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Yelling to Be Quiet

It seems that every day my third grader comes home from school with the same story. This teacher yelled at our class today because no one was listening. We had to wait in the hallway for ten minutes before going into the lunchroom because kids wouldn't stop talking. We didn't do much in gym today because he kept having to wait for everyone to be quiet. Be quiet. Stop talking. Sit down. 

Never mind that they are 8 and 9 year olds who are already forced to spend most of their school day sitting and being quiet. Never mind that their recess is all of 20 minutes, at least 5 of that spent getting to and from a quiet line. Never mind that they cannot go outside when it is below 30 degrees, or when there is any snow on the ground. Never mind that some teachers still think it is ok to threaten missing recess as a punishment for not sitting still in class. (The absurdity of punishing kids who have trouble sitting still by taking away their only chance to move around just blows my mind!)

Why does the gym teacher have to wait for everyone to be quiet before he starts his lesson? It's GYM!! Make them run 20 laps. Trust me, they will be panting so hard talking will become virtually impossible.

Do these teachers get that lunch is basically the only school time these kids have to actually socialize with their friends?? Because god forbid they talk in the hallways! And classroom time is for learning, which we all know cannot happen if students are talking, or moving, or you know, using their imaginations.

To be fair, there are certainly times during the school day when quiet is absolutely necessary and appropriate. Like when the teacher is explaining the lesson. When instructions are being given. When a new skill or game is being taught.  When there is a fire drill. I will even give you quiet in the hallways because sure "other classes are trying to learn." (This seems to be the elementary school mantra. Learn it.) But every child who has been through pre-k has learned the difference between "indoor voices" and "outdoor" ones. So why is it so terrible to let them talk to each other sometimes? So long as they aren't screaming. (That lunchroom is kind of loud.)

When I was in 6th grade I had the privilege of getting to leave my classroom every Friday afternoon to go to a writing workshop run by Teachers & Writers Collaborative. At 2pm every week I went into this special classroom where we could sit wherever we wanted, write whatever we wanted. Help was given if needed. Collaboration was encouraged. I do not remember the teacher in that room ever asking us to "please quiet down". Probably because he didn't need to, we were all too busy writing. In other words, we were so interested in the activity we were doing that there was no need to entertain ourselves in any other way. If we did talk to each other, I am sure it was about writing. That was the kind of classroom it was.

Listen teachers, I get you. I was you. Some of these kids can really drive you crazy. But stop waiting for quiet. Just teach. Make it interesting. The ones who want to learn will listen to you. The ones who don't, well that is their problem. Or maybe you could try reaching those kids in a different way, later, while my kid is quietly working. But please don't make her sit and wait for everyone to shut up before you teach her something. 

And absolutely ZERO minutes of gym class should be spent sitting down waiting for kids to be quiet!! IT IS GYM!! The place where whistles blow and balls bounce. Kids should be moving from the minute they walk into the gym until they line up to leave. You want them to line up calmly and quietly? EXHAUST THEM!

Third grade classrooms are full of children. You know what children aren't? Still. Quiet. So figure out how you can educate them anyway. But please stop yelling at them to be quiet.

A little hypocritical, don't you think?


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