Shhhh! An audio revelation

“Boys and girls, shhhh….”

“Keep your voices down.”

“Are you listening? How can I tell?”

“Use your indoor voice, please.”

“Thank you for sitting quietly.”

“Look at who’s ready for the next instruction!”

“Boys and girls, I’m waiting… it’s your time…”

We educators can spend a lot of energy trying to control student volume. We have our reasons and many of them are rooted in good intentions about being responsible and respectful community members. Be that as it may, I find myself making countless requests for students to be quiet, quiet, quiet.

This is the third week of Digital Writing Month and the theme is using sound in our writing and even as a form of writing. Bit of a stumper for me as I feel so much more at home in the literally written word. Yet in her introduction to the week’s offerings, #DigiWriMo co-facilitator, Sarah Honeychurch, offered the following invitation:

Listen to the way that voices help to tell a story. Think about the ways that sounds and tunes can be used to change the ambiance of your words. Which sounds form the backdrop to your everyday life – which ones do you love and which to you dislike?…Which sounds define you and what you do?

Those questions sparked something in me and led to an idea.

The sounds that define me and what I do are here:

In the clip above you can hear the beginning of two different classes, Pre-K and 1st grade. My students are brimming with life! There’s tremendous energy in their  voices and not surprisingly much of that energy flows into volume: giggles and shrieks, requests and demands, action and reaction – there seems to be very little space for quiet in all that! I hear my teacher voice trying to calm the buzz in order to unleash it again along with the gift of movement. As adults, it’s easy to forget how much enjoyment children can have simply being in each other’s company with license to give that exuberance full voice and volume.

Truth: the students are loud. And so is their enthusiasm. My challenge is to lower the volume (briefly) without dampening their enthusiasm. It’s a delicate balance yet the very balance they must negotiate time and time again throughout their school day. Their struggle is not to be or not to be, rather to be quiet or be shushed.

Meanwhile I was also inspired by an e-mail sent out to by my colleague, alerting us to the great things happening in his Minecraft after school activity:

Want to see a class full of sometimes behaviorally challenged elementary boys of different ages, enthusiastically collaborating, problem solving, sharing books, cooperating, developing their own ethical behavior , sharing valuable information and eagerly  learning from each other?

Then suspend your definition of “inside voice” and visit the Minecraft After School Activity on Tuesdays sometime.

I loved this message for many reasons, but the “suspend your definition of ‘inside voice'” really did it for me. Without being in the room I could easily picture the beautiful mayhem of these crazy enthusiastic and creative boys letting their imaginations run wild. And being allowed to crow about it. What a difference that must make.

So yeah, sound. Being able to capture sound in order to meditate on it, to investigate its impact, there’s something to it. More than that, even.  This experience has provided more surprises than I ever anticipated. Although I probably won’t go cold turkey on “shhh…” any time soon, I will consider when its purpose and usefulness may be overrated in a given context. I want my students to know and enjoy the benefits of both/and: loud and soft, boisterous and quiet. Creating the space for these and all the variations in between is within my power and I have the technology.


5 thoughts on “Shhhh! An audio revelation

  1. I really enjoyed the audio here — listen to those happy voices! It’s funny that hearing students talk over one another sounds so happy and lively in recording but can be so frustrating in person. Maybe it’s because, like you say, we have to teach that balance, the loud and the soft, because sometimes one person’s loud forces another’s silence?

    Anyway, I really appreciated your reflection, and it’s given me more to think about. 🙂

  2. Wonderful, all these happy voices. The little girl taking to you. So joyful.

    I can image how tough it must be to bring the volume down without breaking their enthusiasm into pieces.
    I’m often afraid that too much “school” brings too much damage to the creativity and the liveliness of the children. Especially the little ones, they’re still so open. Nevertheless our children survived, so I suppose next generations will get through too.
    I realize I’d make a horrible teacher for the tiny ones, they’d walk all over me just because I find them all too cute.

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