Take a moment and imagine a focused and productive classroom.
What image came to mind? When I asked myself, my colleagues, and my friends to participate in this same reflection, most minds pictured the traditional school scene: students sitting with their eyes trained on the task at hand and perhaps most noticeably, all of the students were silent in our imaginations. This struck me as odd because my classroom is rarely ever quiet. Yes, there are moments of intense concentration when students are reading from a primary source or searching for evidence to support their argument and the classroom falls silent. However, Crane in general is not a quiet place. As I sit here writing this, I hear xylophone/marimba music flowing out of the doors and windows of the theater and upper school students are practicing their Spanish in the plaza while lower school students are talking collaboratively to successfully measure the school grounds.
Crane has taught me that silence does not always equal focus and engagement. In fact, silence is often the opposite at a hands-on, experiential learning school like Crane: an indicator of disinterest or boredom. As a teacher, I have learned to embrace the noise by allowing students time to chat with each other and me in a multitude of ways.
Students need breaks. In my classroom, short breaks, structured or unstructured, can reenergize students. This time can allow for stories and laughs that help connect the class, students and teachers alike, leading to more comfort and stronger connections during instruction.
I encourage students to ask questions, even if they deviate from the original plan. I want them to lead the conversation. I love tangents. It may not have been what I intended to complete in the period, but a student’s curiosity is infectious to their classmates. Of course this can lead to conversation of hypotheticals concerning the possibility of artificial intelligence taking over the human race, but more often than not, the questions extend our learning. A main goal of my class is to encourage students to make connections and think critically about history. These skills still happen no matter the content.
There is a time for silence and a time to embrace the noise. Allowing students the opportunity to talk, move around, and form relationships and connections, makes it easier to ask them for silence when it is needed.
Upper School History Teacher & Sixth Grade Dean