Volume Level 1: Scream!
Personally, I’d rather my students engage in the content and skills that I’m trying to teach them than have them engage in behaviors that are purposely designed to make me scream at them. As an English teacher, I try my best to convince students that logic, organization, and a well-formed and well-supported argument is the most powerful language tool in the world. Let’s take a look at the message that screaming at students sends.
When a teacher screams, it says “I can’t explain this to you in any authentic way, so I’ll try to cover my inabilities with volume.” Screaming is not an explanation. Screaming doesn’t leave kids with any lasting knowledge or skills. If a teacher’s job is to inform their students, screaming at them doesn’t seem like a very effective way to inform. Just like the fire alarm or siren, screaming will make kids close their eyes and cover their ears, and that’s really the opposite of the posture we want students to adopt in our classroom.
When a teacher screams, it says “I am trying to overpower you.” A screaming match is not the basis for a good lesson. No teacher ever went home and said to her loving husband, “Babe, I had the best screaming match today, I hit 56 decibels and my student could only get 48. Thank goodness he had asthma!” As a matter of fact, “overpowering” is not a great strategy with students in general. In my experience, out-thinking unruly students works pretty well. Out-classing unruly students works well. Out-focusing, out-polititicing, waiting-out, hearing-out, and talking-it-out all work. Out-shouting does not work.
There are other problems to being a screamer. The first time you scream, kids react. The second time you scream, kids notice. The third time you scream, kids are used to it. The fourth time you scream, kids ignore it.
That’s not a long, fakely hyperbolic life expectancy for the effectiveness of screaming. “React” is the only goal you should ever have when managing student’s behavior. Screaming only makes students react if you VERY rarely scream. Naturally, to elaborate, I’ve written a true-ish story sharing an anecdote about one of the very few circumstances when screaming was necessary because of:
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So much of the writing published about education is published by people who don't teach. I figured it was time for a teacher to write about teaching. I've been proud to teach 8th-grade ELA in Dunkirk City Schools since 2007, and to serve at Fredonia State University as an adjunct professor, teaching educational technology since 2017.