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Is it Ever Necessary to Raise your Voice as a Teacher?

Continual shouting at a child or a class can have long-lasting negative effects. But is it ever necessary to raise your voice in school, asks Sarah Watkins...

  • Is it Ever Necessary to Raise your Voice as a Teacher?

“EVERYONE LISTEN! STOP! PUT THAT DOWN!”

The class teacher was becoming increasingly irate; the pupils were visibly fed up but not following any of her instructions. Enough to chill the blood of any teacher.

My role was to support this teacher and my coaching included helping her to see the impact of shouting: it wasn’t changing their behaviour and they had become oblivious to it.

One pupil said, “I just stop listening now because it’s too loud.” Recalling my own NQT year, I still feel shame about shouting back at a defiant pupil and I still remember the look of resignation in his eyes. He regularly faced anger at home. I’d just proved that I was another adult who shouted at him.

Continual shouting at a child or a class can have long-lasting effects.

“Shouting stops positive relationships forming and it can make children anxious, waiting for the next outburst,” comments Beth Bennett, SENCo at ‘outstanding’ primary school Parklands, in Leeds.

“Shouting at individuals, especially those who are more vulnerable, humiliates them and brings out their flight or fight responses. It can even make pupils physically unwell. Shouting tells the children that the teacher is not in control of their emotions and pupils then just tune out or become louder to compensate.”

Shouting in class can raise the stress levels of teachers as well as pupils, and, as professional voice users, we need to take care of our vocal chords unless we want to teach via sign language alone.

Being heard

It seems, however, there are grey areas when it comes to raising your voice.

First, how exactly do you define shouting?

When I conducted a Twitter poll on the subject, one teacher commented: “I got dragged into the head’s office after a parent reported me for shouting at the class… I’ve honestly never shouted in my teaching career… I do raise my voice to make a point but in my view it’s not shouting.”

Half of the teachers who voted stated that a ‘short, sharp shout’ was essential at times. If Jenny is about to climb onto an wobbly stool to water the class cactus, then a short, sharp shout could prevent a trip to A&E.

Interestingly, 8% of teachers felt that shouting is useful as part of a behaviour toolkit, with many keen to stress that they remained in control – that it was not in anger but rather a purposeful and calmly delivered discipline method.

My own behaviour management ethos is very much based around building and maintaining relationships with pupils.

Paul Dix, author of When the Adults Change, Everything Changes, comments: “Relationships are at the heart of great behaviour practice. They are so important as to leave everything in second place.”

Dialling down

So what do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut where you are regularly shouting at your class?

Behaviour specialist Sue Cowley was my go-to guru when I was a student and I follow her advice on voice control to this day.

She says: “Try lowering your volume as a deliberate strategy – the quieter you are, the quieter your students have to be to hear you.

Remember that non-verbal signals are often more powerful than verbal ones – signal displeasure without saying a word by using your ‘teacher stare’.”

Silence is golden

Are you a calm Miss Honey-type teacher teaching next door to a shouting Trunchball? It’s essential to embed the no-shouting rule throughout school for it to be effective.

Julie Rees, headteacher at Ledbury Primary School in Herefordshire, employees such a rule and says: “It’s so clearly understood across the school now, we don’t even have to refer to it. Pupils are going to get angry but if we shout back, we’re simply reinforcing this behaviour. We are role models and we need to coach each pupil to learn from the situation so they can manage their emotions and move towards self-regulation.”

To save our voices and our sanity, silence is a much more effective strategy than shouting. After a few weeks with my mentee, she was using the powerful pause to great effect.

By sticking consistently to the school rules and sanction system, she could use non-verbal cues to refocus anyone who was distracted, without having to stop the learning. Pairing this with relentless praise for what pupils were doing well, this teacher was quite clearly in charge.

After a rocky start, and with a bit of welcome support, she had finally got her teaching mojo back.


Sarah Watkins has taught every year group and was previously head of school. She is an SLE (English) and currently teaches Reception.

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