#Shush: The Deadly Sin by @TeacherToolkit

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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.

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Image: Shutterstock

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.

Top Tips:

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).

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Image: Shutterstock

Teaching Tip:

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.

TT.

@TeacherToolkit

In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account in which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated for '500 Most Influential People in Britain' in The Sunday Times as one of the most influential in the field of education - he remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing online as @TeacherToolkit, he rebuilt this website (c2008) into what you are now reading, as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the number one spot at the UK Blog Awards (2018). Today, he is currently a PGCE tutor and is researching 'social media and its influence on education policy' for his EdD at Cambridge University. In 1993, he started teaching and is an experienced school leader working in some of the toughest schools in London. He is also a former Teaching Awards winner for 'Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, London' (2004) and has written several books on teaching (2013-2018). Read more...

14 thoughts on “#Shush: The Deadly Sin by @TeacherToolkit

  • 18th May 2015 at 9:12 pm
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    I completely agree with this – I hate “shushers!” I know some who shush so loudly, they make more noise than the children. Good to have alternatives up your sleeve.

    Reply
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  • 18th May 2015 at 10:57 pm
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    No – not having any of it. I agree that shush is not ideal but at the same time it is not rude. The strategies you have suggested are ones that I use and have done so for many years but the odd shush is not going to do any child any harm. As for the comment that traditional teachers would not think a challenging child should be exposed to praise – that is a bit of a sweeping generalisation. They should be exposed to genuine praise like all children, however, I take umbrage when, as I was told by one member of a BST group when observing my class, that I should have noticed the tiniest attempt that a particular child made to inch forward when asked (still not following the instruction). As he said, I missed it because it was so small and because – lets see – I was teaching a class with 29 other children who wanted to get on with the lesson. So I tactically ignored instead, which made her go a little off but it was hardly negative. I think if you have to spend that much time watching one child in order to praise them – thereby ignoring all the other children in you care (which having dealt with an epilepsy episode once I am not about to do.) means that this is not the environment for that child. I would of course love to see the class where this praise is being doled out to said child without having a negative impact on all the others.

    Reply
  • 19th May 2015 at 9:03 pm
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    Defnitly correct!!!! I agee, whenever I wanted gr.3’s to be very quiet on the moment I said: chochalates. It worked

    Reply
  • 22nd May 2015 at 8:48 pm
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    I think the volume level idea is super. Practicing gives kids a sense of control over their behavior (and some fun) while also reinforcing your goal. Good post!

    Reply
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  • 22nd June 2015 at 11:16 am
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    I completely agree with you. Sometime it feels annoying. In my opinion it doesn’t have any influence on children’s. In my opinion shushing anyone is not a great idea we should have you any alternate instead of shush……

    Reply
  • 12th September 2015 at 8:42 pm
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    I think it depends on the tone of the shush, a nasty toned ssshh, is very different to a gentle long sssshhhhhhh, or a repeated sshh, sshh, sshh, that would make more sense if you could hear me doing them. But the gentle one is more like what you would do to calm a baby and totally works no matter what the age and can actually be quite soothing to a group of teenagers. Only Friday morning I gently and repeatedly shushed my rowdy year elevens into 25 minutes solid concentration which produced excellent work. Like anything, it’s totally about the delivery. I roughly shushed my year 7s on Friday afternoon, and then shouted, because they were terribly needy and noisey and I know I was wrong ( still nagging at me Saturday night). Luckily children are quite forgiving and I’m try to mend that next week.

    Anyway, rambling, but a ssshh, is just one tool and when used correctly can be effective. Unconditional positive regard is so necessary, but applies to the pupils not the behaviours, and like any buzzword can become something meaningless when used to support any argument.

    Reply
  • 11th October 2015 at 8:57 am
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    Totally agree- but what can you do when you do not have the luxury of a regular class, I.e. In a school library?

    Reply
  • 19th October 2015 at 7:17 am
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    I also agree, am an ashamed user of shush! But more tips are needed here-the volume chart is one I will try but I predict that it is too subjective…i have some classes where a ‘small group discussion’ is never ‘small’!

    Reply
  • 19th October 2015 at 10:35 pm
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    If you consistently use shush, then of course it will become white noise. Just as repeatedly saying ‘quiet please’ would too.

    The key is mixing up your vocab, tone, volume, non verbal and shush. I’ve seen it used with great results.

    Reply

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