Here’s the thing about not-yelling

I build review into almost every one of my lesson plans. Each week we have a set of vocabulary words that we are working with and I will review them every day. Each month we learn a new song and I review that with my students at least a couple of times a week. We review what we’ve learned a week ago, a month ago, and six months ago. Review, review, review.

Not only do I have to remind my students of what we’ve already learned, but as a teacher (and most importantly, as a human) I often have to remind myself of things I’ve learned a week ago, a month ago, ten years ago…. review, review, review!

Sometimes I get tired of having to learn the same lesson one hundred times. I get frustrated with myself. But grace.

Today the lesson I re-learned is this: Yelling doesn’t help.

One of my New Years Resolutions for 2014 was “yell less.” Namely, to yell less at my students. Excited yelling and yelling for dramatic story-telling purposes is still totally allowed and encouraged. And you know what I found out when I tried not-yelling? I learned that not-yelling works a lot better than yelling. Not that it works 100% all the time perfectly, but that it works better.

One of my precious classes drives me nuts. They talk and pound and jump and stand and sing and kick. Which would be fine except, “Hello! I’m trying to teach a lesson here!” One of the students in particular is content to do his own thing, especially if his own thing is super disruptive and distracting. For a while I tried the whole yelling and intimidation thing. It didn’t work. He would laugh.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been super frustrated and sweaty and it’s 8:30 in the morning and you’re just trying to teach the words “more” and “less” and this kid will not keep his mouth shut and when you’ve politely asked him to, “please be quiet” about six hundred times and so you’ve had it up to here and you finally shout, “WHY ARE YOU STILL TALKING?!” only to have him laugh in your face, but let me tell you – it’s infuriating. But it also feels like defeat. And it also feels like, “Well, what do I do now?”

So in the spirit of not-yelling, for the past couple of weeks when this precious child of God (who drives me nuts) is chatting away (to himself, the wall, his shoes) I walk over to him, lean over and say very quietly and calmly, “Please be quiet. You are not going to learn if you are not listening.”

Not-yelling isn’t 100% effective. Chatty boy still talks and plays and sometimes kicks and jumps and spins, but not-yelling is WAY more effective than yelling. And nobody gets worked up!

But today I forgot. And I yelled. And I felt super bad afterwards. And it wasn’t effective. And sometimes I’m tired of having to learn the same lesson over and over.

But grace. Grace says, “Try again tomorrow.” Grace says, “I love you anyway.” Grace says, “You’re not all bad just because you sometimes forget a lesson you’ve already learned.”

One of the best parts about teaching preschoolers is that they are extremely forgiving. Well, they’re either extremely forgiving or super forgetful. Either way, we basically start off each day with a clean slate. And sometimes that clean slate sounds like this, “Forgive me for yelling, students. It wasn’t a good idea and I’m going to try harder to be more patient and kind with my words.”

Hopefully this is the last time I’ll have to learn the not-yelling > yelling lesson. Probably not. But grace.

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