Friday, January 12, 2007

Silent Teaching

All week long I have been slowly losing my voice. This morning I woke up completely unable to talk, which I didn't know until I actually got to the school and tried to say good morning to another teacher. Fortunately, my first class was completing a group project, so I simply wrote out my instructions and chose a student to read them to the class. He loved introducing himself as my "vice president." (Hopefully it goes without saying that I did not write this on the paper.)

I am relatively well-known for having a loud voice, so it was very interesting to see the impact of my silence on my students. By the time second period rolled around, I had gained a whisper, which I used to teach the lesson with a suprising amount of success; but a whisper was as far as I got. And by the end of the day, even that was almost gone again. However, it was an incredibly smooth day, even with the absence of our classroom paraprofessional, which would typically send my students into a downward spiral.

It got me to thinking about the widely-accepted idea that the teacher sets the tone. I feel like my classroom is usually fairly calm, but compared to today, my typical day ranks in at about an F2 tornado. I'm not sure if the silence would work all the time, but my students were extremely respectful and followed the rules regarding hand-raising and turn-taking better than I've ever seen. Even I slowed down quite a bit, while still completing my daily work. Could it be true that maybe it's me, sometimes, who needs to just be quiet?


Dawn Pedersen said...

I find that I begun to notice when I am straining my voice. My instinct when I started teaching full time last fall was to keep raising my voice above the din. Now when I feel that extra effort in my throat, I realize it's time to signal for silence some other way. I should never have to speak above a conversational loudness. Yes, I have rowdy classes too. I used to speak a lot faster to get it all out before they start being noisy again. I think things go better when I take my time. I can wait for them to quiet down. You're right, if I'm frantic and loud, it just encourages them to be the same way.

Dawn Pedersen said...

begun = begin =)

Miss Profe said...

Reading your post caused me to have an epiphany: for the first time in 13 years of teaching, I have not raised my voice. In fact, during an observation conducted my by HOD (Head of Dept.) back in October, she was really taken aback as to how soft my voice is. I must say that this year has been different in so many ways, namely in that I am not experiencing the health and personal issues caused by very stressful job situations of the past. Stress, fatigue and irritability, combined with a cold that never quite went away, led to full-blown laryngitis.

I also initiated significant life-style changes, such as getting to bed early, not doing work in the am before leaving for school, and working out.

So, I am hoping that I will not suffer my annual bout this year (fingers crossed).

Karen said...

I have found that when I tell my students that I am not feeling well, or have some other ailment, they respond really well. When I have said that I have a headache, they are really quiet that day. I also agree that the teacher sets the tone - I have attempted to teach silently, on purpose, and it works! The kids are really amazing sometimes :)
I hope your voice returns over the weekend.