A student was upset. He wasn’t my student. He’s not even in Grade 1, but he’s still somebody’s student. And this student happened to be coming out of a classroom near the one where I was delivering my students for my prep. I noticed because he ran past me. I noticed because I heard a supply teacher at the time call his name, and I knew there was a problem. That was when I started walking back to class, and I heard his name on the announcements. I also saw him sitting in an alcove not far from my classroom. So I stopped. I sat down next to him. I thought back to Stuart Shanker‘s Calm, Alert, and Learning book that I read last year, and I forced myself — really forced myself — to keep my voice very low. And in that whisper voice, I asked him, “What’s wrong?” He told me. I listened. I let him calm down, and then I convinced him to walk with me to where he was asked to go. We spoke about staying calm. We spoke about what he could do if he was feeling upset. We spoke about the fact that it’s okay to ask for a break, but it’s not okay to scream and run. In those few minutes, on a difficult day, I felt like what I did mattered.
That’s when I started to think about what I did. I kept calm and stayed quiet. This is hard for me.
- I’m a loud person.
- I speak loudly.
- My actions are big.
- I get easily excited, and the more excited I get, the louder I get.
- I’m passionate, and passion can be loud.
I think it’s a good thing to be wrapped up in the true joy of learning, and it’s one of the reasons that I’m thrilled to go and teach every day … because I truly love what I do! For so many of us, this excitement shows, and for me in the classroom, it can often be in my louder words and bigger actions. But that afternoon, I couldn’t help but think of this student. I wonder if “the quiet” helped him, or at least it did at the time. And so as the day came to an end, and the volume in the classroom got louder, I tried hard to quiet down.
- I turned off the overhead lights.
- I talked less.
- I whispered more.
In my head, I had to talk myself through this process, but it worked! The students were calmer, and the environment was calmer. I liked the feel of this!
I’m not perfect! I know that many times, I’m loud and excited, and most of the time and for the majority of my students, this isn’t a problem. But what about my students that would do better with this “quieter” tone? How do I give them what they need? How do you create this calm classroom environment? I wonder what impact this would have on all students, and I wonder how I can do it more.