Monday, March 2, 2009

Is yelling really worth it?

Earlier this year, I signed up to work for a company that places temporary substitute teachers and teachers’ aides in schools around metropolitan area. Working in an environment that involved almost zero human interaction was making me miserable. I figured getting out into a school everyonce in a while would be energizing, provide a temporary fix to my need for social interaction, and put a little money in pocket.

This morning, at 7:30 am, the placement company called and asked if I could teach. Today. I managed to get myself ready and fed by 8:15 and was out the door, en route to the school. I’ve spent time at this school before – and had a really good experience – so I was looking forward to working in the upper level classrooms (I worked with young children during my first visit).

It was a miserable experience.

Are teachers encouraged to yell at students? I’ve never heard so much senseless (in my opinion) yelling. My parents never yelled. Raised their voices, yes, but never yelled so loudly that my body went tense and my ears hurt. A child dares to walk in the snow while walking back to the building after recess (I should note here that no one cleans the playground so children are forced to traipse through shin-high snow for the duration of recess)? Someone sits slightly in front of her neighbors while in assembly? A kid whispers to his neighbor during English to ask for a pencil? Apparently yelling is the best response to such situations at the school I was at today. You can only imagine the verbal tirades that followed more significant situations – pushing, teasing, disruptive group conversations during a lesson.

Maybe I just have a different approach to discipline. For example, today I had bathroom duty, which basically means I stand outside of the bathrooms and make sure people don’t have water fights. When I arrived at the bathrooms, I saw a little boy completely drenched in water. I don’t think a single part of his head was dry. Instead of yelling - which based on his facial expression upon seeing me is exactly what he thought I was going to do – I bent over a bit, looked him in the eye, and said very calmly: “Do you think putting your head under the faucet was a smart thing to do?” He agreed that it was probably not the most intelligent thing he had done that day. I reinforced my disappointment by telling him that I hoped he would never put his head under the faucet again. Who knows, maybe he’ll do it again tomorrow. But I really don’t think that yelling at him would have conveyed my message of disappointment any more effectively than expressing my disappointment in a gentle but firm tone.

Am I wrong?

I could write at length about my experiences today, but I’ll spare you the details. I was so, so glad I had my yoga class tonight. I definitely need it!


  1. Ya know, when I was last home, my mom and I were talking about how hard it can be to be a kid. I think that adults forget that sometimes.