Why we don’t shout at babies
The reason why nobody has done research on the effects of shouting at babies is because it would be so unethical. Without clinical research, we already know it wouldn’t be a good thing. Curious then is why shouting at students is consistently used to the point of being considered a standard method to make students listen.
I’ve seen students as they morph into teachers. I’ve known them as inaudibly timid students, whispering as if it would ease the impact of making a mistake. Then they become teachers and assume a authoritative persona far beyond expectation. How can they so suddenly bellow so loud and find fault in students so easily? Of course, when 80 students are boisterous and inattentive, it’s easy to resort to bellowing, but it’s curious that nobody has tried anything other than shouting oneself hoarse.
The most harmful bark to a baby would be the explosive, “HEH?” “Huh?” in contrast is used when someone doesn’t understand or can’t hear, but “HEH” is a bark to try to elicit a response. It is used when students are stuck and can’t give an answer so it’s more of a one-sound rebuke of someone’s ignorance. The “huh?” for the baby would be traumatic in its post-fetal stage as it only knows how to kick and cry to send a message back. More damaging is the “HEH?” as it’s hurtled out as if their existence is a mistake.
The premise in English class seem to be that repetition and volume are the ways to imprint something into students’ brains, in the way a dentist drill sinks into the tooth. The discomfort is equivalent and I don’t think it works. The mind shuts down when a word is repeated like a punishment. “VEGETABLE! VEGETABLE VEGETABLE!” I have experimented. I’ve told students I will say a new word only three times so they’d better listen carefully. I don’t say it louder than a whisper. Students listen, they focus and they remember.
Mouthing words work well too. It’s less stressful to watch a teacher’s mouth move than to hear the reprimanding sound of a repeat-after-me drill. It also gives students a chance to say rather than mimic.
The best yet though is something a young teacher developed. She would sing whole lessons. Not necessarily songs, but thin quivering lines of harmonious words. Students replicate them with eerie accuracy so the whole room hums with a golden happy and harmonic calm. “I like papayas.” sung by a classroom of 10 year-olds is to hear the Vienna Boys Choir in a Lao rural school.
Vigorous rhythmic chants work too. It comes naturally for children and should still be natural for adults except that we’ve worked ourselves into an adult unnaturalness.
Class had finished and I was surprised to hear our lesson continue in full glory. “Who could possibly be teaching them now?” Someone checked and reported that the students were doing it on their own. The day is finished and I might go home and still hear quivering couplets with a strong afterglow.
As a large component of teacher training, I will focus on the voice. Is this how you would talk to a baby, to a child? There is a shrill teacher voice that needs to be replaced with something else, something compassionate, loving, joyful, fun, curious, and anything else that most young humans respond to.