Teaching And The Angry Letter

Education gets people angry.

Working in a school means you are inevitably going to get hot under the collar about something.

And some people get worked up at just about everything and who can blame them?

Passions run high and they run deep because there is so much at stake.

Trying to stay emotionally detached is a tough call for any teacher. But it is called for and necessary otherwise classrooms and schools become powder kegs and teachers turn into walking sticks of dynamite. When things go off, the damage is often schoolwide.

So, what do you do with all this frothing fury?

Do you bottle it all up, go down the counselling route or knock seven bells out of a punchbag?

Clearly, teachers have to stand their ground, fight their corner and be heard but there are times when counting to ten and biting one’s tongue is the safest option.

But there is another way.

Depending on the situation, you might want to just write a letter.

If you think that this sounds like some sort of soft option then think again – writing an angry, ‘hot’ letter might just save your skin.

The idea is that you write what’s on your mind, get it all off your chest and vent your spleen. Then park it, don’t send it. This serves as an emotional outlet and strategic catharsis.

Some heavyweight politicians do this including Abraham Lincoln. When he irate and wanted to let fly, he’d let his pen do the talking and then put it to one side until his bpm had gone down to a normal level.

The power of waiting is really the way to go.

Listen here to Nancy Koehn:

That was then pre-internet.

Now, getting angry is just far too easy.

We can now let rip through an all-guns blazing email, a hopping mad blog or a foaming at the mouth Tweet.

Many teachers jump on WordPress and social media to get angry and pour their bile into the ether. Some do it for a living it seems. And some have been angry for years.

The problem is, they don’t just write their anger as a draft, they ‘publish’ and then the whole world gets to see it and hear it. One click and the bomb has been dropped. It’s all too easy to hit send.

But there is a problem with the ‘publish and be damned’ route.

Writing an unfiltered seething or a tempestuous Tweet can backfire just as much as letting rip in the staffroom because you are going to get a response and sometimes thousands! This fuels the fire and before you know it you’re surrounded by angry flames.

In the heat of the moment, it’s not healthy to throw petrol on yourself and light the match.

We all need a cooling off period in order to take stock, think again and revisit with a different frame of mind in place. So, write that letter, keep it offline and private until you are ready to surface from your anger. Re-read your angst-ridden rant….then press delete.

Teachers are far too eager to disclose and share what’s on their mind and this has repercussions for their own reputation and that of their school.

It might seem worth the risk but one rant leads to another and before you know it, you’ve come to the attention of parents as a troublemaker.

If your blood is boiling about marking, workload, parents, Ofsted, pay, funding, etc, etc, then do your worst by all means but before venting your wrath consider your own wellbeing and career in the process.

You can’t fight the system in the sick bay.

Of course, keeping things pent-up isn’t healthy either but there are ways of letting it all go and getting it all down in a letter is just one way to do it.

Write it down, get angry as much as you want, don’t sign it, don’t send to anyone, calm down, get on with your life. Keep your vitriolic outburst contained in the envelope.

Emotional control is what we teach children but as adults we’re not great role models.

As a strategy though, the hot letter, is one worth sharing with children when their emotions are running amok. Writing things down helps to diffuse situations. It might just save them from exploding and from you tearing your hair out.

We can now add ‘bomb technician’ to the long-list of jobs that we do.

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