How This Book Came to Be Written
How to Teach Without Screaming is a guide for daily survival and fulfillment, illustrating through teacher experiences and stories how a classroom teacher, administrator or other staff member can deal with challenges in humane and creative, not punitive ways and how to provide positive support to students. The book gives examples of situations at the K-12 levels and adult literacy classes illuminating how I and other teachers have dealt with them. I believe many approaches used at one level can trigger ideas for adapting them to challenges at other levels.
The idea for this book took many years to develop. It began as an article, “How to Teach Without Screaming,” published in 1975 in the National Education Association’s magazine, Today’s Education. Two years later I received a letter from the Omaha, Nebraska Public Schools saying that the article was required reading in their in-service teacher training program.
Years later while I was living across from an elementary school, I regularly heard teachers screaming at their students. I remembered the article I had written, found it, and took it to the principal. She explained that the teachers I was hearing had problems: one was new and inexperienced and the other had one classroom “full of 10 crazy children” they were trying to get placed somewhere else.
This principal had basically resigned herself to these two situations. I left my article, suggesting that it might be helpful in providing teachers with alternative approaches to classroom problems, but the screaming continued.
This encounter prompted me to find the longer version I had originally written (shortened by editors of Today’s Education because of space constraints) and to consider expanding it into a book.
I combed libraries, book catalogues and the Internet for available literature on discipline and classroom management. I found out some took the punitive approach, advising teachers, for instance, to “stand near students when you are reprimanding them, not far away.” Other sources emphasized the value of doling out stickers, prizes, candy, certificates or putting up charts on which students get stars when they are “good” or have their names moved from an acceptable area of a chart to an unacceptable section with traffic light signals indicating whether the child is behaving or not.
The overall implied message was “You have the sole responsibility to see that students do their work and get along with each other.” Having students participate in finding solutions to a better classroom climate was not often part of the protocol.
The more I read, the more I believed that my years as a classroom teacher, university professor in an urban education department, staff developer and parent of a public-school child had given me insights that I should share with other educators in a book that had a different focus.
My view of successful teaching had broadened to include not only classroom management skills and a humanistic approach, which my original article had featured, but other areas as well:
- the importance of an interesting and interactive curriculum
- the need for a curriculum of social justice that includes preventing personal attacks due to bullying, racism, sexism and homophobia since students have a great interest in fairness
- being successful in a multi-racial classroom or classroom in which students are of different cultures or class than your own
- having class meetings to help resolve problems
- saving the environment and climate which are crucial to having a livable planet for ourselves, our students and future generations
- the importance of including the arts, especially music in many subjects
- limiting students’ exposure to TV, video games and other electronic media
- building positive partnerships with parents
- connecting with and learning from people, organizations and activities in the community surrounding the school since student behavior and learning are influenced by the world outside.
In my experience and my research, addressing these areas conscientiously is important to any effort to improve school climate and student cooperation, an approach often left out of many books on discipline. As a result, what began as an essay of classroom vignettes became a guide on a deeper level for maintaining a calm, productive and interesting experience for teacher and student where the need for a teacher, administrator or staff person to yell all but disappears.