Insurgent Instruction: Silence | Ecology of Education

Insurgent Instruction: Silence

Part of successfully begin agile in the classroom environment as a teacher is timing. Timing is everything when delivering a lesson, or guiding student practice. Like actors, comedians, predators as well as prey, getting the timing right can be the difference between life and death.

One of the more overlooked aspects of timing in the classroom is silence. Of course, anyone who has successfully endured the pre-service education classes has been drilled about what experts call “wait time.” Believe it or not, this is a valuable tool in instructional delivery.

However, the silence I am exploring in this article is more than just wait time. It is true silence. A silence which can both build tension as well as alleviate anxiety for everyone involved. This kind of silence is one which is both practiced and familiar.

This particular form of silence has a strong stillness in its nature. In fact, it can almost seem supernatural when considered objectively. Silence like this is valuable. It is worth every second of every minute when it is employed correctly. It is almost Zen.

Of course, the teacher must be comfortable with this type of silence. If they are not, then the students’ anxiety will mount quickly and could easily be detrimental to the lesson and activity as a whole.

Silence of this nature is the ephemeral area of discovery and creation. It is the no-place, the utopia which is very real, but fragile in the same instance. To wax poetic, it could be called diaphanous. It is this silence that the teacher can guide the students in being, allowing the knowledge and skills introduced, explained, and/or practice find their own rhythm.

This type of silence is most powerful in a kinetic classroom…a classroom regularly found in many grades.
While students are thinking or practicing, let the silence amorphously drape over the room. It is not think time. Silence in this context is a time of reflection. This will not be easy to implement, but it is necessary.

Why?…

Students are bombarded with a cacophony of noise and distraction around the clock. The ear bids we wrestle with in each class rarely leave their ears even when sleeping. Instant communication coupled with social media has obliterated focus. Sharing with students this valuable insight will impact them greatly.

Also, this reservedly expectant silence is beneficial for the teacher as well. This is the time to allow your own critical and creative faculties to interact. It is an opportune moment where the teacher can assess the “feel” of the class through body language. This silence is also a time to relax without being reckless or restless.
As theorists have extolled, this is a moment of relaxed engagement…However, done correctly, both students and teachers are in this state.

Practice it in the classroom. Each time add a little more time to the overall silent period. Maintain a calm assertiveness with your presence, and your lead will be followed.

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