Have you ever worked in a public school where teachers often yelled at students? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen educators yell at students. Now, before you think I’m completely innocent, I can assure you, I’m not. I’ve had several “bad teacher moments” too. However, after a few years of observing my school’s climate and culture, I can’t help but notice how much yelling at students is painfully counterproductive. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many educators defend the need to yell, and not tell.
Far too many times, I’ve heard minority educators say, “yelling at kids is just part of our culture.” Or. “You have to understand our kids.” Sorry, but as a minority educator and human being, I simply can’t agree. Although I can understand how one’s upbringing helps shape one’s reality, “yelling” is NOT a cultural trait. It’s insulting to think our kids are incapable of normal dialogue. Simply put, yelling at kids or students is a learned behavior, NOT a DNA gene.
As professional educators, we MUST accept the fact that students will conform to their school environment. Everyone – students, teachers, and administrators – has a direct role in shaping the overall school culture. A school that’s overrun by student misbehavior, and, unfortunately, unprofessional educator behaviors, lacks effective systems and structure. Placing the blame on the students or poverty alone is a cop-out. The adults in the building are responsible for designing an overall school vision, both academic and social.
More often than not, a school’s vision or mission statement is visible throughout the building (e.g. signage). However, if educators and students lack investment or “buy-in” throughout the design and implementation phase of the vision, then the best slogans will become nothing more than decoration. In my honest opinion, a lack of educator and student buy-in will lead to more “yelling,” not less. Subsequently, if effective disciplinary systems are lacking or faulty, then educators will tend to resort to more “yelling”, not less. Once yelling becomes the norm, the students will quickly follow suit. In turn, students will yell at their peers, teachers, and, even administrators. Then, the cycle repeats over, and over, and over…
In my honest opinion, every urban public school needs a NYZ: No Yelling Zone. Just like some parents may use a swear/curse word “money jar”, there could be a system that administers negative consequences to educators and students for yelling. Why? Educators need to understand the need for modeling appropriate dialogue and professional language. There’s a popular misconception floating around urban public schools that “the louder one speaks, the more a student will listen.” Wow! Talk about lowering the bar. Students deserve adults who talk WITH them, not yell AT them. If, everyday, I had to hear every adult in my life yell at me, then I would stop listening too.