No one said teaching was easy. The profession comes with its fair share of challenges, including dealing with the behavior of uncooperative students. Some days you might want to throw your hands up in defeat, bang your head against the wall, or break down in tears. Some days you just need a good old-fashioned teacher rant.
I get it. Rants are a very human reaction to frustrating events and can be a great way to let off steam. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: Ranting—with a positive outcome in mind—can even help you become a better teacher.
While I don’t recommend ranting as the solution for every problem you face, these impassioned conversations can become catalysts for productive habits and problem solving. After all, the fact that you feel the need to rant should signify the presence of a major issue that needs to be addressed.
Still with me? Good. Now take a deep breath, and let’s use this teacher rant for good, shall we?
1. Acknowledge your rant for what it is: a rant.
Call a spade a spade—er, a rant a rant. This is a temporary expression of frustration that has a definite beginning and end. You might say things you regret, things you don’t even really mean. That’s ok, but remind yourself that this impassioned monologue is for your own catharsis, and once it’s finished, you’ll feel better if you no longer dwell in negativity. When you’re done ranting, move to another location—a different room, your car, or outside into fresh air—to leave the rant behind you and move toward a solution.
2. Don’t feel guilty.
Go easy on yourself. We’re all entitled to a few minutes of uninhibited emotion every now and then. Besides, at least you didn’t rant in front of your students, right? (It wasn’t in front of your student’s, was it? If so, that calls for a different article entirely … ) Tell yourself that you’re feeling these intense emotions because you’re frustrated about something (teaching) or someone (your student) you care about. And you’re too tough to give up on something or someone that you care about! If you care about a student’s failure—to participate, listen, or grasp a concept—you also care about their success.
3. Have a friend hold you accountable.
Whether you’re talking to a trusted friend, family member, or coworker, ask that person to first allow you to vent and then guide you toward a more positive direction. Whomever you talk to can be more than just a listening ear and can validate your emotions while offering an objective view of the situation. At the very least, this person can tell you when your rant has gone on long enough. At the very most, they can remind you why you fell in love with teaching in the first place.
4. Pinpoint the problem so you can find a solution.
Try to identify the source of your frustration. Are you upset that a student is talking over you during your lessons or that you’re unable to get through to them? Is it the student’s or your attitude that needs an adjustment? It may be that you’re too emotionally invested in the situation to gain an objective view of the larger problem. Your friend can offer a valuable second perspective and encourage you to pursue solutions, such as a one-on-one conversation with your student or a change of classroom tactics.
5. Shift your focus to self-care.
The end goal of ranting is to make yourself feel better, but there are more pleasant ways to find your calm. A few minutes of exercise. A bath. An episode or two of New Girl. A cup of tea. A glass of wine, for that matter. If you don’t feel better after an hour or two of some leisurely activity, you might need to evaluate larger factors, such as your diet or sleep schedule, that could be major underlying sources of your stress. Self-care is absolutely essential to having the confidence and energy to deal with classroom problems. Above all, be kind to yourself, and your students will follow suit!
So remember, by recognizing rants as a signal to dig deeply and do the work to course correct, you can turn what feels like a huge frustration into a positive learning experience. And isn’t that what we hope for for our students every day?
Have you ever had a rant that led you to an aha moment in your teaching career? Share in the comments.