Saturday, February 13, 2010
Every now and then, I remember to use silence to bring some intensity to the atmosphere in my classroom. I've always felt that, in teaching, silence has at least as much power as sound, and sometimes considerably more. Since the students hear teachers and each other talking almost nonstop throughout the day, any moment of silence can be a refreshing, almost shocking, break in the routine. In the students' noisy world, a little silence can be like sunshine after hours of rain. Not many days ago, I read a poem aloud to a 9th grade class, and when I came to the end I simply stood in silence at the front of the room. I remained silent for only about twenty seconds, but I suspect it had a surprising effect on the kids. In their often strident and raucous lives, twenty seconds of silence can seem like time without end. As they were sitting silently and listening to the ticking of my classroom timer, they might have been thinking, "This is really strange", and I'm okay with that. After all, 'strange' can also mean surprising, extraordinary, even astonishing -- three adjectives any teacher would be proud to be associated with.