The Voice of a Classroom

The Voice of a Classroom

What’s the voice of your classroom?

Every classroom has one. Obviously, there’s a literal voice that rises and falls with the ebb and flow of the day. The pin drop silence of independent reading quickly gives way to the verbal avalanche of group work. On any given day there is bound to be laughter, questions, silence, crying, cheering, complaining, whispering, and more questions.

But that’s not exactly what I’m talking about.

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Clackity Noise and Scratchy Sounds


On the bright side: technology

  • Assists
  • Enables
  • Connects
  • Engages
  • Empowers

On the dark side: technology

  • Inhibits
  • Complicates
  • Isolates
  • Distracts
  • Divides

We must have balance and moderation with our students.  Video chatting with a classroom across the country is fine, but it will never replace a snack time face-to-face discussion over a bag of Cheez-Its.

E-readers and tablets are slick and shiny.  But they can't replicate the smell and texture of a physical book.

The clackity noise of a student using a well-worn keyboard makes me feel like my classroom is über cool, but what a travesty if it comes at the price of the scratchy sounds of a fresh ball point on a new journal page.

I’m Not Interested in My Students’ Happiness

Sure, I want my students to be happy people. I absolutely want them to enjoy happiness in their lives. I don't have a heart of stone. But, I am much more interested in their learning.

I had to have a heart-to-heart with a group of kids who were becoming increasingly disrespectful and whiny. Most people who work with me know I am sort of Zen, hippy, California incense with my classroom environment. I try to keep things calm and low-key. I put as much autonomy and responsibility on the students as I can. But I certainly have limits. Especially when allotted freedoms encroach on the learning of others.

This group of kids had body slammed those limits one too many times. Things needed to change. During our private conversation, many students seemed genuinely shocked. Stuttered gasps of “You don't care about our happiness?” abounded. I had to explain that I didn't care about their happiness as much as I cared about their learning.

Of course I wanted them to be be happy. At school, however, I wanted them to learn more than be happy. I had to reiterate that this school business is hard work. It's not always rainbows and lollipops. Well, sometimes it's rainbows. Never lollipops with our new nutritional guidelines though.

I’m the responsible adult

The simple fact is that I'm the responsible adult in the room. I know what's best for my students in many situations. I know Tony can't sit next to Kevin 90% 99% of the time. I know Tina doesn't need to share every single thought that pops into her head every time she raises her hand. I know that Kendra can wait five more minutes to use the restroom.

I'm not mean about it. Just firm. Some of them are starting to come around. Who knows? With a little more time, a few may actually see the benefits and be happy about it.

Kids Can Shut Up in Your Classroom

Kids can shut up in your classroom. They can shut up because they're too nervous or embarrassed to get it wrong. They can keep quiet because they're too scared to say “I don't know.”

Or, they can speak up because the environment is comfortable with failure. They can say “I don't know, yet”. They can raise their hands with confidence, because they know that even if they're wrong, their fellow classmates and teacher still value and respect them.

The classroom environment isn't their choice. It's yours.

A Palpable Closure

A Palpable Closure

Rituals are important. I need more of them.

The last days of school are pouring over with emotions. Joy pervades the perpetual ten-year-old in me. I see that glint of summer in my students' eyes. I have it too. 

I stifle the feelings of regret. The idealistic teacher in me is forever wishing I did more. Failures stick out more right now than successes. Anxiety creeps in here and there as I think about my to-do list. There's so many things to do before I leave for summer break. Then, of course, there is the sadness.

I love my students. It's always a little hard to see them go. We've shared our lives together for nine months. I don't do well with change. I know some students don't either. I feel their pain. It's a big deal to unhook and shift into summertime. This is where rituals come in.

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