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Grace Under Pressure

Posted by on in Social Emotional Learning
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As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.


Proverbs 27:17


And what a wonderful thing when we are able to witness this firsthand. I am fortunate that I work with and am connected to people that sharpen me each and every day. They push me. They challenge me. They make me a better leader, a better educator and a better person.

But what about anger?

When anger meets anger is the end result better or worse? You would think that I would know this answer by now.


Recently I was called to a classroom to remove a student who was visibly upset.

I didn't know why.

I didn't ask.

I didn't care.

I just knew that I needed to remove her.

And I did. As I did, I became angrier and angrier. I was livid. I was hot. That this student wouldn't come with me. That this student did not respect my authority. The situation was not pretty. We both could have behaved much better than we did. The difference being that I am 46 years old and she is just a young child.

We eventually made it to my office. As I mentioned previously, I work with an amazing group of people and lucky for me, one of them could sense that I needed help. She came into my office. And provided for the student what I was unable and too stubborn to give.

A caring and comforting demeanor that almost immediately calmed the young lady down. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed of the way in which I handled the situation. After I calmed down I made it a point to apologize to the student. I told her how sorry I was that I had acted the way I did. The question now was whether or not I would repeat this behavior. To paraphrase Todd Whitaker from first episode of My Bad, It's important to apologize. But what's most important is that we don't repeat the behavior that we had to apologize for in the first place.

Hopefully I would have a chance to demonstrate that I meant what I said.

Fast forward about a week.

I was called to the cafeteria to help with a different young lady who had become quite angry. So angry that she actually went out the door. To be clear, she never left the school grounds and she was in my sight the entire time she was outside. As she continued walking I must admit, there was a part of me that wondered if she was going to stop. That is before she walked off of the property. She never cam close.

Just at the moment when I thought I was going to have to make a decision, the passenger door to a pick up opened. Out walked her teacher who confidently walked over to the young lady. Put her arm around her. And gave her just what she needed. Love, understanding and a sense of calm.

I had just witnessed grace under pressure. Something that I failed to demonstrate just a week prior. Essentially I was a mere spectator during this entire sequence of events.

By the way, the teacher was in the vehicle because it was her lunch break. With her half eaten lunch in hand, she walked the student back inside the building. She reassured the student that she would finish her lunch during recess, since they were getting ready to take the students outside.


Like I said, I work with amazing people.

Lucky for me, not long after my initial debacle, I was given a second chance. I was called to the room for a similar situation. The same girl was very upset. She needed to leave the room.

But this time I was ready. I walked over to her very calmly. Whispered in her ear that I needed her to come with me. And she came with me without causing a scene. She was giving me a second chance and I wasn't about to blow it.

I had her sit down on my couch and just gave her time to calm down. I didn't lecture and I didn't scold. She was visibly tired, so I allowed her to rest. Later on she returned to class and finished the day quite well. In fact, she has been doing really well as of late.

After 19 years you would think I would not continue to make the some of the same mistakes. But I do. But I am learning and trying to get better each day. And I must always remember Larry Ferlazzo's words that can be found on QuotED;


Sometimes, the only thing worse than losing a power struggle is winning one.


Larry Ferlazzo

And more than anything, I must do my best to practice grace under pressure.



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Jon is currently the assistant principal in Dorchester County, Maryland. This is his seventh year serving as an assistant principal at the elementary level. Prior to becoming an administrator he served as a Math Coach and an elementary school teacher. During his ten years as a classroom teacher he taught first, second, fourth and fifth grades. During his sixth year teaching he earned Nationally Board Certification, which he held for ten years. For seven years he ran a Young Gentleman's Club that was aimed at helping young men reach their full potential.  

Jon received a B.A. from Furman University while majoring in Philosophy. He later went on to earn his B.S from Salisbury University while majoring in Elementary Education. Jon was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to student teach in New Zealand. He eventually received his M.A. degree from Salisbury University in Public School Administration.

Jon lives in Cambridge, Maryland with his amazing wife and two awesome children.

  • Guest
    Jonathon Wennstrom Tuesday, 27 September 2016


    Your brutal honesty in your reflections is very moving. We have ALL been there (more often than I like to admit). Every day is a new chance to do better and many times our students become our teachers. Thanks for sharing!


  • Guest
    Scott Feldman Friday, 30 September 2016

    You continue to inspire me everyday to be not just a better educator but a better person as well. Thank you.

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