It struck me as hard as a hammer. 6th period Friday. The fourth time I was teaching this lesson. The fourth time I had students go through the discussion questions, do the turn and talk, and then come back together. It hit me so hard that I instantly cringed a little bit, because why in the world I hadn’t thought of this sooner? If only I had listened to that little nagging voice we all have inside, if only I had tuned in as it screamed, “Stop talking, Pernille. Stop interrupting their conversations. Stop rushing them through what you think they need to get through and let them speak to each other.”
And yet, after only a minute of talking, I felt the ticking time. I saw the hands moving as class slowly trailed away and so I kept interrupting them. Guiding them to the next thing that we had to do. Telling them to finish up So that we had the entire foundation laid. So that I could place a check mark in my planner and move on to the next thing, knowing that we had done everything we were supposed to and gotten to the end of the text. Yet, this is exactly what we should not be doing in our classrooms.
Too often, we rush. Too often, we hurry so that we can cover things. Too often we get through a lesson rather than realize that what we are doing in that moment is the lesson; is the point of school. We say we want students who speak up and exhibit deep thinking, yet then limit this very thing as we teach. We must slow down. We must stop our incessant teacher talk, our incessant interruptions as we guide and mold and let students think, then let them speak. And when they are done speaking let them sit in the silence for just a moment so they can be sure they are completely done speaking.
Teaching is not about getting through. Teaching is not about getting things done. Teaching is not about completing every single lesson we had planned so we can say that we did it, we followed the path and now we have taught. Now our students have learned. It is about the path we take to get there. The exploration we have along the way. The time we give to our students to speak so that we may listen.
So in that 6th hour on Friday, I finally stopped speaking. I finally stopped interrupting them and just let them speak. Those who ran out of words looked at me expectantly waiting for me to start again, but then saw how others were still going in their conversations and that spurred them on to keep speaking. I bounced from group to group, not interjecting, but listening instead. Nodding and smiling as I saw them start to become what I hope they will be; kids that have an opinion, kids that have a voice. After a few more minutes, a child asked a question so good that I knew we could discuss this as a class. And so we did. And I didn’t interrupt. I didn’t shape the conversation. I let them speak and they loved it. Because it was about them and not me. Their learning and not just my teaching. Just the way it is supposed to be.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. The 2nd edition and actual book-book (not just e-book!) just came out!