Teaching Journal 08-09
The importance of silence …
Today I want to work on making good use of silence. We teachers often forget that the power of spoken words exists only because of the background of silence against which they are heard. Like stars at night, which are beautiful only because of the immense background of darkness, the spoken words in a classroom will truly shine only when the setting contains ample silence. If the scholars and I speak a thousand words, nonstop, in a class, it may not be as effective as speaking only 100 words and letting the rest of the time be a backdrop of authoritative silence.
While the scholars were doing some quiet reading and a girl was passing around the serving tray (with water and crackers), the thought came to me to ask her to “pose” with a scholar so I could get a picture. Without hesitation, I put my thought into words – which was a mistake. It broke down the settled atmosphere in the room, caused the kids to be distracted from their reading, and only produced a very mediocre picture. When will I learn to think before I speak??
Several 9th grade scholars came to me before class to politely and bravely tell me they had not completed their homework. Throughout last year (when they were my 8th grade scholars), we worked on that method of admitting mistakes, and I’m happy to see they learned the lesson well. Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone can own up to their mistakes in a forthright and valiant manner.
I forgot to put the homework assignment for 8th grade on the class website, so I was somewhat abashed during class when I showed the scholars the “assignments” page and nothing was there. However, perhaps it worked out for the best, in the sense that it may have helped the scholars understand that everyone makes mistakes, even well-seasoned teachers. If they see me making an occasional blunder, perhaps they will relax a bit and realize that, in all lives, mistakes are as common as rainstorms and – in an important way -- as necessary as sunshine.
In several classes, I allowed the “teacher’s assistant” to call on scholars during the discussion. It’s the start of something I hope to slowly nurture during the year: a greater sense of management and contribution on the scholars’ part.