Should teachers yell in the classroom?

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In a perfect world, of course not. But it happens. A lot.

At my children’s school, a very popular public school in the Chilterns, many of the teachers yell. We all know about it. It’s the kind of school where parents are very, er, hands-on. There are lots of older mums that gave up careers as bankers and lawyers to stay home with the kids, and when the children reach school age, they find they have spare time and energy.

I am one of those mums (minus the spectacular career). I’m a chronic volunteer — lunchtime supervisor, clubs, committees, PTA. The school actually gave me a Christmas present this year. I have been around and heard an ear load over the past few years.

Some teachers yell. The first time I witnessed this, a boy berated in front of the whole class for being a tad bit over-zealous on a field trip, I lowered my head in embarrassment. The children all tensed and fell silent. It was one of those rare moments where you get a glimpse into your child’s life Without You. I felt small, and my eyes met another mum’s and I could tell she felt the same. I yell at my children, probably more than I should, but a teacher? Shouldn’t a professional be trained to use alternate ways of keeping control?

Studies show that a child’s brain actually stops functioning when they are being yelled at, and it cannot accept new information. They just turn you off — and feel bad about themselves.

Of course it is easy to say teachers shouldn’t yell and suggest all kinds of alternatives. With a class size of 30, I am not surprised. Collectively we are raising Frankenkinder and them dump them at school and expect the teachers to sort out our mess.

Are fee-paying schools better? According to my friends, not much.

And if you don’t spend time in the classroom, you never really know what goes on, do you?

Photo credit: Feast of Fools

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  2. 05/11/2013 / 18:59

    One of the the first things my tutor said to us when we were teacher training was ‘only shout when you really have to, a teacher that shouts all the time just makes the kids louder and they all stop listening anyway.’ This is very true. In spite of those wise words, I shouted my way through my first year and I regretted it. It is true that by shouting, the only thing you achieve is a site throat. Teachers are taught tactics and voice control but some sadly are just bullies and they give the rest of us a bad name.

  3. anonymous
    04/10/2011 / 19:43

    I don’t like yelling and I remember my brain kind of “shutting off” so to speak as a child when I was yelled at, but the study the author quotes does not specifically point to that phenomenon. I am curious whether any study does show that.
    The quote from the above article points to a study that seems to be basically about on what students do and do not like in teachers. I acknowledge that this relates,, but it was made to appear rather cut and dried.

  4. millie J
    13/09/2011 / 12:10

    I agree, although I’m studying teaching and I don’t think anyone goes into a school thinking they will yell at students, sometimes it just happens. I mean teachers are human. I am more worried by the schools where teachers seem apathetic and don’t yell or get things done.

  5. 03/03/2009 / 22:11

    I agree Working Mum. Abject silence is much more effective than shouting – a hush will reign…but there’s much more to this picture, especially as the children grow up.
    Kids can driver teachers crazy. I went to a hothouse academic hell and we had black board wipes (those dusty spongey things) chucked at us), we were made to face the wall and stand in the corner for 45 minutes(admittedly after blowing up ammeters in physics), put in detention for whole terms, and oh, the list goes on, we were incessant in our ingeniousness and voracity to upset the system and impress our burgeoning identities on the impersonal environment which only hailed medals and trophies. Several teachers had nervous breakdowns and one teacher in particular told me that ‘private schools were easy’. So heaven knows what teachers have to put up with. My brother taught at a comprehensive in Surrey and was beaten up by a pupil’s father, a close friend is head of department in an inner city school, at times she is more of a social worker and finds the problems she has to cope with enormous. I volunteered last week to give a class to 30 8 and 9 year olds who were very rowdy and incredibly enthusiastic. The wonderful class teacher raised her voice on several occasions but there was no tyranny about it, the whole thing was about fielding discussion, debate and fairness among a very bubbly group of kids who were eager to learn and get their voices heard. Horses for courses I say.

  6. 25/02/2009 / 19:47

    I’m a teacher and I find that a quiet voice is much more authoritative than a loud one. I use a loud “Right” as my ‘”cue word” to get the class’s attention and then immediately change to quiet voice. It’s amazing how intently they listen when they think they are missing something!

  7. 24/02/2009 / 23:55

    The more you yell and the more you are in the wrong …and ignored. That’s true at school, at work and in your family. I’m talking as “yeller” and as a “yelled at”! Being a teacher is not easy (I live with one!) but yelling does not make one’s life easier. Ciao. A.

  8. tawny
    24/02/2009 / 20:31

    When my Guides are being rowdy I just stand there looking at my nails, the ceiling, the floor and they soon get the message.

  9. 24/02/2009 / 19:14

    Just wrote a long comment (badly spelled – see above) and lost it. A shorter version –
    If shouting is done to get kids’ attention, why not a bell or some other non-aggressive noise? A lot of the time the teacher shouts because s/he has lost it, and (especially with older kids) the children know it and lose respect. The worst shouting is when it is done to single out and humiliate a child.
    I try very hard not to shout at my kids and would be annoyed to hear that a teacher shouted regularly at them. If nothing else, it teaches them to shout.

  10. 24/02/2009 / 19:06

    New keyboard – pls excuse speeling!

  11. 24/02/2009 / 19:05

    Sometimes the yelling is done to attract attention or get the kids to be quiet, but why not a bell? It would actually be louder, and not so aggressive. Many times howevr, yelling is ued when the teacher has lost control, and the kids (especially older ones) know it and lose respect. The worst kind of yelling is when it’s done to single out and umiliate a child. That’s downright abuse in my view.
    My kids go to a private school, where the kids have a lot of say in how things are done, but also a lot of responsibility for their actions. I have never heard a teacher yell in the 12 years we have been there so far. I try very hard to break my family’s pattern of yelling and I would be really annoyed if the teachers yelled at my kids.

