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I’ll start right away by admitting I have done my fair share of yelling. As a middle school teacher, I wasn’t too bad—I probably had one good yell per week. As a parent, though? Ugh. Much more. So I know the struggle.
And I know a lot of you struggle, too: Even if you’re a great teacher, even if you’re a swell person most days, sometimes it all gets to be too much and you just snap.
I remember the teacher in the room next to me one year, a person I completely adored. This teacher had a perfectly fine relationship with our students, but once or twice a week…Hooo-WEE! I could hear it through the walls, often accompanied by the slam of the classroom door, and it turned my blood to ice. If my students and I happened to be doing something quiet, we would all kind of freeze up listening to it. It never lasted long, but I always felt bad for my colleague during those moments. I knew a switch had been tripped and it wasn’t this person’s normal way of dealing with students.
And if this person was anything like me, they probably felt pretty awful when it was all over. Once the moment has passed and I have had my little tantrum, I’m ashamed of the spectacle I have made. Losing control is not a proud moment for anyone. But I have gotten a lot better in recent years, and I want to share what has worked for me, along with some research and ideas from other people who have cut way back on their yelling.
Understand Why You Need to Stop Yelling
Kicking the yelling habit will be more likely if you have a good basic understanding of why it’s an ineffective way to solve classroom discipline problems.
It’s Crappy Role-Modeling
Even if we accomplish nothing else in a school day, the least we can do is demonstrate a respectable level of self-control. Part of our job is to show students how to handle anger, stress, and conflict in a healthy and productive way. We can’t just tell them to do that. We have to show them. And yelling is definitely not showing them healthy, productive stress management.
It Trains Students to Ignore Your Regular Voice
When your go-to strategy for handling negative situations is yelling, students ultimately tune out all of your other voice levels. A little bit of yelling becomes more yelling, which can then become louder and more frequent yelling. A regular diet of this can make students immune to even the garden-variety yelling, so you have to keep upping the volume and intensity to get their attention. It’s a horrible, slippery slope.
Students Are Less Likely to Respect You
When adolescents are raised by authoritarian parents—whose methods are punitive, coercive, and often include yelling—they are less likely to view their parents as legitimate authority figures than kids whose parents have different styles, according to a 2012 study in the Journal of Adolescence (Trinkner, Cohn, Rebellon, & Van Gundy). Because parenting and teaching involve similar skill sets, it’s reasonable to assume students who have authoritarian teachers feel the same way about them. The obedience you might get from yelling might look like respect, but that behavior probably doesn’t match their true feelings for you.
It May Contribute to Bullying
The way students treat one another has become a major concern for educators in recent years. We tend to look at programs that aim to change student behavior and attitudes, but our own conduct may be a contributing factor: A 2010 study found that classrooms where the teacher used an authoritarian style—using punishment and coercion to influence student behavior—created an environment where bullying behavior between students was more likely to develop (Allen). “Bullying doesn’t occur in a vacuum,” write the authors. “A host of factors contribute to its existence, and one of them is how teachers manage their classrooms and respond to inappropriate student behavior.”
It Creates Anxiety for Everyone
I don’t think any research is needed to back this one up. When you yell in anger, it changes the feeling in the room; not just for the kid you’re yelling at, but for everyone within earshot. That includes the teachers and students in nearby classrooms. Just a quick glance at your handy Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs will tell you that the need for safety comes way, way before the desire to satisfy any kind of cognitive or creative interests. Therefore, if your students are preoccupied by an awful, tense feeling in the room, they’re much less able to do quality academic work.
Prevent the Yells Before They Start
The most effective way to combat yelling is to catch it early. These techniques will help you avoid the conditions that will make yelling more likely.
Know Your Triggers
Not everyone yells for the same reasons, so it’s important to learn what triggers you, then notice the early warning signs. Like I mentioned above, yelling has been one of my biggest parenting struggles, and eleven years in, I have grown acutely aware of the things that set me off: sticky surfaces, excessive noise, and kids getting all up in my grill when they want my attention. I flail around just to make it all go away. It’s not pretty. On good days, though, I am able to notice the first glimmers of irritation caused by these things, kind of face them as soon as they turn up, and make a mental note not to let them build to a big yelling outburst. So just start paying attention to the things that set you off, and see if you can catch these feelings in their early stages.
Do Regular Check-Ins with Yourself
One reason I yell is because I’ve gotten out of touch with how I’m feeling. I let some kind of resentment, a frustration from earlier in the day or maybe even hunger build up past the point where I could control it in a rational manner. If this sounds familiar to you, start building regular self-checks into your daily schedule. On a regular basis—maybe once an hour on the hour—take a moment to just notice how you’re feeling, both physically and emotionally. Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 in both mood and physical comfort, and if you find you’re heading below a 5 on either scale, do something to remedy that before you sink down closer to 1, where your lizard brain is far more likely to take over and turn you into a big jerk.
