I have lost it verbally a couple of times with kids and spoke in what might be kindly termed as an overly large voice using regrettable allusions, illustrations and word choices. Okay I yelled at kids more than once. One of my most memorable poor choices occurred in an inner city high poverty school where one particular kid knew all of my buttons and pushed them at regular intervals. Generally I could ignore his comments but this particular day we were out in the hall discussing some previous understandings we had reached concerning my class and his behavior when he decided to describe my parentage and used several other terms on me normally heard in submarines during war or perhaps in a modern pornographic production. I unfortunately reacted to his abuse rather loudly, at least that’s what teachers 9 or 10 rooms away and around a corner told me later. I learned that I had apparently quieted most of the rooms up and down the hall when I suggested to the student that I “ ought to rip his lips off,” Several teachers later thanked me for quieting their room and told me how much they and their classes enjoyed my infrequent but apparently entertaining excursions into the hallway to discuss classroom procedures with my students. Several wondered that in the future if I ever actually carried out that particular procedure could they watch as they also had some students who could be candidates for the operation.
This same student however did teach me a valuable lesson. One of our major problems was that he would smile at me when he knew I was mad, and the angrier I got the bigger his smile. His grin initially infuriated me however later after some reading and some observing I realized that for him smiling was a sign of nervousness. I also discovered that nervous or anxious smiling was not an atypical reaction amongst some ethnic groups. I discovered that if I ignored the smile some of the problems I had with certain kids and discipline disappeared as well. To discipline behaviors properly you must be a careful observer of behaviors and understand where they are coming from. This kid and I eventually became semi friends or at least learned to show some respect for each other and both of our lives became better because of it.