is often learnt off our parents, and that angry families tend to carry on for generations.
I didn’t come from an angry family, but some of the kids at my school do. It is somehow unsurprising when we call or text to ask why little Jimmy isn’t at school today and we cop an offensive, personal ear bashing back. Unsurprising because little Jimmy has already been stood down a few times for abusing teachers, or class mates, or exploding into violent rages when he gets mad. When we get verbally abused by a parent a whole set of things falls into place about their son or daughter’s behaviour at school.
What do we do about it?
Well, I’ll let you know how the book turns out.