In her Psychology Today article 10 Steps to Stop Yelling, Dr. Laura Markham uses the term “kindling” to describe the “resentments you start to pile up when you’re having a bad day. Once you have enough kindling, a firestorm is inevitable.” The only way to prevent that firestorm is to recognize when a pile of kindling is growing in a certain situation or against a particular person, and do something about it before lighting the match: Have a calm conversation with someone about the problem while you have your head on straight. You’ll thank yourself later.
Examine Your Thoughts, Then Revise Them
Chances are good that the root of your yelling is coming from a set of beliefs you keep repeating to yourself. You just may not be aware of them. Here’s an example. One thing that sets me off with my own kids is when I tell them to clean up a room and they’re all:
If I were to look carefully at my thoughts in those moments, I think I would see something like this: They don’t respect me. Look at how they just keep doing exactly what they’re doing, as if they didn’t even hear me. Kids who actually respect their parents would get up immediately. They would follow instructions immediately. But they don’t even take me seriously. I’LL SHOW THEM!! GRRAAAAAH!!
The same happened with my students. In my first few years of teaching, I had a colleague (let’s call him George) who would regularly stop by my classroom to reprimand my students if they were misbehaving. The kids would straighten up, he’d head out, and everything would be taken care of. Except I was basically humiliated. I felt weak and ineffective and embarrassed. And within the next 60 seconds I would be yelling at my kids over some small infraction. My ego had been bruised and I felt like all the other teachers thought I was a pushover. I’d show them. I’D SHOW EVERYONE! GRAAAAHH!!
The American Psychological Association recommends we control our anger with something called cognitive restructuring: “Simply put, this means changing the way you think. When you’re angry, your thinking can get very exaggerated and overly dramatic. Try replacing these thoughts with more rational ones. For instance, instead of telling yourself, ‘oh, it’s awful, it’s terrible, everything’s ruined,’ tell yourself, ‘it’s frustrating, and it’s understandable that I’m upset about it, but it’s not the end of the world and getting angry is not going to fix it anyhow.'” I have personally found this to be an incredibly powerful way to diffuse my own anger.
So think about the things you tell yourself that lead you to yell. Are you regularly ruminating over how disrespectful students are these days? Are you furious about the impossible pressures placed on you by standardized testing? Do you believe certain students make it their mission to sneak, lie, and cheat their way through life? Do you resent the fact that you’re having to teach students whose learning or language needs go beyond your training? Sit with those thoughts and feelings a while. Listen to them long enough to be very clear on the scripts they’re playing in your head. Then see what you can do about rewriting them. For more examples of how cognitive restructuring can work for teachers, read my review of Angela Watson’s book Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching Every Day…No Matter What.
Watch the Multitasking
This one is from my own personal experience: When I am attempting to do something that requires concentration and one of my kids needs my attention, I am way more likely to snap at them. It’s tempting to try to squeeze two tasks into one space—say, entering grades into your gradebook while your students read silently. But suppose your gradebook software freezes, you realize that the last ten grades you entered just disappeared, and right then, you notice that one of your students is kicking the desk of the girl in front of him, and it’s bothering her. You’re already stressed by the gradebook situation, and now Bart Simpson over there is causing problems. Are you going to handle this well? Are you going to quietly go over and tell him to stop, then deliver a consequence calmly if he does it again? I seriously doubt it.
So choose your secondary tasks wisely. Sure, if your students are working quietly and you want to file a few papers, fine. Just make sure it’s an interruption-friendly task, something that doesn’t require a lot of concentration, because if you choose something complex, or something that could give you problems, you’re far more likely to see students as an annoying distraction.
When You Get that Yelling Feeling
If you’ve done everything you can to prevent the desire to yell from even coming up, and it starts coming up anyway, here are some approaches you can take to fight it face to face.
About six years into my life as a new parent, it suddenly dawned on me that one of the main reasons I yelled at my kids was because I didn’t have the energy to physically go to where they were. I was worn out and didn’t feel like getting up. Or I had my hands in the sink and a problem erupted somewhere, so instead of drying off and going to deal with it, I yelled. On her blog Lemon Lime Adventures, Dayna Abraham captured this epiphany perfectly in One Simple Tip to Help You Stop Yelling: “When the kids start to get ramped up, instead of yelling from across the room to settle down… I get closer. When the kids are starting to argue, instead of yelling above their voices to get along… I get closer. When the kids are ignoring my requests, instead of yelling my request louder… I get closer.” So one way to head off your yelling is to just physically move yourself to where they are. Not only will that proximity get their attention, it will make yelling basically unnecessary.
Instead of Loud and Ranty, Go for Quiet and Concise
When you get the urge to yell, make a conscious effort to go in the opposite direction: Speak much more softly, almost in a whisper. This can actually get students’ attention even more effectively than a yell. More importantly, it projects self-control. In a recent Periscope broadcast, special education teacher Amy Harris shared some important principles for dealing with explosive student behavior and staying calm in high-pressure classroom situations. “We are the adults in the situation. These are kids that we’re talking about, so we can’t try to get into a shouting match with them.” Harris also recommends using as few words as possible, rather than delivering a long lecture: “The more you limit your words, the less you’re going to get into a power struggle.”
