Recently I received a vicious email from a parent of one of my students, and it was no fun to deal with; however, I learned a helpful strategy on how to deal with anger from this situation. There had been a misunderstanding about that parent’s student, and I had not dealt with it the greatest because it was Friday afternoon, and I was just trying to keep the peace. After talking with a couple fellow teachers, I was able to brush off the angry words and keep perspective. A few months ago, I would have shriveled up under the scorching words, but I have been learning how to respond in a healthy way to anger and not shrivel.
Anger is a messenger that tells us something is wrong, and it also covers over hurt and insecurity. By quickly having other teachers to process the hurtful email with, I was able to get the perspective that this person was showing way more anger than the situation prescribed, and I did not need to let the anger control me. That parent’s anger was theirs, and I didn’t need to let it hurt me. In light of that insight, I waited a day before I responded to the email (to let both of us cool down) and in that period I talked with a wise lady who gave me an even better strategy to help the situation.
The wise lady’s advice came down to reassuring the parent. She told me a story of a principal who was dealing with a very angry father, and the small principal just let the huge man vent for a while. Then the principal said, “You must love your daughter so much to be that angry.” At those words, the angry father just sat down and started crying. Hearing this story gave me the idea to use some of those words in my email back to the vicious parent. This story also helped me see behind the anger of the parent and receive more compassion for them.
So I used some of those words in my response, and I received no response. However, it helped me feel better about the situation, and this strategy will be useful for the rest of my teaching days. We all can use reassurance even when we are acting nasty.