Wednesday, September 23, 2009


When I started as a teacher many years ago, I did not use a still small voice. My teaching voice back then was more piercing than still, more full-size and confrontational than modest and self-effacing. I was a blurter, sometimes a shouter, almost always a loud and strident talker. My teaching was like strong winds and earthquakes and fires. I didn’t understand about the power of a still small voice. Now, after four decades in the classroom, things are very different. I find myself talking to my teenage students almost in a whisper. There’s no clamor, no rough speaking, no blurts and outcries and sudden booming words from me. I walk softly and carry no big sticks. There’s a lot more stillness than clatter. Given the quietness and gravity of the atmosphere in my classroom, visitors might think they’re entering a shrine -- or maybe even a mausoleum. However, despite (or perhaps because of) the relatively peaceful ambiance, we do, I think, get a lot accomplished in my classes. It’s just that my voice is much quieter than it used to be. My noisy words have turned into something more like butterflies than crows. What I say to the students floats among them, and perhaps right past them and out the windows. No matter. It makes more room for the students’ unsullied and liberated words.

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