Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Something I Never Thought I'd Complain About...

Being a parent for 13 years and a teacher for one...although having worked in schools for the past couple of years...there are certain things I've learned that I should never and would never complain about.

Kids that pick up after themselves.

Kids that voluntarily help other kids with problems.

Kids that amuse themselves rather than drive me nuts asking me what to do every 5 minutes.

Kids that ask to help with stuff like cleaning, carrying stuff to and from the car, and organizing.

Kids that ask for extra work or if they can read when they are done with their work.

I would never in a million years complain about this stuff.  And for the most part, I've been blessed to be surrounded by kids that do all of those things.  Not always my own biological children...I'm still working on some of these things with them.  But, my class last year and the kids I've worked with in other schools have often met all of these criteria.

There is one thing that I would have added to that list a mere week ago, had I been asked, that I can no longer add to that list.

That would be.... Kids that are too quiet.

Yep.  You heard me.  Kids that don't make any noise.  None.  Nada.  Absolute silence and crickets.

To most parents and teachers, kids that are basically silent would be a dream come true.  Never having to quieten them down.  Never having to wait for the room to get quiet before you can talk.  Never having to do the God-awful ssshhhhing sound I hate so much.

I've even said silent prayers in my own house asking for these very things.  Praying that my kids would stop arguing for five minutes.  That they would just find something QUIETLY to do.  

It's even why I get up at 4:30 each morning... so I can have some peace and QUIET before the kids get up.  Because I know the minute they do get up it will be "Mom, have you seen....?", "Mom, should I wear...?", "Mom, what are we having for lunch today?", "Mom, she won't get out of the bathroom", "Mom, I can't find any socks"....and... you get the picture, right?

But, after the first three days back to school, I have found that this very thing is something I spent a good part of the day yesterday complaining about.

My new class doesn't talk.  

To many teachers, I've been handed the holy grail of classes.  The class that most teachers would kill for.  The class that teachers dream about, and then face the harsh reality that their own class is the complete opposite.  My kids are still a little shy, sure... but usually after a couple of days they start to warm up.  But, even on day three... I couldn't get a peep out of them.  And while most teachers are telling me to count my blessings and be thankful for such a quiet group of kids... I find myself wanting to pull my hair out.

Why?  You ask.

Because, I like a classroom that's buzzing with excited classroom chatter.

Don't get me wrong.  I'd much rather have a quiet class than a class that's constantly yapping, and I can't get a word in edgewise.  But, not silent.  I can't handle silent.

I do remember on the first day of school, last year, when I told my class that once they finished their bell work they could sit at their desks and talk with their friends before the day got started... those kids took full advantage of it.  It took a few days for them to get what volume level they could chat in.. but after a few days, they spent each and every morning talking with their neighbors and table mates.  During class discussion times, I had to draw names from a bucket.. because every kid in my class had something to add to the discussion or wanted to share what they'd learned.  When I assigned group work, my kids loved it...and worked together having amazing debates about their own ideas and thoughts on the assignment.  And this was all pretty much from day one.

This year, however? None of that.  

When I told them they could talk when they'd finished their morning work...they just sat there.  In complete silence.  Something I thought would pass on day two...didn't.  Then on day three...still silent. Even after a few friendly reminders that they didn't have to be so quiet... I wanted them to have some social time.  Crickets.  Buzzing of the computers.  No talking.

Yesterday, I posed several questions during our lessons.  Not a single hand went up.  When one hand did finally go up and I called on him... he sat there and looked at me.  "Urm, I forgot" was the response I finally received.  When I didn't get any volunteers for answers, I told everyone to discuss the question at their table.  I stood there for a few seconds and the kids just stared at one another.  Not a single one willing to make the first comment or move to try and answer the question.  

During writing time, I asked if anyone wanted to share their writing.  Several hands actually went up for that.. but when I called on someone to read what they had wrote, they asked me if I would read it.  They weren't comfortable reading it out loud themselves.

I did start a new hand gesture feedback system yesterday morning.  The fist to four.  It's basically where I ask a question and the kids rate how well they think they know the answer.  A fist being that they'd never heard of what I was asking all the way up to a four which means they are basically an expert and could teach the class about it.  

Now, my silent class LOVED this and picked it up very quickly.  They have no problem showing hand signals for their thinking...and are even very honest about it... but when asked a question, they freeze up, recluse, and want no part of having anything coming from their little voice boxes.

I have never seen anything like it.

My teammates have told me that the first day or so, their classes were similar... but they have all found that day three is the magic number.  When the true colors start to emerge, and each teacher shared that they had to quieten their classes down more than once.  The teacher next door to me had this problem from day one.  She says that several kids in her class haven't stopped talking since the first moment of walking in to her room.

I think they got the class rosters mixed up.  I'm pretty sure that was supposed to be my class...and she was supposed to get my silent babies.  She likes a very quiet classroom, I like a classroom that's full of discussion and sharing and working together.  Not noise... a buzz.  A clear cut sign that kids are working their thinking out together.. working as a unit...helping each other.

It would be one thing if the kids in my class had never seen each other before.  Starting out totally new.  I could understand that maybe they were afraid or nervous because they didn't know anyone.  But these kids were all together last year.  The funny part is, even out on the playground, I see them hanging out together.  Kids from my class playing together... but not loudly.  There is no yelling at one another or hollering across the playground or loud laughter erupting from them the moment they set foot outside.  Even on the playground, my kiddos can be picked out by the lack of noise they are making compared to the other 50-60 kids around them.

So, now I have a new challenge on my hands.  To break the shells of my silent little darlings.  To drag them out of their quiet, timid little selves.  To initially force, and then hopefully nurture them in to being in a classroom where they can talk, and share, and laugh, and debate, and MAKE SOME NOISE.  

And, I NEVER thought I'd have that as a challenge on my hands.

What a crazy notion.

But I'll do it.  Because there's no way I can spend a school year in silence.  That's just not how my classroom works.  And next year, when their next teachers are complaining about how they never stop talking... I'll be proud.  

I'll think to myself... YEP.  I did that.  And be totally OK with it.

Have an awesome Tuesday...


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