Stomping. Cursing. Grumbling. Looking to Blame others. Sarcastic Comments.

Isn’t that the behavior that we see in ‘those kids’? You know… The “problem” kid…

Yeah… that was me this weekend.

My wife and I built a playhouse for the kids.

Unlike most of the men in my family, I’m not really good with tools. I try… I really do but things happen – my talents seem to lie in other areas. Logically, I know that the male handiman is just a gender based stereotype but that didn’t prevent me from from being picked on by those tool men when I was younger. It might be a stereotype but I still need get help whenever I need to build something. My family point of view combined with the fact that I went into a profession that is more mental than physical leads me to feel judged whenever a hammer is involved. Even while I am building something this feeling that builds that every small mistake will be noticed and pointed out. Every board slightly out of flush and mishit nailhead is on full display. I feel imaginary disappointed eyes on me while I am simply taking measurements and hear imagined patronizing comments as I am drilling holes. My inability to not live up to expected standards, even if they are completely in my head, makes me anxious, hypersensitive, and irritable.

I’m positive that none of my family members give a damn about any of this. I know that this is just toxic masculinity rearing its ugly head. It is still there and I am constantly hyperaware of my actions during any sort of building activity so that I don’t snap at someone – wife and kids included.

My wife, Amanda, is my faithful partner in these construction projects. On Saturday she was building right along side me while the kids played in the yard. After the 3rd time we had to take out some hex-head screws because the boards needed to be swapped out (stupid instructions) I was beginning to lose my cool. I was frustrated because I read the instructions at least 3 times before turning that hex wrench and yet 3 steps later we had to backtrack and redo it. All of those old feelings of anxiety and judgment were bubbling to the surface. As the boards failed to line up – yet again – I set down the screwdriver and just walked away for awhile. I had to consciously avoid saying a bad word or two. I had to think about not yelling at the kids who were asking for a drink for the 5th time. I could feel all of this rising up in me and, thank goodness, I have the ability to recognize it.

Later, after cleaning up for the night, I began to reflect on the situation.

Even with all training and a wonderful support network I was still falling into an anger trap.

I realized my behavior was very near the same behavior demonstrated by the kids with discipline issues. It made me wonder how my actions, as the adult in the classroom, can impact my students with discipline problems. How can I help nurture the positive behaviors in dealing with anger and frustration. How can I allow students a space to fail and iterate without creating an internalized feeling of disappointment in the student? How much disengagement, or intentional non-learners, are actually using a poor method of dealing with this frustration of struggle?

I think this is the point of Social Emotional Learning. I’m not a touchy-feely yoga-inspired type person but with game inspired designs I can help to promote a healthy relationship to failure and iteration. Classrooms are an emotional ecosphere and everyone is involved in what is produced.