Find a Replacement
If you’re mostly yelling to get the room quiet, look for an alternative. In her post 15 Creative & Respectful Ways to Quiet a Class, Angela Watson suggests countdowns, hand signals, and asking content-related questions to refocus students’ attention. Or check out Todd Finley’s 30 Techniques to Quiet a Noisy Class, which includes having the teacher just turn and write a message to the class on the board. My own go-to strategy when I really wanted to blow up was to grab a notebook and just start writing (a strategy I describe in this video). Repeating a mantra in your head, stepping outside your room, counting to ten…if you’ve made a commitment to not yell, you will find the trick that works for you.
Pretend You’re on Camera
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but it might help someone else, so here goes: If nothing else works, and I feel that yell coming on, sometimes I’ll pretend I’m being filmed for a reality show. I ask myself if I’m behaving in a way I would be proud of later, and that can occasionally stop me in my tracks, despite the actual lack of a camera.
Track Your Progress
Success with dropping any kind of bad habit can be reinforced if you track your progress. My yelling with my own kids got so bad at one point, I actually had to set myself a concrete goal with a reward at the end of it: If I could be yell-free for two solid weeks, I would buy myself a nice new pair of boots. I made a “No Yelling” chart to check off each yell-free day, taped it to a kitchen cabinet, and showed it to my kids so they could keep me honest. Each time I blew it—which I did, twice—I had to start over with a new chart. After I finally got through two full weeks and I stopped tracking, I would occasionally slip back into my old yelling habit, but my awareness of it had grown significantly, and that’s what stuck.
Now I know that if I ever start getting really bad again, I can always work toward another new pair of boots. ♥
Allen, K. P. (2010). Classroom management, bullying, and teacher practices.The Professional Educator, 34(1), 1.
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Controlling anger–before it controls you. Retrieved March 25, 2016, from http://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.aspx
Trinkner, R., Cohn, E. S., Rebellon, C. J., & Van Gundy, K. (2012). Don’t trust anyone over 30: Parental legitimacy as a mediator between parenting style and changes in delinquent behavior over time. Journal of adolescence,35(1), 119-132.
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I really needed this today. Friday I had a moment with my students, then another with my kids at home. I’m sending this to my school computer to I can read when I need it, and I’m going to jot a few ideas (get closer, whisper) on post its so I can use them in the moment. Thank you!
Ashlie, I’m glad this came at the right time. This is a rough time of year for everyone.
One of my favourite tricks instead of yelling is talking in an overly dramatic voice with a British accent, exaggerating everything. The accent’s not very good, and it always makes us all laugh. Fun instead of anxiety!
Love it! I’m going to try it today!
love this article
I have found that if instead of going “loud and ranty” I go “soft and concise”, it calms and relaxes me too. Also, they have to “come to where I’m at” instead of me trying to reach above and over them.
I teach MS theater and sometimes, my actors are not quiet backstage like they should be. And, they are not listening to the stage manager. Sometimes I lose it when I feel pressured by time, but I have found it more effective to stop everything on stage until the backstage crew hears all the noise they are making. When they stop, acting continues. If they start up again, acting stops. They get the message pretty soon.
Ah! This showed up on my email just when my husband said we have to stop yelling at our kids. From now on, no more yelling. Other read him this article. Thank you!!
Hey Jude. (Oh wow, look at that.)
I’m so glad this came along just when you needed it, and I hope it helped!
Thanks again Jennifer! You keep your advice, wisdom, suggestions and sharing relevant, generous and personal. Nothing more could be asked of a working professional: your devoted nature shines 🙂
I choose to teach part time, but I am nearly full time with the added hours of “R&D”. Cult of Pedagogy is at the top of the list, along with all things M. Linsin.
Well yes I agree. It would be great if we didn’t have to yell. But in the real world, sometimes making an assertive command doesn’t work. Sometimes using your ‘normal voice’ doesn’t work. So you yell – mainly out of frustration. I don’t think there are any easy answers to this. Also, some kids don’t see you as a ‘proper strict teacher’ if you don’t shout – because they’ve told me!
The reverse is the case. You will have better discipline if you stop yelling. Yelling tells the students that you can’t even control yourself, let alone them.
What is a “proper strict teacher?” Sounds like a teacher that kids will hate. Is it possible that if your normal voice doesn’t work, other problems may exist? I get your skepticism, though. I used to be a yeller, until I realized, as Jennifer suggests, that it never helps.
I think there’s a big difference between yelling and being assertive. I also think we can command a lot of attention with a firm, serious tone. On the other hand, I have also had kids tell me that I wasn’t strict enough or that I should yell more…I don’t think kids have enough experience or even the language to express what they really mean: that they want someone who will set boundaries and hold students to high expectations. The kids who say you need to yell have been trained to respond only to yelling (which was my point earlier in this post). I think this can change if they experience someone who handles himself with self-control.
Reading and sharing right now, Jennifer! Thank you so much for reminding all educators how relevant this is! If I told you… Excellent as always!
Thank you, Fabiana; I’m so glad you liked this!
I have that ONE class of freshmen and a rotating schedule. On those days when they’re the last period of the day–especially a Friday–it can be a misery.
