You had a bad night's sleep. You have personal stress at home. You're overwhelmed with work. And what does Susy want to do? Everything you ask her not to do! What does Susy not want to do? Everything you ask her to do! So, what do you want to do? Bite her head off and let her know how you feel! Gosh, sometimes yelling can feel like such a relief. It's as though all that pent up stress you've been feeling can just be released!
Unfortunately for me, though, if a student ever brings me to the point of raising my voice to a yell, I immediately feel complete frustration with myself for losing control. I can honestly say I have not "yelled" at a student for years. Until last year that is. :-(
We had a student who truly was unlike any student I've ever worked with. (No, he wasn't the chair thrower/cusser I've mentioned in other posts...I could actually get through to chair thrower/cusser easier than to this kid!) He had a wall of steel built around him and clearly had issues with women, as he was still struggling with his mom walking out on him when he was five. On top of it, he was homeless for three months, and spent lots of time with dad's girlfriend and her kids while dad worked. If we said sit, he wanted to stand. If we said laugh, he wanted to cry. If we said don't pick your nose, his finger would immediately dig in. I have never, ever had a student so hard to get through to. He challenged my self-efficacy everyday; however, I could not help but feel sorry for him and the circumstances life had thrown his way.
Well, we are all lining up for lunch one day, waiting on him to join us, and after saying (in a very calm, nice voice), "Come on, kiddo. We don't want to leave you here." He yelled something like, "I TOLD YOU WOMAN, I'M NOT GOING." This was probably the third or fourth time we had an encounter of some sort with him that day, so my patience were already faltering.
Normally, I would have walked over to the student and had a one-on-one conversation with him, as I am not into public humiliation, even when a student makes his comments public. I have to remember, he's 10...I'm 38. HOWEVER, I did not handle it as I normally would. I truly yelled, which is absolutely not my style. I don't remember what I said, but it was something along the lines of..."IS THIS WHAT YOU'RE ASKING FOR?! YOU WANT ME TO YELL AT YOU AND DISRESPECT YOU IN FRONT OF EVERYONE LIKE YOU DO TO US?! BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH!"
As you can imagine, all 50 other students stared at me in disbelief, mouths dropped open. The only time they ever heard me get that loud is when I was playing with them at recess, acting ridiculous. Apparently, it got his attention as well, because he got in line without saying a word, but with his sweatshirt hoodie zipped up around his face. (No, I didn't want him to trip and fall because he couldn't see...)
As soon as the words left my mouth, I felt so disappointed in my reaction. He won. I am supposed to be a person for him who can model how you interact with people without being rude, disrespectful, and yelling, yet I didn't do that. I'm sure every adult in his life yells at him based on conversations with his father, so I morphed into just another one of those people.
If I was a yeller, he would not have gotten into line when I yelled at him, as it would have just been my normal behavior that he didn't need to respond to. I think even he realized he pushed too far when he got that reaction, but that still doesn't make it okay in my book. I did later apologize to him for how I reacted and shared with him that I do not treat people that way, so I was disappointed in myself. He told me it was okay and actually gave a real quick, quiet "Sorry" to me, which he NEVER did. He would rather eat rocks than apologize to someone, especially an adult!
As educators, we are supposed to be role models to students; therefore, if we go around screaming at kids all day long, we're saying it's okay to talk to people that way. That is not the message we want to send to our students. Unfortunately, many kids already get that type of role modeling at home, and they certainly do not need it reinforced at school. We need to supply them with tools they can use to be successful in life, and going around yelling at others when they upset you is not an effective tool to give them!
Reflect back on times when you've found yourself yelling at students, and how it made you feel, as well as the impact it had on the overall atmosphere in the classroom. Again, we want to show students ways of dealing with frustration that doesn't involve screaming at someone and saying hurtful things. Plus, when we are yelling, we appear to be out of control, and that is not an impression we want to give!