104. Yelling

Yelling at children is basically ineffective and counterproductive. It may feel effective, because it may yield immediate results, and it may temporarily let off some steam. There are even times when it’s necessary – when a child is about to run out in front of a moving car. But the long-range effect of consistently yelling at children is to get children to think you yell a lot, and maybe to get them to take after you, and yell a lot, too. As I wrote last week, whether or not we mean to be models, we are.
I yelled at children a lot, by my standards. By some other teachers’ standards, I was soft-spoken, and very patient. Some teachers I knew rarely or never yelled. Some engaged in passive/aggressive behavior which may have been worse than yelling, and some effectively said what they were thinking and feeling without raising their voices. I admire and emulate that style. It’s easier to stay calm as a volunteer, because there is a teacher there to yell or not yell; it’s not my issue any more.
Yelling can be a form of corporal punishment. Teachers and parents are usually significantly larger than children, and since we adults are less likely to be punished for yelling, we can really let go. My year of voice lessons did give me some good pointers about projecting, and I sometimes got embarrassed when I heard a door close across the hall. Some children have sensitive ears, and are actually physically hurt by loud noises. When we yell, we may think we’re only attempting to communicate better; they don’t seem to hear us when we’re quiet, and after all, at least we’re not hitting. But we are using our size, rather than our intellect, to attempt to accomplish our goals. We are trying to let our might make right.
Children who are used to loud noises, and those whose ears can take it, can still be damaged by yelling. Physical abuse is not the only kind. It’s scary to be yelled at by someone who is big, and we don’t know what else has happened in each child’s life to accompany yelling. Yelling may be part of our upbringing, and part of our culture, and may seem relatively innocent. But it can quickly remind an abused child of incidents that will never happen in class, and that child may lose the sense of safety we try to provide in school. Yelling doesn’t end up doing what it’s intended to do, and it often does what is not intended.

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