What I’ve learned is that I can’t joke with them on these days. That I need to step through every highly structured activity in short steps with directions at every turn. I will probably not do the same fun activity with that class that I did with my others. I do more independent work and less group work. I need to be on my toes. I absolutely need to manage that class–I direct them as to what they should be doing but I don’t yell. I’m not their favorite teacher on those days but Monday is a new day.
I remember learning this same lesson, Debra. Sometimes avoiding yelling starts way back with the initial tone you set, and for some classes, that means a serious, businesslike tone. I was always the teacher who would joke around with a few students, then find myself with a wild class, THEN I’d start yelling like it was their fault.
Thank you for this amazing article. Sometimes I do get to that point! I will begin to implementing the strategies presented in the article. Thanks!
Nancy, I would love to hear which ones worked for you!
Thank you for this. I’ve been a parent for almost 13 years and am a first-year teacher (4th grade). I am a yeller as a parent but have not been as a teacher, for many of the reasons that you listed above. My yelling at home has decreased and I hope to use your tips to make it nonexistent.
Julie, I’ll be thinking about you. It sounds like we have a lot in common. Let me know how it goes.
Thank you so much for writing this blog entry, especially not in a condescending way, but instead, in a very understanding manner. Nobody wants to admit they are yellers, and this genuine entry with helpful tips made me think how I can control my yelling (a bit) better. I hate myself whenever I yell at my students, and feel ashamed in front of other teachers (even if they might have not heard me yelling). I have a long way to go to work on this matter, but am glad that I am not the only one who struggles with this, as I am surrounded by co-workers who never or seem never to yell at students. Thank you!
Tom, I’m so glad this helped. Making this change is definitely an ongoing process, so recognize any small steps you take. Come back and tell me how it goes!
I can not comment on child rearing as i am not a parent. However, as a teacher I am fascinated (and surprised) that we feel we must yell. What’s behind all of this? J.G. goes after this (“Chances are good that the root of your yelling is coming from a set of beliefs you keep repeating to yourself”) but we can go farther. When kids don’t do what we want, we ultimately are worried about how this reflects on us. Or, we think they disrespect us and so they ignore us when in fact, they are being who they are – young teenagers. When I have pushed colleagues on the root of their anger it usually boils down to one thing: if kids don’t “perform” well, its a reflection on us as teachers. So, is it the pressure of standardized tests? Do we feel a need to control when we don’t understand a certain behavior?
JT, these are excellent points. I do think ego has a lot to do with it. Thanks for sharing this.
I don’t think “ego” is a word that correctly characterizes the situation. “Ego” usually has a negative connotation although it shouldn’t. What J.T. is saying is that we want to do our jobs well. This is not an “ego” thing as the word is used in our society. We should care about our jobs and it is also part of having respect for the students, the institution of public education, the concept of hard work and being a moral person who cares about serving society and being a good teacher. Respecting the position we have been given is not an “ego” thing.
Hi Perry ~ you’re right. “Ego” has a lot of negative connotations, and it’s too broad of a brush. Being sensitive to how our students’ behavior or performance reflects on us doesn’t make us overly egotistical, but it can make us react more strongly when things don’t go well. Thanks for adding this perspective.
I am a recovered yeller. Early in my career, it was the only way I thought I could get my students to understand that I was upset. As I grew and learned the finesse of classroom management I found the exact opposite to be true as you mention in your post. When I lost my animated way of speaking and spoke quietly, the class instantly paid attention and knew I meant business. After I adopted this policy (10th and 12th grade) I had very few problems with classroom management, and only yelled once every few years. And never in front of a whole class. It seems contrary to logic, but it really works.
I think it helps to watch someone who does this. For a teacher who only really knows one way of handling things, it can be a huge epiphany to watch a teacher who deliberately softens their voice when they needs students’ attention. I had never really seen it until I volunteered in my daughter’s first grade class and I was blown away by how effective it was!
Thank you so much for this! I admit to being a yeller. I’m a first year teacher working primarily with middle school music students. The students have had 2 previous teachers, both of whom were older and male, so I think the students are still in “what can I get away with” mode, even into the 4th quarter. I’m really feeling that lack of respect, like you talked about, but I know that yelling isn’t working. It’s just so frustrating when I can’t get them to quiet down, especially when I’ve seen them acting like angels for my colleagues.
I sense that my wanting to yell is coming from insecurity on my part, but I feel like I’m trapped in this vicious circle I’m not sure how to break.
Meghan, I think a lot of us have been where you are. I hope some of these suggestions can help you break the cycle. Come back and tell me how things are going.
Any teacher who “loses control” of their behavior in the school environment should not be in the classroom. The idea that this is in any way acceptable…ever…is unacceptable. We are role models who must demonstrate control and proper…healthy…ways of handling emotions and problem-solving during challenging moments in the classroom.
TEACHERS are HUMAN and we sometimes make mistakes!
As teachers, we are all just people trying to work in highly stressful environment. Then I guess most of us “should not be in the classroom.” Of course everyone will sometimes yell out of anger or frustration. No one sets out to yell, but it happens.
