What should classrooms sound like? It is very challenging for me to have absolute silence in my classroom. In fact, I play classical music 80% of the time. There is always some form of “noise”, but the presence of noise is not the presence of chaos. Students work in small groups and at stations throughout the school day. Often, these stations allow students to work together on problems.
When I first started teaching, I believed absolute silence equaled control and control equaled quality teaching. Therefore, classrooms should be silent. Students should work silently in desks while a teacher works with an individual student. The only time there should be someone talking in the room was during a teacher’s lesson that lasted about thirty to forty minutes and all students should be extremely focused, still, and quiet when a teacher taught in front of the classroom. This belief has changed.
While my students were taking a restroom break last week, I stood outside of my classroom door so I could monitor those working inside our room and those using the bathroom. While in the hall, I could hear classrooms around me, and whose voice was I predominately hearing? The teacher’s voice. It got me thinking of what visitors and colleagues in my school hear outside of my room. Should they hear anything? My voice? or my students’ voices?
I realized at that moment that “working noise” should not only be present, but needs to be present to build community and allow individuals to grow. Where should “working noise” stem from? Students. The one doing the work, does the learning. Students should be working and interacting with others to learn and develop. We should hear our students’ voices and engage in conversations that will allow students to think. So, what kind of noise do you hear around your school? Take a few moments this upcoming week to find out.