Tea Time With Jesse

Six of One, Half Dozen the Other

How Yelly is Too Yelly?

Posted by middlerage on November 4, 2012

A question for all my readers, even those without kids.

Having recently celebrated teachers, in my post on volunteerism, I arrive at a rather, umm, delicate question. Ever since the oldest kid (OK) moved out of daycare and into the world of public school I’ve been struck by how much yelling teachers do in the classroom. Man they can be shrill and bossy! To be fair, it is amazing how much the phrase “in one ear and out the other” applies to kids, and sometimes the words just don’t seem to stick without the nail of a good yelling. The thing is, I don’t seem to remember this from my childhood. I fondly recall warm, alterna-mothers, who(m) I would gladly hug, not yelling boss monsters.

The over-arching question is: Are teachers today yelling too much? But in reality it is a more complex, multi-pronged question:

  • Do the readers of my generation have a clearer, less rosy memory of elementary days? Did our generation get yelled at (a lot) and I am just mis-remembering?
  • Am I remembering, correctly, that my childhood teachers were much warmer, but I attended an anomalously kind-hearted school, and in general national elementary has always had barking teachers?
  • Do you, yourself, have elementary age children, and do you have any idea of the yelling, or lack thereof, in your child’s class?
  • And just how much yelling is too much? This is a very difficult and subjective question. Just exactly when do I decide this is out-of-bounds?
  • Is it a cultural or regional thing? Should I accept more yelling in a southern school district versus, say, a California district?
  • And finally, most agonizingly, what do I do if I determine that there is too much going on? There’s the rub. When you’re blissfully ignorant of a problem, you are off the hook, so to speak, of having to do anything about it. But if you identify a problem, suddenly you inherit some responsibility for that problem…don’t you?

It should be noted, that the OK seems to be suffering no effects… so far. In fact, one of her/his favorite teachers is a particularly yelly yeller. Maybe kids are less sensitive than adults to this?



11 Responses to “How Yelly is Too Yelly?”

  1. Jerry said

    I don’t remember much yelling either, and since we had many of the same teachers you can rest assured that your memory is corroborated by the sieve that is my memory. Maybe there was yelling and the memory didn’t stick because it was such an inconsequential thing, but I suspect we grew up in a quieter time and place.

    Warning: Parenting advice from a guy with no children ahead!

    A far as how it affects your kids, the thing I would watch for is if they start yelling more. If I were teaching my hypothetical kids the art of rational discourse with calm voices and the school is undermining that, it would cheese me.

  2. I don’t remember frequent Yelling, but I remember frequent Consequences. The school system I grew up in had corporal punishment through sixth grade.

    • …I wouldn’t want to leave the impression that I was frequently paddled. What I meant was, misbehaving students getting hauled off to the office for a paddling was a not-unusual occurrence.

    • Mark Leisher said

      That was my school too. Not much yelling and some paddling on occasion. My kids think yelling is normal because their maternal grandmother talks *really* loudly. We have to deprogram them ever time they return from more than a couple hours at Grandma’s.

  3. Annie said

    I mostly remember the occasional yelling, just enough to get everyone’s attention and settle them down. Then business could be conducted at lower volume. But maybe it is just the individual teacher’s ability to control the classroom, and some have more of a natural talent than others. But I see that more as command of the stage and knowing how to work your audience. Obviously it is better if you have that natural talent, because then you can teach the one little lesson of “inside voices” more effectively.

    But that isn’t the only lesson that teachers are trying to teach, and all of the other lessons may still be effective in a loud voice. Then the more important issue is: what KIND of yelling is it? Is it can’t-keep-quiet-because-you-are-just-so-enthusiastic yelling? (I had one of those in middle school, and she was great.) Or is it angry yelling? Even getting-kids-attention yelling can go either way, depending on the tone and intention. And honestly, kids tend to be really good at picking up whether the yelling is dispassionate loudness just to be heard over the youthful exuberance of the classroom, or actually pissed off that they aren’t being listened to. And usually Not Being Listened To is a symptom of a bad teacher that the kids don’t respect, for reasons that don’t have to do just with yelling.

  4. middlerage said

    Alas, the state I live in still allows corporal punishment. But it is rarely used.
    I am getting the sense from all your responses, that the yelling in my school is deviant by a standard deviation, or more. Sigh. Now to consider what to do.

    • Annie said

      Eh, my experience was pretty mixed. Sister Ingnatia was a master of verbal abuse, and I apparently came home crying most days. Which is strange, because even though I remember not thinking of her as my favourite teacher, I didn’t hate her. I think they removed her from teaching duties and found some other role for her, perhaps involving a vow of silence and contemplative prayer. There were many complaints from the parents.

      I had a couple of other yelling teachers, too, mixed with some quieter types. Volume wasn’t a variable on the “do I like them” scale. But my dad had mastered the quiet-but-firm “I am very disappointed in your actions even though I still love you very much” to the point that I was far more terrified of his lectures than of Mom yelling at me.

      I think the other thing that matters for the kids to see is how quickly the adults forgive them and move on. If you get in trouble and get yelled at, but then after your apologies and time out your indiscretions are forgotten, kids are okay with that. Grudges and knowing the teacher doesn’t like you / has it in for you / you just can’t do anything right are not helpful.

      • middlerage said

        “I think the other thing that matters for the kids to see is how quickly the adults forgive them and move on. If you get in trouble and get yelled at, but then after your apologies and time out your indiscretions are forgotten, kids are okay with that. Grudges and knowing the teacher doesn’t like you / has it in for you / you just can’t do anything right are not helpful.”

        wow, this is really wise. The OK a) isn’t much of a target anyway, and b) seems to be able to move on quickly with no damage.

  5. Dahveed said

    My experience runs a bit counter. There were yellers in my childhood schools that were probably on order with what you are describing. In fact a couple of them were a whole lot worse; they probably would be fired in today’s world. I can recall one teacher who got so mad at one of my classmates that she banished him behind a bookshelf so she wouldn’t have to look at him for most of the school year! She really had a hard-on for this poor kid. I can also remember her breaking 3 or 4 rulers across this kid’s butt (in class no less) when she totally lost it. It had totally crossed the line into abusive territory, but we were all too naive to realize that she could/should have lost her job for that one. I remember another teacher who had a big wood block that he would slam against his desk with a huge WHAM!!! in order to get everybody to be quiet and listen to him. Another guy with a police whistle. And so on. Of course, I’ve come to realize that where I grew up is a barren wasteland of inner thought and enlightenment, so I fully expect it wasn’t “normal”.

    I haven’t witnessed, nor have I heard complaints from fellow parents about, my kids’ schools being full of yellers. Their current school is sort of the Stepford Wives of elementary schools. It has it’s own set of problems, but excessive yelling doesn’t seem to be one of them.

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