I remember some years ago taking my class to a field trip to the Scibono Science Centre in Newtown Johannesburg. As we were walking around on the exhibition passages, we made our way to a mining exhibition station which had a variety of mining equipment and a variety of mining demonstrations. We found ourselves sharing the viewing areas with another group of learners from another school.
As we were enjoying the view of the equipment and the demonstrations, a loud and ugly voice interrupted our happiness: “Themba! Get your hands off of that machine right now! And Bongani I said shut up and pay attention!” The teacher who was accompanying this class of very excited learners was reacting to misbehaviour with the loud scream of her voice.
Just after this loud voice, one of my learners came over to me and whispered, “Mr. Mhlongo, do we have to stand next to this class?” “No, we don’t.” I replied. So I pulled my class to the side to let the other class finish viewing a certain portion of the station while we went to view the others. We stalled long enough to provide distance between our two classes.
After our self – guided tour of the Science Centre, we moved on to a lecture about robots and how they will change the future of mankind and then we finished off our trip viewing the inside mechanical parts of a Van and how they work together to provide motion. While we viewing the inside of the engine and amazed of how it works, we heard this loud voice again, “Refilwe and your friends, stop whispering and pay attention for goodness sake!”
At that moment these learners kept fidgeting, whispering then laughing out loud. They misbehaved entirely as if they had no teacher with them. Their teacher was horrified and embarrassed by their behaviour, but other than increasing the volume and intensity of her voice, she was ill-equipped to do anything about it. Her learners only arrogantly listened to her reprimands. Themba got his hands off the machine only for a minute, her learners merely ran from one display to the other, and they lowered their voices just temporarily.
Teachers usually yell at their learners for one or more of the following reasons:
- They don’t know a better way.
- Some don’t trust their classroom management plan.
- They don’t enforce their classroom rules each and every time.
- Teachers take misbehaviour personally and feel the need to prove whose boss.
- It works initially (though the effect lessens over time and comes at a high cost).
Regardless of the reason why you yell at your learners, yelling is an indication of inadequate classroom management. The fact is, there is nothing to be gained from raising one’s voice above what can be heard by your learners. There is much, however, to lose. Whenever you raise your voice, you’re communicating to your learners that you only mean what you say when you yell. And to them, the louder you are, the more you mean it. So when you speak in a normal voice, whatever you say is understood by your learners as less important and it carries less weight (they will tune you out). They come to believe that you only really mean what you say when you shout, yell, or raise your voice.
Yelling also shows a loss of control, which provides a poor model for your learners. When you yell or fail to hide your frustrations in front of your learners, you are actually teaching them how to behave when things don’t go their way or when they don’t get what they want. In the majority of cases, yelling is the result of not having a solid classroom management plan defined by a faithful adherence to rules and their intended consequences. Therefore, yelling, much like lecturing and reprimanding, takes the place of real and effective classroom management.
Your learners should always know what is expected of them and exactly what will happen if they don’t meet those expectations. This creates a safe world that makes sense. Yelling, on the other hand, creates distrust and resentment in learners because it’s random, it’s based on intimidation, and it makes a child loose dignity. It’s also undignified for the teacher. If you could watch a video of yourself yelling at your learners, “Get your hands off that machine!” or “I said shut your mouths!” while walking along the displays in the lovely Science Centre, I don’t think you would like what you saw.
Is it really possible to have well-behaved learners and, at the same time, be a respected leader who doesn’t raise his or her voice?
Not only is it possible, but keeping your voice calm works much more effectively.
Try it. Resolve to never raise your voice in response to misbehaviour, and instead, focus on clearly communicating your boundaries of behaviour to your learners and then enforcing those boundaries 100% of the time. This simple approach to classroom management will make teaching a lot less stressful and it will produce admiration and respect from your learners.
Now its your turn. Do you think yelling at your learners work? Let me know in the comments below.