What I Want The Angry Child In My Classroom To Know

by Kristen Thiele

To the angry child in my classroom: I see you and I’m here for you.

Though I may have used the singular “child” in the intro, this is truly a message to more children than I can count from my three years of teaching.

A peer says something, maybe even innocuous, but it deeply offends you. It makes you boil over and explode into either tears or acting out, sometimes aggressively.

I’ll never be mad at you for that, but I will try to help you. Under no circumstances will I give up on combatting your immediate fight or flight response — a reaction you’ve undoubtedly become reliant on at your tender age.

Whether you know it or not, I see the wheels turning in your young mind, trying to make sense of the world around you. I see you blink your eyes, purse your lips and maybe even twitch a bit before responding.

Sometimes there are tears. Tears you muster up as much strength as possible to suppress, because nothing scares you more than being perceived as weak. Sometimes you fly from your seat like a lawn dart and walk into the hallway, taking time to regroup as best you can. Other times you’re too angry to let any other emotion show. You yell, maybe even throw something. In those moments, more than ever, I’ll be there for you.

No, this doesn’t mean I can or will ignore your classmates’ needs or shirk my responsibility for their education, but you need me more at that particular time. And guess what? That’s okay.

Adolescents in general tend to be fiery balls of energy and emotion, but I hear you screaming to me (albeit silently to the audible world) that you’re different. Your situation and reasons have their own story behind them. It’s a journey, your journey, that’s likely been plagued with hurt and disappointment, and maybe, without a single adult you can trust. Please know, that’s what I’m here for. I’ll always be that person. It’s my greatest attribute as an educator.

I’m a Momma Bear inside of school and out.

Maybe you’re having trouble fitting in. Maybe you’re being bullied. Maybe your parents are going through a divorce. Maybe one passed away. Maybe your stepparent or parent isn’t being as supportive as they could be. Maybe there’s no one home for you at all, at least most of the time.

Maybe you are a parent and protector of younger siblings, nieces or nephews. Maybe you’re angry because you deserve to be a child too.

Maybe you’re the caretaker of your guardian. Maybe you feel guilty when you shouldn’t.

Bottom line is: there’s something unique to you, going on in your world, that makes you constantly on edge, seemingly seconds from erupting like an otherwise dormant volcano.

I’m sorry for that. And whether you realize it or not, when the last bell of the day rings and you leave my classroom, I don’t stop thinking about you.

Tonight I’m making calming bottles. A small gift for you.

Simple 16-ounce water bottles, which can be shaken, flipped, etc., as colored glitter glue, glitter and various gems weave in and out of each other in a relaxing, swirling motion.

It probably seems silly to most of you, but I know my kids, and this novelty will make more of a difference than those outside of a classroom could possibly understand.

The 5 to 7 minutes (yes, really that short of a window) in which they sit with a bottle on their lap, focusing on nothing but the waves of colors and sparkles, will make their day better.

It’s a Band-Aid. Think of it as a first aid kit for emotional well-being. But it’s something.

And something is better than nothing. Something is better than the teachers who dub that child difficult and are happy when they leave their classroom for the day.

That’s my job. To make their day, and life, better. Even if only for a few moments.

My wish for you is this: Please, dear student, take that teacher love and feel a sense of hope for a better world and secure future.