Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Raising My Voice in the Classroom

I have never been a screamer or a yeller in order to get order in my classroom. I usually get very quiet when I want the students’ attention and this works for me. Some teachers have used the light switch or a bell to do the same thing. I try to be calm when working with my students which model the behavior for them to use also. Even when I’m upset I have done this and explained my behavior also.

As I say this, I remember one incident when I took my students to the local zoo. Since I taught a special ed class, the only way we could afford to go is if we went with another class. This meant going with the Child Development class and the 3 year olds that they were involved with. Most of my students were 17 – 21 years of age so when we got to the zoo, we separated from the other huge class. When lunch time came, 4 of my boys said that they didn’t bring a lunch and wanted to go buy something from the concession stand so I let them go. I stayed at the picnic area with the rest of my students and waited for them to return, which they never did. After feeling frantic, I told the rest of the class that I was going to find them and they were to wait at the picnic table for me. I stomped through the zoo hunting for my 4 wayward boys. In my mind, I imagined them feeding children to the lions, harassing the monkeys, and getting into all sorts of trouble. Upon seeing me from a distance, they took one look at the furious look on my face, and turned away from me. I immediately bellowed for them to stop in their tracks! When I caught up with them, I was raising my voice and embarrassing all of us immensely. They followed me like little chicks (most of them were over 6 ft. tall and muscular) all the way back to the picnic table. After I finally calmed down, I realized that I was ruining it for all of us and talked to them about what happened. I should have first asked them what happened before lighting into them. Apparently they couldn’t handle the overstimulation of the small children and just wanted some quiet time so they ate their lunch at the concession stand. Since I never made it clear that they had to return after buying their food, they didn’t come back. I felt terrible! I explained that I yelled because I was worried about them and adults do that (even their parents!). About 10 minutes later, a person visiting the zoo with his child, called me to the side and told me that he had seen the boys eating lunch and they were perfect gentlemen. They didn’t smoke or use profanity or do any horse playing. Can you imagine how horrible I felt? Well, we lived through this experience and when it was time to go home, all of us were on good terms.

Unfortunately, due to no fault of the students, we were unable to go on another field trip the rest of the year. The students believed that we didn’t go anymore because of the zoo incident. Since I taught most of the kids for 4 years, this incident stayed fresh in their mind! The next few years, whenever I planned a field trip and we talked about behavior, the kids would all say emphatically, “Remember the Zoo!” and their behavior was excellent on the trip. In fact, this was passed on for many years after even though none of the kids had been there at the zoo that day.

So that day will forever stay in my memories as “The Day I Raised My Voice!”

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