June 1, 2015

Q is for Quiet.

quiet girl & wormQuiet is the order of the day. We are always telling kids to be quiet – in the hall, in the classroom, in an assembly, even in the cafeteria. Sometimes I wonder to myself, is it really natural to expect kids to be quiet so much?
When they’re in the classroom, we require them to be quiet so that we can keep order – if we let them talk when they want to, it’ll soon get out of hand and there will be a chaos of noise. We also want them to be quiet in the classroom so that classmates can concentrate on their work. For me, the most important time for this is during writing – I tell students all the time: You can’t write and writing quietlytalk at the same time: if you’re writing, you’re not talking; if you’re talking, you’re not writing. Of course, some of them challenge me and say that they can talk and write at the same time, but I know I’m right on this, because I write a lot and know it’s impossible to do them both – at least if I want to write well –  at the same time.

Quiet classroom - 1963
Quiet classroom – 1963

During math, quiet is also required in order to concentrate and keep track of what you’re doing. Some children get very upset if it’s too noisy in the classroom. Yet there have to be times when talking is OK – even non-academic talk. There’s got to be down time sometimes when the kids can just be kids and blow off steam. Yes, that’s partly what recess is for – but is 20-30 minutes a day enough?
loud-learning-300dpi1quiet classroomI know it was never enough for me – one of the biggest complaints of my teachers, which always appeared on my report cards as a comment, was “Katy needs to be quiet in class” or “Katy needs to learn not to talk out of turn.” I couldn’t, I simply could not be quiet for extended periods in class. I now understand that was part of my ADD, but even kids who don’t have this disorder have to be able to talk sometimes. And those with ADD will certainly try to engage them in off task chatting!!
quiet kids in hallway.
We require students to be quiet while walking in the hall. This is because when a group of kids is walking down the hall, they’ll be passing other rooms in which students are concentrating on learning – this is what we tell them and it is true – I’ve been in the classroom when noisy groups of kids walk by in the hall and it really does disturb class sometimes, especially if a child in that classroom is reading to the teacher or speaking in front of the class. The talking from the hallway can completely drown out what they are saying. Also, noisy kids in the hallway distracts students in the classroom who want to see what the noise is all about. But seriously, complete silence? quiet kindergartnersEven if there’s no standardized testing going on? Do we expect kids to walk like little soldiers, in lockstep, their hands behind their backs, facing forward and their mouths closed? – Yes, although I think this is unrealistic. I get the no talking rule though – if you allow a little, that little is bound to escalate into a lot. I do think it’s okay to make quiet conversation with a student if you are just walking with that one child in the hallway.
One thing I’ve noticed is that kindergartners really buy into the “quiet in the hallway” idea – they are the quietest group walking in the hallway, because it’s a novelty for them and they want so much to follow the rules to please their teachers.

quiet kdgkindergartners in hallwayBut it’s all downhill from there – by the time they are in junior high, there’s absolutely no attempt to walk quietly in the hallway! I don’t even know if teachers try to enforce it at that age.
We require students to be quiet during an assembly, so everyone can hear what’s going on and also out of respect for the presenters. I totally agree with this. It’s good behavior to learn to carry over into movie theatres and concerts

assembly1 The most annoying thing about this, though, is that at least half the time, it’s the teachers that are talking during an assembly! (Are teachers really that bored in assemblies? I usually find them interesting.) They can’t seem to just sit and listen or at least be quiet by bringing some papers to grade during the assembly to occupy them. I’ve seen this rude behavior occur on many occasions, and in absolutely every school I’ve taught. It’s one thing to whisper an occasional comment to the teacher sitting next to you, but it’s quite another – and very common – for teachers to talk during the assembly, even a concert involving their own students – in almost a normal speaking voice, and for an extended amount of time. Why don’t these teachers get in trouble? Do they think their students don’t notice what they are doing? Do they think their students are going to be willing to obey the no talking rule when their teacher doesn’t? Kids can spot hypocrisy as well as any adult.
20150415_134035_1I see teachers glaring at students during an assembly who are hardly making any noise at all – perhaps they’re playing with some small object they had in their pocket or whispering to a friend sitting next to them; then these same teachers turn around and start yakking with their friends. Doesn’t the principal standing in the front notice this? Probably – but I suppose it puts him or her in an embarrassing position to single out a couple of noisy teachers, so he or she will just give a general admonition for the audience to be quiet. Even that, though, doesn’t always faze the yakking teachers.
I wish it were possible to make the students be quiet in the cafeteria, but that is not only unrealistic, it’s really unfair. Although they are supposed to be eating lunch, it’s one of their few free periods during the day. Why shouldn’t they chat with their friends? As long as they are eating their lunch and cleaning up on a timely basis, it’s no big deal. The problem is that when the cafeteria is full of kids in multiple grades, and most of them are talking, the din cafeteria kidsincreases until it is nearly intolerable. When it reaches the saturation level, we blow our whistles and tell them they all need to keep their voices down. But what happens is, unconsciously their voice levels are going up incrementally, as they try to hear and be heard by their friends across the table while competing with the noise level of some other group of kids. Late last week a new “quiet clean up” policy was implemented in the fifth and sixth grades, because they need to hear when their teacher arrives and calls their class to line up. Therefore, the second graders in our area of the cafeteria are supposed to be quiet during that time also. I am very pessimistic that this “quiet clean up” time is going to work!
One of the other lunch supervisors came up with an ingenious plan to keep the 2nd graders quiet at the end of their lunch period while they wait for their teachers. The kids love the game “Heads Up Seven Up” and it’s a game that requires them to put their heads down, hide their eyes and put one hand out with the thumb up. Here’s how it works: Seven kids initially chosen to be “up” go around and push down the thumb of one other student. It’s quiet so that the kids hiding their eyes can try to “hear” who it is coming near them. After pushing down the thumb of a chosen student, the seven who are “up” go quietly but quickly back to their places. Then the teacher calls, “Heads Up Seven Up!” and all the kids raise their heads. The ones who have had their thumbs pushed down stand up and try to guess which of the “up” students did it. If they guess right, they get to exchange places with that student; if they guess wrong, the “up” student gets to be “up” again.

Heads Up Seven Up in a classroom
Heads Up Seven Up in a classroom

It seems like it would take a long time to play this game, and we only have five minutes or less between when the kids have cleaned up their tables and when their teachers arrive, so usually we only have time for one round. The kids who are “up” at the end are told to remember who they are so we can continue the next day.  And we do – that is, if they are cleaned up and ready to go in time to spend a few playing the game.
Heads Up Seven Up is a great game to play in the classroom too, especially when you want the kids to be quiet and you have some time to kill. It requires no equipment and most students love it.
Monday, June 1 is Q Day – on the ABC countdown calendar at school it says that on that day we will play a “quiet ball game”. Maybe it’s the one where all the students stand up at their desks and a ball is tossed from one to another. A student is “out” and has to sit down if (s)he either misses catching the ball or talks during the game.

I have to admit, this is one of things I’m most looking forward to in retirement: peace and quiet! At least relatively – I won’t have to deal with large groups of noisy, rowdy kids anymore and attempt to keep order among them. And I won’t have to collect sticker sheets anymore to reward their “quietness”! But who knows? I may miss the kids’ cacophony!!

Quiet Please

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