This is another blog about managing behaviour and how teachers can use vocabulary better.
“Tackling low level behaviour without saying ‘shush’!”
By using alternative words and phrases for ‘shush’ we can reinforce vocabulary growth in our students but also avoid using persistent negative reinforcement to control low-level behaviour. We also improve our own classroom literacy, as well as that of students we teach.
We are All Teachers of Literacy:
Over the years, I’ve developed an aversion to the verb, ‘shush’ or ‘Sssh’. This has mainly stemmed from observing other teachers in assemblies, tutor time and in lessons where behaviour has been far from good. I’ve even witnessed a former colleague ‘shush’ so loudly, it pierced the 4-walls of a full assembly hall!
Now, you may argue, that I’ve got better things to do that focus on something so petty, but let me explain why.
It starts with Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR), a concept first brought to my attention in @Hywel_Roberts’ book, Oops! Helping Children Learn Accidentally. The term was devised by the psychologist Carl Rogers and it describes how children should be exposed to Unconditional Positive Regard, irrespective of their actions. Now, many traditionalist teachers may disagree with this view, that the naughty child should not be exposed to praise no matter what, yet as a teacher of progressive and traditionalist teaching, my view is that a ‘shush’ or a ‘shout’ may become White Noise after a period of time; and that UPR is required repeatedly for the most challenging students.
Carl Rogers believed that UPR is essential to healthy development. Children who are not exposed to Unconditional Positive Regard may come to see themselves in negative ways. Being exposed to UPR can help children to accept responsibility for themselves, to aid personal growth and allow them to be free to be spontaneous without fearing the loss of others’ esteem.
The word ‘shush’ is often used to control low-level behaviour, it is a common occurrence when punishing students and it usually has negative connotations. By removing ‘shush’ from your vocabulary you remove one of the persistent negative reinforcers from your teaching. You also improve your persona with students and colleagues, as well as your own use of literacy.
Shush is a deadly sin!
I challenge you to find an alternative the next time you hear yourself saying ‘Sssh’ or ‘Shush!’
Consider implementing speaking levels in your classroom and be sure to inform your students of the acceptable noise level for each of your activities. For example:
- Volume 0 = No talking: individual, silent working.
- Volume 1 = Whispering in pairs.
- Volume 2 = Small group discussions.
- Volume 3 = Whole class discussions.
- Volume 4 = Louder than normal, so that ‘learning’ can be heard.
- Volume 5 = Shouting (either you or the class).
Rehearse and practice the different sound levels permitted in your classroom. Remind students of the acceptable levels regularly. You may also want to consider Sweat the Small Stuff?
No matter what, find an alternative way to deal with low-level behaviour and challenge yourself and your own teaching now! You can read more here.