Inside Out: Managing Emotions in the Classroom

Image taken from

Image taken from

*Spoilers ahead 

Sadness, anger, disgust – do these have a place inside the classroom? After watching Pixar’s Inside Out, I began thinking about the classroom and how many of us teachers are similar to Joy’s character. We work hard (and sometimes too hard) to keep our classrooms full of happiness and free from conflict. And just like Joy, we do this with the best intentions – even if it means being a control freak or being overprotective. But what happens when sadness and anger creep in? Our children, just like Riley, may feel confused, overwhelmed and at a loss. We must realize that in the same way joy gives us life, sadness, anger, and other emotions are also part of what makes us human. After all, our goal as educators is to keep our children in touch with their humanity.
After watching the film, I was in a pensive mood and it made me reflect about what I do and used to do as a teacher. Here are three ideas that have been running in my mind lately

There’s more to sadness than just being sad.

Many times, we tell our children to smile and be happy. Sadness is perceived as something negative or out of the norm. It’s important to allow children to acknowledge feeling sad and allowing that moment to stay for a while. After all, sadness allows us to feel sympathy, empathy, and compassion. It becomes easier to see and feel the other if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

Joy and imagination give us hope.

Perhaps the most touching scene for me during the movie was when Joy and Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend from the past, were trying to escape the great abyss. It dawned on me that to escape from despair, we need more than just joy and optimism. We need the ability to imagine in order to have hope.

We need to value what we feel.

It’s definitely important to teach our students to keep their emotions intact. The tricky part here is teaching them how to differentiate between repressing emotions vs. acknowledging them. Many times we give advice and say things such as: Be strong, don’t cry. Fight your emotions. The danger with statements like these is that it gives the idea that acknowledging emotions appears to be a sign of weakness. Fighting emotions and managing emotions are two different things. Our children need to have a safe space where they can admit what they feel without the fear of being judged.
Catch Inside Out in Philippine Cinemas this August!


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