An Amazingly Easy Strategy to Cultivate a Respectful Classroom
I yell a lot as a mom. What is it about our own children that just drives us bonkers?! But, one thing I pride myself on (and one thing I am trying to improve on at home) is that I almost never yell at my students. In fact, in all my years of teaching, I can think of only one instance when I did yell at my students. And then, I felt awful about it and apologized before the end of the class that day.
Why is never yelling such a big deal?
Every year, students tell me I am their favorite math teacher ever. EVER. I laugh every time because I find it hard to believe. Then I ask them why and every year, EVERY YEAR they have the same answer. “You never yell at us.” It makes my heart break when they say that. Do these students really get yelled at that often? Yes, they do. Daily, in almost every class. I didn’t realize how many teachers yell frequently until I started talking to my kids about it. And I didn’t realize how much it affects them, either. I want my classroom to be a caring, respectful place. That’s when I decided to make it a priority NOT to yell at them. Ever.
They Will Not Respect You
The majority of my students are the “I hate school” crowd. It hasn’t always been easy, they don’t really see the point, maybe their parents dropped out…you get the idea. So, in order for them to pay attention and “tune in”, I need them to respect me. Now you might say, “well, they should just respect you because you’re the teacher.” and yes, to a point, but that’s not how poverty works. I have to earn their respect. And every year I do, largely, I think, because I respect them by not yelling.
They Will Tune You Out
If you are just going to yell at them when they ask a question you already answered or gave directions and they didn’t hear them or they ask a question that was on the homework they didn’t do, they are going to tune you out. They’ll sit in class, but their mind will be elsewhere. “Mrs. So and So doesn’t care about me, so why should I listen to her?” If you want your students to be attentive and engaged, be kind and speak gently.
You Will Not Reach Them in Any Meaningful Way
Many of us become teachers because we want to make a difference in kids’ lives. Sometimes, in the stress of life and lesson planning, we forget that and we start yelling. I hope you became a teacher to reach kids and make a difference. To offer them advice they can use as they enter into adulthood. If that is true, you cannot yell at them. If you yell at them, they will never ask you for advice and any advice you do give them, they will not take to heart because they do not respect your opinions because you are just another adult who yells at them.
I in no way am implying that you yell at your students all day every day, or even very often. But, I would encourage you to seriously consider adopting the philosophy that yelling has no place in your classroom.
Do you have other ways to create a kind and respectful atmosphere in your classroom? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.