Thursday, May 06, 2010


"… such … noble reticence …”
-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King

I’m no knight in the classroom, but I wouldn’t mind having some of the “noble reticence” of Tennyson’s stalwart heroes. A reticent person understands the power of silence, a power I too easily lose touch with when I’m teaching. Instead of occasionally pausing to allow silence to spread its refreshing influence around the room, I’m usually speaking my mind in a fairly relentless manner. The kids might feel like they’re being shot at with a rapid-fire thought-gun for the full forty-eight minutes. What’s the point of all this incessant long-windedness? Is teaching all about seeing how many thoughts I can think up and throw out to my students like so many stones? What happened to simply shutting up and letting the wisdom in the room simmer for a few seconds? What happened to trusting the thoughts of the students to do some tossing around of their own? I sometimes picture a shade tree in the corner of my classroom, a fine place for sitting and being silent. When I see that tree in my mind, I’m reminded to make my own silence a part of the daily lesson. I take my place under the make-believe branches and bring my prattling to a stop for a few moments, the reticent teacher staying still so understanding can swell and flourish.

© 2010 Hamilton Salsich

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