Stroll through virtually any school and you’ll hear teacher voices spilling out into the hallways.
You’ll hear them echoing above the clatter of their classrooms.
You’ll hear them correcting and admonishing, directing and demanding for attention.
If it were an office building, library, or museum, it would seem out of place, absurd, even ridiculous.
But within our schools it’s commonplace. It’s commonplace because . . . well, it works.
When you raise your voice loud enough to startle or alarm students, you’re rewarded with immediate attention and compliance.
Without even saying so, you’re communicating your seriousness. You’re showing your displeasure. You’re telling them in no uncertain terms that what you’re saying really matters, that they better listen or else.
So what’s not to like?
Well, a lot. Although it can indeed stop students in their tracks, which is why it’s so prevalent, raising your voice is a monumental mistake.
It ruins the teacher-student relationship.
Yelling, shouting, barking orders, and the like is antagonistic. It creates a you-against-them relationship rather than one grounded in respect and rapport. The result is an unlikable teacher whose only means of influence is intimidation.
Furthermore, if your students dislike you, your rules and consequences will mean little to them.
It’s your likability, after all, that is key to creating leverage, to getting students to want to behave, to giving your classroom management plan the power to eliminate misbehavior.
It weakens over time.
Raising your voice has a diminishing effect. The more you use it with the same group of students, the less effective it becomes. This will cause you to up the ante, to become louder and more aggressive, to be the ogre you never wanted to be.
It also teaches students that unless you show your frustration, then you must not mean it. It must not be very important, so they tune you out.
Your normal speaking voice, then, no longer registers, and you’ll struggle to reach an audience that just doesn’t care.
It causes students to do the same.
Reacting emotionally to misbehavior provides a terrible role model for your students. It teaches them to complain and stomp their feet when things don’t go their way.
It teaches them to be selfish and impatient with each other and disrespectful toward you.
It creates the antithesis of a calm and peaceful learning environment, filling your room with a buzz of tension every visitor will feel the moment they walk through your door.
It opens you to complaints.
When you get in the habit of raising your voice, you’ll inevitably say things you’ll regret. You’ll take misbehavior personally, lower yourself into the gutter of incivility, and cut your students down to size.
This opens you to complaints from parents and administrators that are very difficult to defend.
We often hear from teachers upset about students going behind their back to complain to the principal. In 100% of cases, it’s because the teacher made it personal.
It makes behavior worse.
When you use fearful, loud, or startling tactics, it may indeed curb misbehavior in the moment, but it increases misbehavior overall.
It causes students to dislike you, resent you, and desire for revenge.
Yet so many teachers continue in this vein day after day because they don’t know a better way. They’re caught in a cycle of stress and discouragement and can’t find their way out.
So, is there ever a time to raise your voice?
Yes, most definitely! If you’re involved in a compelling lesson or giving a rousing speech or telling a hilarious story, you can and should let loose and be as loud and as fun and as demonstrative as you wish.
You may also need to increase your volume while outdoors or while ensuring the safety of your students.
But while asking for attention, enforcing consequences, giving directions, responding to misbehavior, and all other classroom management-related circumstances, it’s best to speak in a soft but clear voice.
It’s best to stand in one place and speak just loud enough to be heard.
It’s best to make eye contact and tell it like it is, to see the best in your students, to rely exclusively on your classroom management plan, to laugh and love and enjoy your students without reservation.
This way, when you open your mouth to address your class, they’ll lean in. They’ll follow you with their eyes, their heart, and their mind.
They’ll hang on your every word.
PS – If you’re a principal and would like to improve recess behavior, click here.
Also, if you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving classroom management articles like this one in your email box every week.