Susanne, I don’t think anyone is suggesting that yelling is acceptable. Well, actually there is one comment, but otherwise we are all pretty much acknowledging that yelling is a problem. Despite that, it happens. All the time.
What do you do when you teach in a culture where yelling is the norm? I+Over and over again here, yelling is the go-to method to get attention or make your voice heard. The kids here learn that parents mean business only once they’re yelling at their kids (and it’s usually accompanied by a smack upside the head), and small traffic altercations become huge shouting matches over whose fault the accident was. In my classroom I feel like yelling is the only to get students’ attention, despite using methods like “Class, Yes”. About half the class responds to my prompt and the rest continue with their conversations or activities. I’m very frustrated at this point and after 6 years teaching here feel very burned out. (And no, I can’t move; my husband lives here.)
Hi Katie. I would caution you to avoid assuming cultural norms as an explanation for your students’ behavior; this view only creates distance and distrust between you and your students and won’t improve behavior. In Hedreich Nichols’ powerful post on strategies for “teaching students who may look, think, or opine differently than we do,” she recommends that teachers spend more time in the communities where they teach (see item #3). Getting to know students better personally, and their families, should naturally build trust and help you develop a better working relationship with your students.
I listened to half of the pod cast- went to school and you guessed it!!! I yelled. But I was aware of the trigger and the self talk that was swirling in my head. I immediately lowered my voice. Today I listened to the rest of the podcast and I am committed to going YELL FREE and finding alternatives to manage my students! THANKS CoP you ROCK! #yellfree
Jody, I just love this. Becoming a non-yeller is a one-day-at-a-time process, and there are sure to be lots of setbacks. I love that you caught yourself partway through today!!
Great article! Lots of solid advice.
My favorite line is the kids “getting all up in my grill.” Way to keep it real.
Ha! Thanks, Nick.
This article covers so much ground so well– I could write an equally long article that would pretty much amount to “what she said.” I particularly love the parallels with teaching and parenting, and the many practical resources. The remarks on multitasking in the classroom (or at home) remind me of something I’ve found while teaching. If you participate in an activity with the children (a writing exercise, ‘drop everything and read’– whatever) it sends a clear message: this is worthwhile. I’m learning too. Forget where I read that advice, but it reminded me that a very high powered teacher of mine always participated in the prompts we did at workshop rather than sitting there waiting for us to finish up. A bonus is that practicing what the children are doing gives you new insight into what’s involved– and may lead you to new work of your own.
Evelyn, you’re absolutely right! I actually wrote a different post about the value of doing the work you assign, called Dogfooding. I hadn’t thought about this as a way to keep students focused, but it sounds like it would work.
Occasionally a well used yell is necessary. For example, student A has his hands around the neck of student B and is choking him. You the supervising teacher are on the opposite side of the school yard and your feet are not going to get you there fast enough to prevent potentially serious harm to student B. So you raise your voice and yell, “hands off!” While your feet are moving you in that direction. Student A is likely to be startled and ease up his grip allowing student B to either get away or in the very least get some air.
One would like to think this is an extreme example, but unfortunately this academic year I have one student in the class that was frequently choking, punching or stabbing students with pencils or other objects. Now we have plans in place that help prevent these occurrences, but if not for a well used yell occasionally, I shudder to think what the outcomes may have been. (That being said, if someone yelled all the time, then a well placed yell would not work as it would not startle a child out of pursuing an undesired behaviour.)
Hi Luda. I totally agree, and your very last point brings it right back around to why frequent yelling for all infractions could ultimately be dangerous if you really need to get students’ attention, but the yell has totally lost its impact.
Hi Jennifer! I teach 9th grade and they “produce” noise after each activity they’ve done: they stop writing – start making noise, stop reading – start screaming… I’m thinking just to speak with them sincerely – ask why do they shout and don’t listen to me. Is it a good idea or it won’t bring any results?
Head to Michael Linsin’s Smart Classroom Management website. It’s all about setting expectations, making your actual teaching as exciting as possible, and making your classroom management plan deadpan so that kids don’t try to test you. It has really helped me.
Jennifer , it’s so amazing to listen to your talk on cultifpedagogy . I can so relate to it .
Thankyou for the amazing tips and your advice made sense .I am an educationist associated with a bilingual and monolinguial school in Middle East usually the teachers are expats and make the excuse that the children do not fully understand them . However , I think it is all about controlling the urge to shout and finding solution of every problem in just shouting at the students .
ITA quite inspiring to listen to your point of view .
I have 2 students. Let’s call them Fred and George Weasley. They WILL not raise their hand ever, speak everything at will, and are driving me batty. I am a first grade teacher. They are 6/7. I am seriously having a hard time being the bigger person here. But I must continue. I think I will add the phrase “I am disappointed you are not raising your hand.” I need words that both kindly express that this frustration is real, and I need words that guide them toward the behavior I want.
