Friday, February 29

Voice in Room 214

I want to know how to teach young people how to listen without asking/begging/pleading for their silence.
"Be quiet." "Stop talking." "Zip it." "Hush."
Perhaps my students feel that when we/I ask for them to be quiet, it is a request for permanent, unending silence.

But who am I to ask for all this silence?

Is their incessant talking their way of combating my freedom to speak whenever I wish in our classroom? Do I need to preface everything with a disclaimer that assures them they can speak soon, very soon, but they also need to hear what others are saying? Do I have them learn "the hard way", telling them just once what is important, though I know they didn't hear it and will eventually deal with the consequences of not hearing it?

A lot of my teacher-guilt stems from being in a constant state of asking for quiet mouths and open ears. To them, it may seem as if I am always saying something, but I don't think they've realized that most of what I ask if for them to listen to their peers, listen to me, listen to the things they themselves have just said. They catch neither the genius or the flaws of their own statements and it drives me crazy. It drives me crazy that when I request their voice, they become mute and act opinion-less, though in those actions, they are telling me something very important. It drives me crazy that I am a careful talker until I am with my students and then my words are reckless, spontaneous and contradictory - but nonetheless still powerful enough to resonate within them, still powerful enough to inspire or damage their esteem. I wonder: Why do I feel everything I want to share with them is so urgent and vital? What it would be like to arrive to work with duct tape over my mouth. How would that affect their voices?
Maybe I should begin by turning it into some kind of game.
Seems this has become a blog aimed at my teaching, a topic I avoided without effort for a long time. That's not the intention, but the things said and done to me and the things I say and do, all while at work, weigh heavily on my mind.

*photo by iamilk at flickr.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I struggle with silence in my classroom as well. In learning a second language, the listening skills are no critical to understanding. Thus, the students listening to me, listening to each other, and, listening to themselves, is what faciliates, or detracts, from effective communication. How do I get them to listen, to understand? I am still struggling to find the answer.