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Angry Kids- Maybe Its Not Their Fault

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Being a teacher in an inner city environment for a decade, I know all too well the stories that catch media buzz about angry children’s behavior in and out of school. When hearing the stories, I always imagine my own students’ faces, especially ones that are troublesome but have good hearts when their guards are down. I know that an angry child is not a random happenstance; rather one that has been dealing with brewing feelings since a young age.

One day when relaxing on the couch and flipping through the TV channels, I came across an interesting documentary. It outlined the history of the two main gangs in Los Angeles, the Crips and the Bloods (similar to this video.) The show began by rewinding all the way back to the time of segregation. Hearing from this generation helped open my eyes to the emotional and physical pain that was caused by such poor treatment. One particular individual made an interesting comment about his parent’s generation holding their head high, taking the poor treatment, and not retaliating. I saw this play out in the video as the brutality of the past was just an accepted way of living for the African American culture- I can only imagine the damage of this on one’s psyche.  The same individual said later that that his generation was not going to stand for that passive response, instead they were going to stand up for their rights and fight back.

I can sympathize with that feeling. If someone treated my family poorly and my family didn’t stand up for themselves, that would light a fire inside me to ensure the buck stopped here (so to speak). I can see how the following generations’ anger started to build up. I imagine myself hearing stories from my own elders of unfair treatment and with each story my own pain and anger increasing. That’s not to say that acting out in violence with riots and gangs is the answer, but I can understand where the anger began and wish I could tell them that their feelings are valid. Maybe all they need is to be told they are heard and that its okay to be angry. Venting and having that support might keep them from acting on their anger and might keep young children from joining the Crips and or Bloods for protection and alliance against generations of torturous behavior.

Somehow, the game has changed though. Before, the African Americas were fighting for their freedom against the white population, but now they are just fighting their own kind. That is craziness. What sense does that make? You fought alongside your brother, but now you turn against him? For what? I think Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders of equality would roll in their graves knowing all that they fought for and now their own kind was turning on each other.

I must admit the gang life is a bit strange, considering its a tit for tat mentality of extreme violence, so I cannot understand how that would draw new membership. I understand the anger these folks feel from years of oppression, but now its directed at people who share the same hurt. I can’t make sense of that. Its almost as if the anger grew and grew and finally bubbled over and whomever is in the wake of the fury is the casualty, regardless of who they are.

Rise up.

Make the change.

If I could sit with these hurt children, I would say to them, “you segregate yourselves and make your future dim by the choices you make.” Then I would hug them and remind them of their worth. We have to make every moment count.

We as educators must intervene. Our students are observing this behavior and adopting this perspective and all that is occurring is more violence, more hurt, and more of the same cycle. Our kiddos deserve to be happy and proud of who they are as people, not to be reminded that they are different or underprivileged because they are NOT. We have got to undo this mindset early so that these feelings cannot fester and do not turn to negative action with horrific consequences down the line.

I want more for my “angry” students. I want them to become who they were meant to be and that can only happen if we pour into them and give them a safe place to let those confusing, hurt feelings pour out. We are the change agents passing kindness down the ranks so that our future is brighter for everyone.

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What can you do today to help an angry child find peace?

About the author, Gretchen

I am a teacher trainer and coach. Working elbow to elbow with teachers and teacher leaders to ensure instructional proficiency and student achievement soar lights me up. We have a real need in our nation for strong educators to remain in the field. My blog, book, podcast, courses and instructional materials are geared towards empowering teachers (and those that lead them) to receive the support needed to grow and thrive today, tomorrow and always.