Katie, have you tried just completely ignoring any comments called out by them (and anyone else for that matter). I know it’s hard to tune out those responses from them, especially if they say something silly (you instinctively want to fix that behaviour) or if they actually say something really helpful to the discussion you’re having (you are so surprised a response to their answer just slips out). But when I started getting the hang of ignoring caller-outer-ers, even avoid eye contact – it worked straight away, out the corner of my eye I see them raising their hand. Then I’ll make sure I do get to them to hear their response.
It’s hard to ignore – but if you make it a consistent practice – it may work.
I taught 1st grade for many years and I totally get it! Some of my go-to phrases were, “When you raise your hand, we’ll all be interested in hearing what you’re thinking.” “When people blurt out, it’s hard to hear what others are saying. What can you do to help?” “What you have to say is important. When you raise your hand we can all stop to listen and learn from you.” “We all get excited to share our thoughts. Raise your hand so we know you have something important to say.”
Other random strategies/ideas:
*As a whole class, model and practice wait time. Use a class signal to let kids know it’s time to raise hands for sharing.
*During a Think, Pair, Share, strategically assign Partner A and B and which partner will share.
*Let kids who shout out write or draw their thinking in a journal, on a post-it, or on a dry erase board; let them hold it up quietly at any time; give them a smile and a thumbs-up of acknowledgement while still leading the discussion.
*Ignore a shout-out, but use a raise-your-hand signal as you call on someone else.
*Set limits. Example: “Let’s do a 5 finger share. When you raise your hand to share your thinking it needs to be different from what’s already been shared. If it’s not different, it will still count as one of the shares, so listen carefully. We want to learn as much as we can. After 5 shares, you’ll go to your journal to write down your favorite share, what you wanted to share if you didn’t get to, or both.” This strategy lets kids know all voices will be heard so no worries if they don’t get called on, and on top of it, you’ll have a quick formative assessment.
Lastly, if you haven’t already, I’d check out one of my favorite books and review on the site – Book Review: How to Talk So Kids Will Learn.
Hope some of this helps!
This article is amazing..I’ve been thinking about teaching middle school, but after the past 5 months as a teacher assistant for 4th and 5th graders I’ve been re-thinking…the attitudes, thinking they are grown, defiance,etc. is crazy ridiculous. It may have something to do with the fact my school seems to not like disciplining, but I dont know.
Jennifer as always your honesty is appreciated!!! Btw that reality show strategy is brilliant?
As a first year teacher, I’ve felt like I was drowning and resorted to taking it out on my students and yelling at them too many times. This was a very inspirational message that I needed to hear! Thank you!
well once our teacher yelled like crazy she was mad and she was like throwing a temper tantrum and it was mad she kept yelling and yelling at us.
Yes, this happens. Sometimes teachers get so frustrated they just lose control. I hope this article will help people like that teacher to learn how to manage their emotions.
I feel like making copies of this and leaving them around my child’s middle school
This was such a great read! If my mood is already off, I can feel myself getting short-tempered more often than usual… especially if I’m stressed about the job itself! Making sure I understand my triggers (excessive noise is also one of mine!) and getting close instead of yelling because of proximity, will definitely help.
Happy New Year!
Wow I learned so much from this article! As a student teacher I’m going to practice these preventatives. It’s hard because the second my students act up my supervisor teacher yells at them and that makes me feel exactly how you described you felt. Similar to the serenity prayer I will change what I can starting with my habit of yelling. I will absolutely try every strategy you gave when I have my own classroom!
this is a great article, i read it after i had a moment with a class that insists on conversing while i am teaching. what should I do after the episode, should I have a conversation with the students about it? ignore and move on? what would you suggest
Plain simple consequence I reckon. Dish it out to them after 1 warning, and don’t dwell on it in front of the class, wasting your precious lesson time.
This is quite an interesting read. I’m 100% a yeller, and I have yet to break the habit. The sad part is I’m hardcore with my shouting. Staff and kids can hear me from across the school. I often get carried away. My biggest trigger is students completely and purposely ignoring instructions and being defiant. My own yelling echoes in my head after school; I feel humiliated about my own tantrums in front of students. To think 10 year olds could get to me so badly when I am adult is to feel totally immature and incompetent. Instead of intimidating children, it seems to make them laugh at me and take me even less seriously. I then constantly worry about the very real consequences for these types of outbursts on my part (getting fired). I don’t think any solution is a quick fix. Reading about other teachers’ experiences is comforting in a way, so thanks. Tomorrow is a new day (if I still have a job).
I yell in a punitive fashion once and a while, but, more often, I raise my voice when I get excited about something in the classroom. I value the advice in this article, and I’ll absolutely try to remember these words when going forward with my practice.
On the other hand, a question that people who “pretend to care” about education never ask is: why teachers get to a point where they feel like they have to yell? Although that topic is rightly outside this writer’s purpose, my school makes it clear that only teachers are accountable.
It’s certainly tough.
But, the fact that I see most of the behavioral issues that occasionally bring me to yell concentrated in a single class, and not throughout the day, let me know that it’s not fully in my court.
