In a recent article, several Elba Elementary School fourth grade students plotted to kill their teacher. The students were interviewed by law enforcement and the matter was subsequently returned to the Elba School District. The Elba School District has elected not publicized the disciplinary consequences delved out to the students.
The plot to kill the teacher was first discovered in December before the fourth grade students were scheduled for their Christmas vacation. The teacher announced to her students that all antibacterial products were banned in her room. An antibacterial is an agent that interferes with the growth and reproduction of bacteria.
Elementary School children are exposed to various forms of bacteria. According to the National Sanitation Foundation, children are more likely to bring millions of germs home from school. In a recent study, they found that:
- Drinking water fountain spigots had the highest amount of bacteria on the tested surfaces – 2.7 million bacterial cells/in2.
- A cafeteria tray had more than ten times as many germs as a toilet seat (33,800 bacterial cells/in2 vs. 3,200 bacterial cells/in2).
- A student’s hand had 1,500 bacterial cells/in2.
- Commonly cleaned areas, such as desks and doorknobs had fewer germs (19 bacterial cells/in2 and 5 bacterial cells/in2 respectively), while computer keyboards and ear phones had significantly more at 260 bacterial cells/in2 and 740 bacterial cells/in2 respectively.
The students responded to the teacher demands by plotting to kill her. The plot was discovered by concerned parents and a school board member. The students planned to expose the teacher to anti-bacterial hand sanitizer and other products because she was highly allergic to them. One student said the teacher “yells at us and that the class has problems with her.” Another claimed the plan to poison the teacher came from another student. Additionally, the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department report indicated alleged bullying in the classroom, and the officers were told that particular class of fourth graders “had problems working together.”
The teachers primary problem that contributed to the students plotting to kill her was yelling at the students.
Yelling at students is a common practice in elementary schools. It is a practice that is allowed by many elementary school principals too. It’s hard to discipline children. You can’t hit them. Timeouts are not effective. Now, a study out of the University of Pittsburgh says yelling at teens and tweens — particularly when it involves cursing or insults — can be just as harmful as hitting.
Yelling is a costly mistake because:
Yelling only works in the moment. Like a playground bully, it’s used to intimidate students into compliance. The only reason why it works is because the teacher has an unfair size and/or authority advantage.
Behavior only changes when students want to behave better–which is the result of strict accountability combined with a teacher they like and trust. In the end, yelling causes more misbehavior, not less.
Yelling will cause students to secretly dislike you, distrust you, and desire to disrupt your class. Let’s face it. Even one revengeful student can make your life miserable. You need your students on your side.
Teachers who yell tend to do so instead of following their classroom management plan. Students learn quickly that if they can endure their teacher’s outburst, they can be on their way without being held accountable.
Teachers who lecture, yell, or scold while escorting students to time-out, drive a wedge through the teacher/student relationship, causing anger and resentment. So instead of sitting in time-out and reflecting on their mistake, your students will be seething at you.
When you yell, you train your students to listen to you only when you raise your voice. In other words, they learn that unless you’re shouting, you must not really mean it. Before you know it, you’ll be giving directions like a carnival sideshow barker.
Yelling is a sure sign that you let misbehavior get under your skin. It’s an expression of frustration, of taking behavior personally, and of trying to get even with students. It’s also terribly stressful. It’s bad for your health. And it makes teaching a cheerless slog.
Yelling at students is near the top of the list of parent complaints. And it’s difficult to defend. “I’m sorry, I just lost my cool” is about the best you can do. The fact is, no misbehavior, and no level of disrespect, warrants yelling at students.
Have you ever seen yourself on video losing your cool? Probably not, but one thing is for sure: it ain’t pretty. You might as well grab a megaphone and shout, “Hey everybody–students, fellow teachers, administration–I don’t have control of my class!”
Students are more influenced by what you do than by what you say. When you yell, react emotionally to misbehavior, or otherwise lose your composure, you provide a poor model for your students for how to behave when things don’t go their way.
Instead of yelling at students, teachers can use the following strategies for interacting with challenged students:
- When students are talking lower your voice
- When students are talking when you are talking, ask them “Do you have something to contribute to the lesson
- Incorporate cooperative learning activities
- When giving instructions always ask “Are there any questions?”
- Implement a three step warning system for disruptive students. Teachers can use other classroom management and disciplinary strategies for ensuring the cooperation of their students instead of yelling at the students.
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012
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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.
~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor
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