Tagged: calm

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Book Review: Quiet (★★★☆)

QuietCoverfavicon People have told me that I’m an introvert, and so have a few Myers Briggs tests, but reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking confirmed it. I’m sure I had a similar reaction to Quiet as did other introverts — something like: I’m not a complete freak. And that’s why I really enjoyed the book.

Plus, Ms. Cain writes really well. I didn’t like all the chapters equally — for example, the one on relationships was very interesting, whereas the one on raising kids was not as much — but overall, the book kept my attention and offered a new way of being in the world. Its message, in short, was, Everything is OK.

At points, however, I felt like Ms. Cain (introverted herself) was trying to argue that introverts are smarter and kinder and better people who have more empathy. Whenever she’d go a little too much in this direction, though, she made sure to reel her judgment back in to a more objective stance.

Another way to think about this book: It’s definitely somewhere in the newish nonfiction genre, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, of self-help-with-a-little-science, but Ms. Cain’s tone wasn’t as matter-of-fact annoying, not as too-sure. I liked that a lot. favicon

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Building calm in the classroom through meditation

favicon Frazzled. That’s the way I describe most urban public high school teachers at the end of October.

You’re tired, and you’re behind, and you have so much to do. Plus, your students are insane. Quarter grades just came out, resulting in various manifestations of anxiety. And there’s Halloween and a World Series parade tomorrow. It seems like everything is designed to distract and disrupt.

Last year, I felt the same way (and it wasn’t even a tough year!). In “Can I Get a Little Quiet?” I argued that quiet is so rare in schools that many teachers give up seeking it. But a sense of calm benefits everyone, even extroverts and kinesthetic learners.

That’s why I’m happy this year to see teachers promoting quiet in their classrooms. A few teachers employ an “opening song” at the beginning of class. For one minute, students sit in silence, listen to a song (usually instrumental) of the teacher’s choosing, look at the lesson objective, and think of an intention for the day.

Kevin Brookhouser, a teacher I respect, begins his classes with 60 seconds of silence. Take a look. (I secretly like the bell.)

In fact, meditation and other forms of “mindful breathing” have become popular across the country over the past few years. A good friend and former colleague leads her students in guided breathing exercises. Quiet Time, promoted by the David Lynch Foundation, offers schools in San Francisco training to practice transcendental meditation so that students suffering from trauma, stress, and other behavioral issues like ADHD can find more calm in their lives.

As a teacher, I’m leery of such programs (take a look at the “Room to Breathe” trailer; it gives me the heebie-jeebies), but I do appreciate the efforts to provide young people a safe environment to monitor themselves and their feelings. After all, students cannot learn if they don’t know what to do with the distracting and challenging thoughts that are bombarding them.

What I’d like to see more is quiet during lessons, not just at the beginning or end. There’s nothing wrong, for example, with silent reading and silent writing. Of course, student talk should also pervade the classroom, especially when it adds to the academic discourse. Talking just to talk doesn’t always lead to calm.

Please let me know what you think. Should teachers give time for focused quiet? Is meditation going too far? favicon

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A classroom of calm and purpose

favicon Today, my students participated in a Socratic seminar on The Scarlet Letter. Half the class talked about the book while the other half did independent work. Then they switched.

The discussions were only OK. In fact, I was way more impressed with the students working on the other side of the room.

Most students were reading the book. Others were taking turns on the computer to complete an online homework assignment. One went to the bathroom. Another wrapped a raffle gift for the end of class.

They did all of this with calm and focus, without any prompting, and without distracting the students in discussion. They understood what the main event was and made sure not to disrupt the proceedings. Not only were the students quiet, but they were also engaged in their own work.

I didn’t have to tell them my expectations before, during, or after. They just did the right thing.

This is what I’m looking for in my classes — that we know where we are, what we’re doing, what the goal is, and how to get there.

As a teacher, I love working with students, irrespective of their academic skill level, who have deep respect for each other and their education.

A well-functioning classroom — where there is respect, support, and empathy — is something all students and teachers deserve every day. I am fortunate that I get to work in such a classroom this year. favicon