What Is Our Obsession With Quiet Kids?

image from icanread

This year there has been a lot of emphasis on voice level at my school.  Chalk it up to our status as a PBIS school where it is all about the voice levels.  And I agree, many times kids talking in the hallways can be a distraction to those teaching. Or kids shouting in the lunch room is not great behavior, but there seems to be an obsessions with quiet in our schools.  As if quiet always means learning.

So I am here to disagree, to ponder our obsessions with quiet students.  To me quiet can mean many things, and yes, one of them is studious behavior.  But it can also mean a child that is lost in their work and doesn’t even know what to ask.  It can mean a child has no one to speak to as they sit at lunch by themselves.  It can mean that children are merely doing their job as learners and not fully invested in what they are doing.  It is not that I am against the quiet, it has its place in school, but so does boisterous excitement, loud noises, and general conversation.

We often equate teacher weakness with loud classrooms, however, my classroom is loud and we get done what we need to get done and sometimes even more than what we are supposed to.  We get excited, we get a little loud, and we know when to be quiet because it fits the purpose.  Walk by on any given day and you may see us at all sorts of voice levels.  Walk by on any given day and hopefully you will see kids engaged with the learning.

So let’s revisit the quiet.  Let’s figure out when it is truly needed and when it should take center stage, but let us not continue to teach children that learning must be quiet, that learning should be in whisper voices only, unless you are speaking to the teacher.  Much like we have blank classroom walls at the beginning fo the year so that students may take them over, let us also have quiet rooms waiting to be filled with noise by the students.  They should have a voice, and nut just a voice level 1 kind of voice, but perhaps even a voice level 2 or 3 at times.  

7 thoughts on “What Is Our Obsession With Quiet Kids?

  1. I often wonder this as well. What are those students (who are quiet) doing in class? What are they thinking? Everyone has some awesome stuff to share – the quiet kids just need some positive reinforcement to do so.Great blog post!

  2. But when the CLASS is working quietly, that means I can wander around and watch what they're doing, and talk one-on-one with students to ask them about the material. I have fewer distractions and interruptions, so I can focus on that interaction. And I am more confident that the student I'm talking to will be able to hear and understand me.

  3. Great post Pernille!! I have struggled with this idea as well. Schools seem to have gone to great lengths to take anything social out of schooling. I hate going by a silent classroom (unles they are reading). My observation has been that the more quiet the room , the less engaged students within. This really annoys me when I see it in a cafeteria setting. I don't mind a quiet classroom but that is vastly different from a silent classroom. I wonder what teachers would be like if they had to sit through silent staff meetings or Professional Development…..I know there is times I wish they would be, but I know they also struggle with the concept when applied to themselves and I know that discussion and conversation promotes learning. You definitely gave us something to consider.

  4. I do agree with everything you are saying about a quiet classroom-there are times when collaboration and discussion are imperative for true learning to take place. However, I read Susan Cain's book, 'Quiet' and watched her TED Talk and they both made me realize that many students need quiet at times to process and think! In a world of noise and confusion ( many times in a student's own home), we cannot forget those students who crave peace and order and we as teachers need to respect their need for that. What I try to do when planning my lessons is strike a balance between collaborative and solitary activities in order to meet the needs of most of my students; a form of differentiation in a sense. But I have been guilty of having fellow teachers ask me to keep down the noise in my classroom. I actually get a kick out of that when it happens because it means the kids are having a blast! I think balance is the key. Thanks for the post and happy new year!

  5. I so agree on this one. Quiet kids lave mystery that there are some things that we should not know about them. Conduct noise survey and see if there are changes in their responses in every situation that you set up.

  6. Sometimes it's because some children have problems with hearing also that's why they seem to speak louder, apparently because they can't hear themselves clearly. There are many factors that can cause this, one can be exposure to very loud music with their earphones.

  7. Sounds more like they're a relief force of sorts, I guess. I guess it feels different when confronted with kids that aren't really typical; seeing kids that aren't the noisy type that would assault your ears on a regular basis is a welcome change.

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