Healthy Relationships
  Los Angeles County Young Offenders
Learn To Diffuse the Volatility of Anger

Mercy E. Anderson is one of the teachers who is piloting Healthy Relationships for the Los Angeles County Office of Education, Juvenile Court and Community Schools Division. She teaches 14- to 17-year old boys at the Oak Knolls Community Education Center in Azusa, California, also known as the East San Gabriel Principal Administrative Unit (PAU). At the time Mercy submitted the following letter on June 1, 1998 she had taught 39 of the Healthy Relationships activities which represents 73 per cent of the complete curriculum.

June 1, 1998

"I attended the Healthy Relationships class in August, 1997 because I was looking for a solution to the problems I had in my class.

"There was a lot of anger in my classroom. Several students were very explosive. Arguments and yelling prevailed. Some of them came into the classroom like jumping horses. Sometimes, all of a sudden, two students would have fist fights inside or outside the classroom. These are "level 12" students; severely emotionally disturbed. These upset me and the other students a lot. I felt so drained at the end of the day that I wondered if I was at the right place or in the right profession. I thought about opening my own business at home. There was hardly any day that a student was not suspended. We had up to three suspensions a day!

"Now, all of those are history. I began to implement the Healthy Relationships course in September, 1997. The course is integrated with Language Arts for one hour every Thursday. Because I want to test the effectiveness of the course, I never skipped a chapter. The students look forward to it every week. We use different methods as the need arises: lecture, small group discussions, cooperative learning, role play, drawing, etc. We use manipulatives, videos, TV shows, field trips, etc. Recently, the class had an opportunity to listen to a guest speaker, Mr. Chocolate, whose early life was messed up with smoking, alcohol, drugs, gangs, broken family, low self-esteem, etc. but who was able to beat all odds through education and became a Harvard Masters degree holder in Psychology.

"We have not had any suspensions since January, 1998 (a period of five months). Some of the angry students are still with us. In fact the class has doubled in size but the anger has greatly diminished (sometimes I think it has disappeared). Students work harder and are more focused in their studies. The whole class likes to read a lot. Almost all of the students submit their homework daily. In the beginning, they hated working with someone else. Now they are learning to work together harmoniously.

"Anger is handled properly. We developed an anger graph which shows anger escalating (drawn as a zigzag line becoming a spike on a piece of paper).
anger graph
When a student is beginning to get angry, I show him where he is at on the graph and remind him what we have learned about anger management. If someone starts to misbehave, I say, "Remember Healthy Relationships?" We know if we are about to become angry because we feel rapid palpitation of the heart, blood pressure rising, color changing, temperature increasing, etc. When we feel these symptoms, we recall the graph, take time out, listen to music, exercise, etc. Sometimes a student might say, "Mrs. Anderson, I feel like I'm going to get angry. May I please take a time out?" or "May I please leave the classroom for a few minutes?" I have found that they are able to lengthen the amount of time before the peak (on the graph), the period of time in which they still have control and they also realize that they have options.

"Recently, I showed the video, "The Crown Prince". I was amazed at the answers they wrote on their worksheets and the discussion that followed."

Reprinted with the permission of Mercy E. Anderson.

For more information please contact:
Andrew Safer: Phone (902) 422-8476

More News:

Healthy Relationships In Action (Fall 1997)

Healthy Relationships Newsletter, No. 1 Update (Spring 1997)

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