I am a preschool teacher and owner and I’ve never actually yelled at my students as in lecturing them to behave. But when I do yell at students, I always feel absolutely awful afterwards. For example, sometimes children have very bad judgement and are about to go into the parking lot, pee in middle of the play area, throw a rock at a friend, hit someone with a stick, etc. I believe in “STOP!” if I’m not close enough to physically intervene, but if it doesn’t work the first time I can get very over the top, loud and in a scary enough voice that not only is the child surprised enough to stop his behavior, but scared enough to cry. And I feel terrible. So why am I doing it? This article helped me examine my beliefs. First, I feel a great responsibility to prevent children from getting hurt. This year I have had an autistic boy whose behaviors have created lots of anxiety for all in the classroom, so my sensitivity to that is high. I know the number of injury reports is too many, and I am feeling a lack of control in that area. Yet is the yelling worth it? Do I need to scream like it is a life and death matter for some children to get someone else’s pee on them? I should save life and death screaming for actual life and death and deal with the fallout from the rest. Because the screaming frightens all the children and incurs the negative results listed in your article. So, maybe there isn’t actually a way to stop the behavior in the moment except for scary yell. But is it worth it? No. I even scared my assistant today, and felt ashamed of myself in front of her. If she did that I would not like it. So, unless a child is actually at risk of death, I’ll stop at a firm and loud “STOP!” if I can’t physically intervene, and deal with the fallout later. I don’t need the rest of the bad effects from yelling following me around the classroom.
OMG, this was me today. I teach Prep (that’s what “kindergarten” is called in Australia.
Today we had an outdoor lesson. I set boundaries and made them clear to all the kids. Most of my kids are really settled, mature and responsible. However, I have one child who didn’t go to pre-school, and so he missed a lot of socialisation. He smiles when he’s done the wrong thing, which I know is a major trigger for me, as it feels like disrespect. There’s another kid in the class who sometimes likes to see what he can get away with, and got set off by the first one today.
So Child A ran off outside the boundaries, and Child B followed him. I had to yell their names to get them back, and even then, Child A didn’t come straight back. When he did, I told him off in a very stern voice, and probably overdid it. He looked surprised and upset. I felt really ashamed afterwards, also because a teacher’s aide overheard.
I know my triggers in this situation were:
– Concern about the child’s safety
– History of the child’s behaviour, which I perceive as disrespectful
– A parent telling me that day about an incident that occurred when a sub was in the room, and me therefore feeling out of the loop and like an incompetent teacher
– Thinking about the teacher next door to me, who seems to have a perfect class (partly luck of the draw, but also her manner with the kids). She’s a graduate too, which makes me feel inferior – how is she so perfect??
Whew, lots to work on! I should say this is rare. I don’t make a habit of yelling at kids – I usually use a firm voice instead if I need to, and I try and use a lot of positive reinforcement. I do feel I could do better on the positive reinforcement too, and on being funny and engaging. Sometimes I don’t think I’m very funny or engaging 🙁
But I’ll try and focus on the positives, which will help me be more positive with my class. 99% of my class are great 99% of the time. And I have students and ex-students who obviously love me – they come up in the yard to say hi or give me a hug, and smile when they see me.
This is a tough, but so rewarding job. We got this!
I think you just described what many teachers feel and go through on any given day. It’s important to be reflective, yet not too harsh on ourselves. We hold these kids in our hearts every day, caring beyond words. I give you props for understanding your triggers and working toward being more proactive than reactive. If you haven’t already, check out How to Talk, So Kids Can Learn; it’s such a great book. Helped me communicate with my own kids as well as my students – eliminated a ton of power struggles, kept the calm, and guided kids to becoming more self-directed. I also love Jenn’s Magic of Validation post. The tough days can feel heavy, but yes – you’ve got this!Thanks for sharing!
Hi Melissa. The main focus here is on reducing habitual yelling. In situations where students are in danger you may have little choice but to raise your voice to get students’ immediate attention.
I’m glad you recognize your sensitivity to the change in your classroom with the addition of a student with autism. If the new dynamics are making you more stressed and more likely to yell, that’s not good for anyone, especially for that child, and it sounds like you recognize that! Noticing your own increased anxiety is a first step toward introducing new systems and practices for safety in your classroom, or asking for more supports from specialists who might help you strategize.
P.S. I realize this comment is several years too late! I hope things improved for you!
I’m in my second year of teaching (transferred from the private sector), and I actually had a rough period with on of my classes today.
I did yell, and they were quiet, but it was certainly due to fear and confusion, and I felt bad about it. I looked for an article like this because of that.
I can truthfully say that I am seeing improvement in class behavior from year one, but it just happens to be the perfect storm of personalities in this one class (the nature of electives).
I think I’m going to start passing out self-assessment behavior rubrics for them to answer. If they have to answer these, hopefully it will work out. I’ve heard they can be a good tool, and it saves on the vocal cords.
Interesting piece.This has further enlightened me on steps and acts I usually utilized instinctively when dealing with kids especially when I feel like i am putting through my all for them and all they do is make one want to go over the edge. One of the things I have observed with most kids from where I come is that,when you are an overly friendly,understanding and impactful teacher and those yelling moments come up.they get it and respect it and then act right….at least for the majority.
