If I ever doubted how much we affect our students when we’re not even aware of it, I had a visceral reminder of it yesterday while I was teaching.
I went to school yesterday with complete laryngitis – absolutely complete laryngitis – but I wasn’t feeling sick, and I had a relatively easy Friday schedule, so I knew I’d be fine even without a voice.
First thing in the morning, I decided to demonstrate the short geometry lesson using sign language: a strategy I often use while teaching anyway, sometimes exaggerating and pretending it’s a magic show.
Only this time, there was no teacher voice to accompany or explain along the way. I couldn’t even whisper. And the strangest thing happened… As the lesson went on, the students stopped talking to one another, and gradually became very still and absolutely silent. They were completely focussed on the lesson in silence – and even answered and responded with their own silent gestures as well.
It was so remarkable that I actually stopped teaching and tweeted it out — I had a couple of students take the photo and read what I was saying to make the most of the teachable moment, of course — and then they started talking about it.
One student said that he thought that it was a game he was supposed to play. Another said my not talking automatically made her feel like she needed to do the same thing. Another later added that my continued silence made her want to whisper all day, and not talk at all.
How often do we try to explain to student teachers, pre-service teachers, that their voice is their most powerful tool as a teacher — that their students will respond to it, especially when they start to raise their own volume over the kids? And how often do we forget to use the power of our voice to calm things, and quiet our students back down when calm is needed?
But even more importantly – how often do we forget how strongly we are affecting our students when we are least aware of it? This kind of power carries enormous responsibility to use it mindfully, wisely, and for the benefit of our students.
What a great lesson you demonstrated to me yesterday my lovelies, Thank-you!