  12. Iota
    24/02/2009 / 01:19

    I agree that teachers shouldn’t yell at kids. But then I once thought that mothers shouldn’t yell at kids.
    I think it is great that you are in the classroom so much. I’m sure the teachers will behave better if there are mums around – just human nature.
    Interesting that you said you felt small. If YOU, an adult and only indirectly involved, felt small, what must it have been like for the boy?

  13. 23/02/2009 / 22:10

    It’s a toughie and no doubt.
    I agree with Bush Mummy, notSupermum and Rosie in that yelling is not going to get you anywhere and you’re on a rocky road downhill if you do.
    I wouldn’t be bothered as such about the yelling, but more about the teacher not having control over a class that my childen were part of.

  14. Beta Mum
    23/02/2009 / 20:45

    I don’t think teachers should yell and I didn’t send my kids to the nearest state school because I could hear the teachers yelling from down the road.
    The school I chose had a much calmer atmosphere.
    I yell sometimes, but hey, I’m their mum and they have spent their first few years on this earth learning how to annoy me.
    Teachers are trained to control 30 kids without yelling – or they should be.

  15. 23/02/2009 / 18:40

    This is an interesting discussion. I don’t think teachers should yell at all. I think it’s a sign of them being out of control.
    My daughter is at a state school in Year 1 and has a lovely teacher. he doesn’t yell at all. However he has a nice year group so doesn’t need to. The teachers I do know yell at the class are the ones who have the difficult children in their class. It must be difficult maintaining levels of discipline but I think alternatives to yelling should be used.
    It’s not a job I could do having said that. I admire them greatly.

  16. 23/02/2009 / 18:27

    Once you start yelling the game is over in my opinion. I try to get the children’s attention by holding up one hand and counting down from 5 – by the time I get to zero the class is usually quiet. Occasionally, I do have to shout to get their attention, but this is a last resort – I don’t like doing it. I also think the children listen better if you speak quietly – they have to or they miss what you’re saying!

  17. 23/02/2009 / 17:49

    I am very anti yelling although i have been known to do it. But it absolutely DOES NOT WORK. I know – I was yelled at my entire childhood and it just made me a gibbering wreck, scared of putting a foot wrong.
    My eldest’s Reception teacher does this wonderful Hi-de-Hi song when she wants silence in the rowdy classroom. She sings “One-two-three. Looking at me” – it is incredible. All 30 of them stop what they are doing and go instantly silent.
    BM x

  18. Felicia - I Complete Me
    23/02/2009 / 17:26

    When I first starting reading this I thought, of course, how else will they get the kids to quiet down when things are really out of hand. But when I reflect back to my school days and even what I have witnessed in my sons school teachers only yelled to settle the class down after a big event. They weren’t really yelling at the kids, just raised their voice to get attention. Some teachers had a little ritual or game they did like putting a finger up and everyone had to follow and with the finger up it meant silence. As far as scolding a child I wonder what is a teacher suppose to do. I witness a kid be out right rude to a teacher only because he could. You can’t put a kid in the corner or time out any more because now they are being singled out and that’s not good. I wonder what is a teacher suppose to do if we take away all the methods they use to maintain order. Maybe the last result is yelling, if that is taken away, then what. I think we as parents hold the teachers hands behind their backs sometimes when it comes to teaching our kids.

  19. 23/02/2009 / 16:28

    I’ve been experiencing this a bit recently in my mentoring capacity. I find that teachers seem to be more passive now, although they do yell from time-to-time, and as in your post, quickly realise it is a pointless exercise.
    I wouldn’t have the patience to control a classroom, there would be more outside it than in it.

  20. 23/02/2009 / 15:22

    I’m a screamer. It doesn’t happen often, but I do tend to blow my top. Now I cannot even imagine keeping patience with 25-30 of these kids.
    One field trip to a science museum with five first graders including one who could not stand in one spot for three seconds about did me in.
    I have been very, very lucky that my girls have had very calm, seasoned teachers, who speak kindly and in a normal tone and they are in public school.
    I think raising your voice is one thing,especially to be heard over twentysome kids, but outright berating or belittling a child should never be acceptable and that sounds like a training issue.
    Good for you for being so involved. I think it’s really important to know what is going on.

  21. 23/02/2009 / 15:12

    My children have been educated in the private system and I have had many run-ins, although class sizes maybe smaller, there are still some very dodgy teachers and class room assistants out there. As such my middle child who is over sensitive, but who has had to overcome so much in his life with his asthma, allergies, ezcema literally hates school and even though I am spending all this money will probably leave at 16 with passable grades even though he is capable of more. The problem is finding a balance of trying to sort the problem without creating an even bigger one as a lot of teachers have egos as big as the school!

  22. 23/02/2009 / 14:29

    Horrid I agree. Lily’s at a private school and I don’t think her current Year 1 teacher shouts at them at all. There are 12 very well behaved kids in the class with a teaching assistant so lets face it there is no need to.
    However during the last summer holidays I found out from my ever eloquent daughter that ‘Miss ‘Blank’ said some very nasty things to some of the children’ it turns out she’d been losing it with them on a regular basis. The difference I think is that the Year 1 teacher has been teaching for 30 odd years and the reception teacher for about 5 years.
    But in fairness to State schools I have no idea how you’d not managed to shout occasionally with a class of 30. I was in a class like that and we were little sods, who were regularly shouted at. So I don’t think it’s that unusual and as much as I don’t like the idea now I’m a Mum, I don’t think it does much damage in the long run.