Teaching teens how to understand and transform anger at East

• December 16, 2013

Over the past several years, the RCSD has

embraced the principle of “character education.”  According to the Parent Handbook, character education strives to create a positive moral culture, promote responsible behavior, improve peer relations, and support values-based learning, Recently, East Foundation Academy (grades seven and eight) developed an innovative approach to addressing these issues by exploring the concept of anger and how it operates on personal, ethical and social levels.

Throughout the month of November, students and staff collectively participated in a Community Read of Out of Control, a Scholastic Choice book in which readers can learn about anger and how to handle it with true-life stories about teens and their feelings.

The purpose was to spark school-wide dialogue about anger: how to recognize it in oneself, identifying adverse reactions to anger, and ideas for managing anger in less volatile, more productive ways.

As explained to me by Program Director Jennifer Rees, the project was initiated in an effort to “infuse much needed character education into the school community while at the same time supporting the school-wide focus on literacy.”

During the project, the entire school read portions of the book each night and joined in conversations and activities to engage with the text. For example, in Health class, students examined the physiological effects of anger and strategies for dealing with these effects in healthier ways.  In Social Studies, students looked at what angered Bartolome De La Casas (16th-century Spanish historian, social reformer and Dominian friar), what actions he took in response to his anger, and the outcome of those actions.

Perhaps the most thought provoking element was the Anger Survey. In the survey, students responded to a variety of questions:  how often they get angry, what makes them angry, and how they respond when they are angry. Both students and staff were presented with the results and prompted to reflect on what the data showed and how the information might further be acted upon.

For me, two of the results were most striking.  First, half of the respondents said they get angry one to three times a day. On the day, I helped with the questionnaire one boy said he never gets angry, but that may have been to evade filling out the survey.

When looking out upon the conflict-filled world of middle school, that number seems surprisingly low.  On the positive side, it seems that early teens actually see school as a place of relatively low anger.

At the same time, when asked about anger at home the overwhelming responses was “everyone yells when they are angry” in which small number added, “people fight, slam doors, and throw things.”

In contrast to school, home is often perceived as a place of relatively high anger.  I believe these results point to importance of East’s anger project which ultimately aims to provide students with anger management skills they can use in all aspects of their lives.

When you look at the survey results, what do you see?  I’d love to hear what you think.

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About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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