Heard above the herd

"WeeEEeell . . . you know you make me wanna shout!" So sang the fabulous Lulu, thus jeopardising her chances of ever securing a teaching job in Edinburgh, or so sections of the media would have us believe. The first time that I shouted at a class was in 1982, when on a placement. I have mentioned before that the effect was instantaneous - the class began to laugh because my voice went squeaky.

Thereafter, I never shouted again, maintaining order by patient understanding and a series of cleverly designed hand signals. That's why I got my name on the Friends Reunited website as someone's favourite teacher and you didn't, ya big, noisy eejit! Aye, right.

I am human. Of course I shout in class, though hopefully it's not what I'm best known for. Sometimes I simply raise my voice to be heard over the bustle of a practical session. I strive to be able to get their attention with an initial, friendly "Right!", then bring my voice quickly and gently down like a well-landed 707. That's the theory, anyway. Very occasionally, I go for the full, theatrical, bawling-out. More often, it's the crabbit snap. Have you noticed that some of the most persistent nuisances have names suited for an admonishing bark?

Perhaps, in the way shepherds give their dogs short, sharp names, the parents of these pupils, anticipating what lay ahead, chose their kids'

handles accordingly.

Shouting has its uses in the physics class. Connect a microphone to an oscilloscope and you can introduce the idea of wave amplitude by investigating the differing signals produced by whispering and yelling. The Standard grade Health Physics section has a bit about measuring sound levels and one way of getting a reading above the danger level is to let rip vocally with the decibel meter at pupil's-ear-distance from your mouth. So there you have it: shouting can damage your class's health.

It's obvious that the newspapers have not picked up on this electronic measurement of noise. They love league tables and would doubtless be quick to suggest a decibel recorder for every classroom. A good class, by their standards, would be silent. Right-wing rags would want proof, though, that teachers weren't being suppressed by namby-pamby council directives. Hence, a few off-the-scale readings from Sir or Miss would count favourably. Sadly, no meter yet measures the amount of execrable nonsense and misinterpretation in a newspaper. Weeeelll. . . they make me want to sh. . .

Gregor Steele once tried to measure the sound of a pin dropping.

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