I was listening to the Barry McGuire song, The Eve of Destruction, and thinking about anger as a part of teaching. I have over the years had moments of frustration but I only think I was angry at a student a couple of times in my career. Most of the time I can blame it on youthful misjudgment. Most of my frustration and anger has been directed toward adults. I often say that when a 14-year-old makes mistakes it is because they are 14. What bugs me is when a 30 or 40-year-old acts like a 14-year-old. I don’t have as much patience. This goes back to a piece of advice I got from Marc Stine while I was getting my administrator’s license. He said that usually, his students thought they were the adults and in charge, and when teachers thought and acted like children. When I get to the Tech Job I will tell teacher stories but I want to talk about the one student who set me off like no other in my thirty years.
We all have buttons and students can often find them. A young man named Christian was pretty good at finding and pushing my buttons. He hit a new level one day with something. He was a student who believed that he needed school. He was intelligent but not very smart. He did have one skill and that was driving his teachers crazy. The story goes that he turned in something but he put it in some crazy place that was nowhere that we had ever used. He kept telling me that it was turned in and trying to get a rise out of me. This went on for a few minutes and I was getting frustrated but not angry. He knew this was working and pushed it up until the very end of class. To get in “the last word,” he pulled it out from under a bunch of stuff way off to the side of a table I sometimes used. He could have taken this small victory and I would have just been frustrated knowing he had pulled one over on me. He decided to put in one more poke of the bear before he left. He told me that I had lied to him about getting the paper. He found a very big button to anger me and I stopped him and just exploded. I was so angry that I was pounding on my desk so hard that my laptop was bouncing off of the table. In my defense, I have never intentionally lied to a student about their work but he kept poking and making me madder. I am also honest enough to know I can use a well-placed fib when needed. The best example is the thermofax machine heist from earlier in the blog. The good news is that I got over it and the laptop and Christian survived.