Are you a teacher with an anger problem?

Flashes of anger affect us all - but what is too angry? Gemma Corby offers a clear-headed guide to assessing your emotions

Gemma Corby

Angry dog barking

It starts when you realise someone has jammed the photocopier and walked away – the teaching equivalent to a hit and run.

To calm yourself, you decide to make a cup of tea, only to find your mug missing. You take a deep breath and head to class where you discover your board markers have gone AWOL.

Suddenly, you feel like becoming the Incredible Hulk and flipping a table. You don’t, of course. You never would. But that sudden flash of anger is…right? It happens to us all?

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Perhaps – but when does angry become too angry? And should you worry about it? Understanding the issue is half the battle.

What causes anger?

People experience anger differently, but the usual triggers include threat (perceived or real), frustration and disrespect. The way that people respond to these triggers varies depending on their childhood, past experiences and present situation.

What does anger look like?

Being angry does not necessarily mean doing an impression of Mr Hulk, it can take many forms. Passive anger can result in a person engaging with self-sabotaging behaviours. Others may feel overwhelmed by their current situation and lash out. While some may feel resentful and bitter. All of these can have an impact on staff morale and it’s important to be aware of this and ensure it doesn’t become a common mood among staff.

How do we know we are angry?

If veins are popping from your neck and you’re flipping tables, it is easy to recognise that you’re angry. But other physical indicators include a pounding heart, feeling hot, shaking and tense muscles. There is an emotional impact too, which can present as anxiety, irritation or feelings of humiliation. Emotional responses can lead to changes in an individual’s behaviour from shouting and arguing to withdrawing or self-harming. This applies to students as much as teachers and can be caused by myriad reasons, so don’t be quick to judge if you witness such behaviours.

How do I know if I have an anger problem?

Anger is normal on some occasions but there are signs that it is becoming problematic that are worth being aware of:

  • Constant negative thinking.
  • Feeling impatient, irritated, and hostile.
  • Feeling compelled to do, or doing, violent or impulsive things, such as driving recklessly or destroying things.
  • Avoiding certain situations because you’re anxious.

None of this should be dismissed lightly. Teachers need to be aware of these indicators as the job can be stressful and chronic anger has the potential to impact upon physical and mental health.

What can we do if it becomes a problem?

The NHS website offers some useful advice. Firstly, recognise when you start to feel angry, so you can take steps to calm down. This could be as simple as removing yourself from a situation and doing calming breathing exercises. Preventative measures are also important, talking to a friend, or a counsellor may help, as can regular exercise.

Personally, I follow the philosophy of check yourself before you wreck yourself. In other words, if a situation is having a negative impact on you mentally and/or physically, take positive steps to change things – starting with the small and easy wins.

Gemma Corby is a freelance writer and former special educational needs and disability coordinator

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