We started our third and final unit in our social & emotional learning curriculum today. After completing the first unit on empathy and the second unit on problem solving, we have finally introduced what may be the most important part of the entire curriculum: anger management.
To help with this unit, I have enlisted the help of our school social worker who, among many things, has a particular area of expertise in this subject. She came in this morning and was able to meet with the class at the carpet for about thirty minutes to introduce the concepts we will be discussing over the next several weeks.
The lesson started with an enlarged photograph of a boy who is clearly angry. We could tell he was angry because his fists were clenched, his shoulders rolled forward, his face was drawn together, his mouth was turned down, and his brow was close-knit. Then we talked about how we can tell when those around us are angry. I love that our social worker asked the class to share how they know when I am angry! They chuckled at first, but then they shared some of the cues I give, such as getting very quiet, placing my arms on my hips, and giving the students The Look.
The next part of the lesson focused on the fact that it is okay to be angry. In fact, there are many times in our lives when we should be angry, such as when something happens to us or others that is unfair, or when someone pushes our buttons to annoy or aggravate us. All of us get angry from time to time. The goal of this unit is to help the students learn the best ways to respond to that anger.
If I get angry with a student who is being disrespectful to me or another student and my response is to yell and scream and throw things across the room (something that happened to a friend of mine when he was in fifth grade), I can guarantee that my response is not going to help the situation. It won’t let the student know what he or she is doing wrong, what I expect them to do differently, and it won’t help me stay in control. But if I let the student know, using The Look, that I am angry and then explain exactly what is expected in a way that demonstrates control, then that student is more likely to correct the problematic behaviour!
Likewise for my students. I want them to learn how to channel their anger and frustration in a way that brings about positive changes. Sure, I would love for them to all feel totally safe and comfortable in my classroom and while at school, so that there is never a time that they will get angry. But people are imperfect and are going to do things that annoy others. So we will be discussing how to manage anger in a way that helps everyone in the classroom respond to their emotions without disrupting those around them!