Tagged: quiet

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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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Can I get a little quiet?

favicon I like quiet.

Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert. At home, I enjoy going many hours without any sound: no music, no TV, no nothing. Quiet soothes me and makes me feel at peace.

Then why am I teacher?

That’s a good question. There’s very little quiet at school. Hallways are loud, classrooms are loud, students are loud, everything is loud.

Noise is hard to escape, even during my prep periods. There’s no space to hide. Teachers at our school have to share classrooms. I love my room partner, but when she’s teaching, I wear heavy-duty ear muffs. There I am on the right! The ear muffs reduce sound (by about 30 decibels) but unfortunately don’t eliminate it.

Noise is hard to escape, even during silent classroom activities. Today, during our timed writing, it was impossible to drown out the noise of the middle school’s PE classes. (We share a building with another school.) Shutting all the windows wouldn’t have made things silent; it would’ve just led to more stuffiness in the classroom. Maybe I need to supply my students with ear plugs?

If I seem like a quiet freak, maybe I am. I know that I crave calm more when I feel irritated or stressed. With the end of the semester coming quickly, perhaps my quest for quiet comes from heightened anxiety or a decreased sense of effectiveness.

But I also know that quiet is good for students. On days where there is a calm flow, students are more engaged. There’s more time and space to think deeply. Scattered and jittery feelings disappear, and all that’s left is students’ learning.

There are different ways to learn, of course, and sometimes, it’s good to be loud. But reading and writing usually like a more tranquil space. The problem is, I’m pretty certain that it’s nearly impossible to achieve quiet in my classroom for any prolonged period.

Do you think quiet is important? If so, how do you find it? favicon