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Teacher Frustration: When Is Venting Good, When Is It Bad?

Teacher Frustration: When Is Venting Good, When Is It Bad?

Holding your breath generally works better for hiccups than it does for anger management.

At some point during the year, most of us will experience a few moments of teacher frustration. It comes with the territory when you're working with a variety of kids, parents, colleagues, and administrators. Despite our best efforts, things don't always turn out the way we hope they will.

Like most people, teachers deal with their frustrations in lots of ways—including venting. If you're ever tempted to vent, think about these aspects of venting before you let it all out.

Know Your Audience

If you need to vent, turn to a colleague you've been friends with for years, your sister who lives in another state, your significant other, or your mom. In other words, choose a safe and supportive audience.

Further reading: 5 Tips to Reframe Negative Thoughts

Don't even think about venting to your student teacher, your students or their parents, or your principal—and that's just the short list.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

I was having lunch in a fast food restaurant with a colleague who was venting loudly about a meeting she had just had with a couple of difficult parents. The man at the next table suddenly turned to us and said, "I'm a parent in your school, and just remember: My taxes pay your salary!" We finished our burgers in silence.

When you're a teacher, people you don't know may recognize you outside of school. Never assume you're anonymous if you decide to vent to a friend in the public library, the grocery store, the gas station, or—clearly—a fast food restaurant.

Be Careful What You Say About Others

Some schools have a no-vent policy about kids because they see it as disrespectful and unprofessional. Education author Michael Linsin says that unless you're participating in a documented meeting (like a special education meeting), you should never mention a student by name—even if the student's identity is obvious. Venting about individual kids can influence how other teachers think of them and can put students at a disadvantage.

Don't Vent Anonymously Online

If you're independently wealthy and can easily survive losing your job, venting online may be tempting. Doing so is a terrible idea for teachers because—besides the risk of getting fired—posting negative comments about your colleagues or students is unprofessional and unkind.

Not long ago, a Pennsylvania teacher lost her job for posting what the courts saw as nasty and demeaning comments about her students. She explained that since she didn't use her full name on her blog, her comments were anonymous. She did, however, post a picture of herself on her blog.

It's also important to keep in mind that many of us work hard to teach kids not to participate in online bullying, so we should lead by example.

Try to Keep It Positive

Frequent venting can lead to a habit of feeling negative about kids, colleagues, and your profession. While we all have our frustrations, teachers tend to be optimistic people who prefer a positive school climate. They often avoid colleagues who are chronically negative.

Venting isn't the same as problem solving: While it may offer some emotional relief, the problem is still there when you're done. A better way to reduce frustration is to look for ways to correct the situation that's causing it.

Let Off Steam with These Alternatives

Venting is a response to frustration that we've all become good at, says Brad Waters in Psychology Today. Just because we can vent, doesn't mean we should. Venting doesn't change the situation that upset us. It raises our blood pressure and makes the situation more negative. "The rush of venting and ranting can feel intoxicating, when in fact it's usually just toxic," Waters says.

Venting is a way to let off steam, but there are lots of other ways to accomplish the same thing with fewer negative consequences. Go for a long bike ride. Take a yoga class. Take a walk in the woods with your dog. Prepare a tasty dinner for your family. Play with your kids. Go for a swim. Take a whack at a dozen balls in a batting cage.

Further reading: Survive the Gossip Target on Your Back

Try to put your teacher frustration in perspective by focusing on the things you really like about your job. Work with colleagues to try to resolve some of the issues that are causing your frustration in the first place.

Then, if you still feel like venting, call your mom.