I’m sitting in my living room playing “Shopkins” with my youngest and writing this post. It is 7:10 in the morning, and every few seconds she turns to me and says, “Shh. . . we have to be quiet.”
Note: she is making a ton more noise than I am.
Her older sister is still sleeping (I have no doubt she’ll be up in a minute or two), and we’re trying to play while also trying not to make a lot of noise.
I’m thinking about the value of quiet, and whether it is over (or under) rated.
In our lives, there seem to be times when “quiet” is encouraged. In some cases, this is rightly so (we should be able to watch a movie without someone talking through it). In other cases, though, “quiet” is encouraged, but maybe it shouldn’t be.
Take, for instance, the classroom. Growing up, a quiet classroom was an “effective” one. These days I know that the lack of sound wasn’t correlated with the effectiveness of the instruction or the likelihood of learning. Rather, it was correlated with compliance, which, for some reason, was (and sometimes continues) to be held in high regard.
But should it be? Certainly there is a time for compliance, right? A time when we simply have to follow directions and that is our role. But, I contend that those times are few and far between.
Because learning is messy, and rarely does it ever require true quiet, nor can it be truly bottled up. Therefore, we have to continue to push back against the older idea that a quiet classroom is a learning one. We need to help learners and leaders understand that compliance and engagement are not one and the same, and that chaos can be welcomed, as long as learners are engaged in the process.
One easy way to do this is to model the ways in which learning can shift from quiet experience to chaotic endeavor, and to showcase that neither one is always the best choice, and rather, it is more dependent on who is involved in the learning, what is being explored, and why it is a focus.
And while we do that? Let’s invite learners into the decision-making process to help us figure out what is most engaging for them. Because whether quiet or chaotic, it doesn’t necessarily mean that students are engaged. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that students are learning anything at all.