The Myth of the Quiet Class

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The Myth of the Quiet Class

The Tale of Two Classrooms

As you look into Classroom A, you notice the teacher up front teaching the lesson of the day. The students are seated quietly with their feet flat on the floor, and hands positioned on their desks. As a question arises, a select amount of students raise their hand, get called on, and answer the question.

As you enter Classroom B, you notice the teacher is walking up and down the aisles, periodically stopping at the board to write something down. The students are far from quiet, but respectful. Some students are standing in the back, and you notice that some students are sitting on giant balls and some are on a couch. When a question is asked, students are sharing answers with each other, and even answering aloud to the teacher.

Classroom A is the perfect classroom as presented on TV and in the movies. This is the way a class presents itself when the principal or other visitor is expected to appear when coming in for a visit. Is this how the public envisions the perfect classroom? If so, let me list why Classroom B is my preferred classroom, and a quiet classroom is far from the perfect classroom:

  1. A Quiet Classroom is NOT an engaging classroom: Students are in school to learn which requires them to be inquisitive. In a room where a teacher demands that students be quiet and respectful at all times, there is no room for students to grow.  There is a time and a place for students to be respectful and give their teacher their undivided attention, but we all know there are classrooms where this is expected for every minute they are in the class. I don’t call this the perfect classroom, but rather the quiet torture room- where students are assigned to a year’s worth of torture. “Do not speak unless, spoken to.” “Raise your hand if you wish to speak.” “I will not recognize you until you raise your hand.” At what point are students expected to take charge of their education? A student here is not engaged, they are simply in a quiet room.
  2. A Quiet Classroom is lead not by a teacher, but by a dictator. Literally and figuratively, the dictator will have full control of the class. He or she will be in charge and will dictate what each student will learn. They will not be questioned in what they teach, for questioning an idea or thought would be questioning their authority. The dictator here is simply nothing more than a live newscaster delivering the events while the students simply have no choice but to listen and accept the words being spoken.
  3. Lastly, A Quiet Classroom provides no feedback. I had a fellow colleague once ask me “Why do you allow your students to talk and answer out loud?” (followed by a negative comment about my teaching style). I answered, “Simple: My students are not afraid to be wrong. By answering aloud, they understand that they are letting me hear their thoughts as I teach. This in turn allows me to understand why they are getting things right and, more importantly, wrong. At times, listening to them has influenced me to rethink my predetermined thoughts. How are YOU able to determine if all of your students are learning if they are not?” I am not sure if she understood the question as she walked away, but truly, how could she? What does a teacher learn about class mastery by always calling on the student with the hand raised?

What do you hear happening in a Quiet Classroom? I remember the sounds that echo in the hallways of a school whether the classroom door was closed or not. Without stepping foot inside the classroom, you can tell if the students are engaged with a great teacher.  It is clear in the sounds that come from the room, the talking, the laughing, the questions, the questioning, and the answers. To a true teacher, it is the sound of perfection: Students engaged in learning through conversation with other students and their teacher!

As you walk through a school, truly listen to the classrooms as you pass by……..What do you hear?

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