Thank you for your blog. I needed this today and I am so happy I found this article online. I felt like you knew exactly how I was feeling and it helped me to stop beating myself up and commit to do better for my students and for myself. I am a career changer and first year teacher so I am putting out fires in my 3rd grade classroom all day. I love my students and I also expect a lot from them and of myself! This article had a lot of insights and common sense solutions to enable me to be more self-aware in the classroom.
This post hits home for a lot of us. Glad you found it helpful!
Very helpful information. Thanks for addressing this sometimes embarrassing topic.
I really need this…!!
Thank You 🌸
I noticed that my trigger was my Idealism. I pictured a class or a lesson going one way, but my students took it in a different direction (or a few of the students took it somewhere else). When my ideal picture and the real picture didn’t match, then I got ticked and would yell to get back the control I perceived that I had lost.
About 6 years into my career, I had a moment where, in anger, I made a snide comment (luckily, to myself, and not to the class), “I guess I just have to repeat myself over and over.” Then I believe I was given a divine intervention, where all these images of life lessons I had repeatedly been taught, then subsequently ignored flashed through my brain for the next five seconds. I realized that I am more like my students than I had previously thought, and I was brought closer to their level. I too must learn the same lesson over and over.
As I re-evaluated my ideal against reality, I realized I was the one who needed to adjust, not them. This really came in handy a few weeks ago when I was starting to feel myself move towards anger. It appeared that no one in my 6th period was on task. Just as I was about to yell, I decided to pull out the seating chart and check who was actually on task versus who was off task. Out of my 35 students, only 7 were off task. But I was projecting those 7 onto the other 28. I decided to handle it a different way (which I won’t detail here), and I believe the results were far more productive! I kept my cool (and my credibility) and learned a lot about the culture in that class period.
Jeffery, I think this can happen to a lot of us. We work so hard planning a lesson, envisioning how perfectly wonderful it’s going to go, and then it just doesn’t. It’s easy to get frustrated — it can almost feel hurtful. Such a helpful reminder to take a step back and make those important adjustments. Thanks for sharing!
My second day as a substitute teacher and this day drove me to finding answers to the yelling issue. I was a sub today for a school where the very first session of the morning was led by the principle who was literally screaming at the kids to get them to quite down. It was so intense that it made me completely uncomfortable. Unfortunately, the screaming from staff did not stop there…
At this school, the culture or behavior from staff has conditioned the kids to only respond to screams. It made my job near impossible in the classroom.
Ugh. This makes me so sad.
Thank you!!! This article has been very helpful. I will definitely use your suggestions.
As a teacher I agree with this 100%. The struggle is one of my aids is constantly yelling.
Yikes – that’s a tough situation. Wondering if there’s a way you can share this article?
I am a teacher and a guardian from India. You see while listening to your podcast, I was able to visualize causes, and ways to prevent and face it. Definitely, it going to help me and others. Thanks a lot!
Thank you for writing this article. As an extremely quiet person who in the past two years has done an uncharacteristic amount of yelling as a new teacher, only to be left with the enviable feeling of ickyness. You are absolutely right it never works or sends the right message. I just wish that this kind of discipline wasn’t promoted so much. So that if you are a softer person you wouldn’t feel like a failure.
Shouting isn’t at all productive when it comes to handling students. There are alternative ways of doing that. Here’s an article that contains techniques that help with the students, i.e. through singing, clapping etc.: https://westendinschools.org.uk/blog/creative-classroom-management-part-3
I am a student at the University of Northern Iowa this year, majoring in Early Childhood Education. I have really enjoyed reading your posts and gaining insight on positive ways to effectively run my future classroom. I found this post to be especially helpful and I look forward to using these practices in my class.
I am currently student teaching at a high school and, while I haven’t had much trouble yelling at my students (not yet anyways), I found this blog very insightful. For the first time, I found myself getting agitated at a particular class which is normally not a problem class for me and my Cooperating Teacher. A student did not understand what I was telling them and they kept asking me the same question and I knew I was giving them the answer they needed but they misunderstood. It took everything in me not to yell the answer at the student. Instead I kept telling myself “they’ll understand in a second, just give them some more time. Yelling will not help them understand.” I will definitely be taking some of your advice and resources for when I have my own classroom! I just feel like yelling may be something I will need to watch out for in the future.
For me, and I assume some others, it’s not necessarily “yelling” that we’re talking about. I tend to be able to control actual “yelling” by definition but instead just say something I shouldn’t say. This ugly thing can manifest itself not in voice volume but just in the words that are being used. One could control the yelling part but then say something that comes off as disrespectful to a student. I did that today which is why I’m reading this article. At least I can tell myself I did something to try to be a better person.
Hi Jennifer, I know this is several years ago, but I still found it very relevant and practical. Thank you for sharing the strategies and reminders. I look forward to trying these strategies and techniques. I often felt horrible after I yelled at a student or the whole class sometimes…
I know yelling is so unprofessional and not effective but I keep snapping when my frustration is over the threshold. I really want to be consistent with the practices you’ve mentioned in your podcast. Thank you for the resources!