ONE TEACHER’S ALPHABET
S is for Silence
I often like to meditate on the fact that without silence, spoken words would be meaningless. It’s easy to forget the importance of silence, especially in this age of seemingly non-stop jabber. Think, though, of how unintelligible our talk would be if there was no silence between our spoken words. In fact, the only way we can distinguish the meanings of separate words and sentences is by being aware of the silent spaces between them. Thus, in any kind of spoken conversation, the silence is just as important as the words. It’s essential for me to remember this in my work as a classroom teacher. I often get so wrapped up in what my students and I are saying that I lose sight of the importance of what we are not saying – the silence out of which the meaning of our words is born. Without the silence, there would be no understandable words, and yet how easy it is to ignore the absolutely necessary power of that silence. I often say to students, after they have spoken in a discussion, something like “Those are wonderful words”, but I rarely say, after a student has finished speaking, “Oh, what wonderful silence this is!” I hope to change that. I hope to become more and more aware of the indispensable role of silence in my classroom, so much so that silence begins to have an honored position in my classes. I hope, in fact, to have more frequent one-minute periods of total silence. After all, if my students and I respect each others’ contributions to discussions (which I insist upon), then we must surely learn to respect the silence between those contributions.