** Not your ordinary, endless list - just what's number 1.
I remember being a new teacher and I was so deathly scared of any silence in the classroom! I'd yammer and stammer away just to fill that void. It was a panic attack, it was a nightmare, it was worse than death.
Now, with time, experience and a lot of training, I've come to see the value of silence. Come to see silence more as a friend/partner than a Freddie Kruger. I see how silence is not "nothing" but something very key and elemental to the learning process. Something necessary and valuable. A teacher's best ally (though I do see the point that there are occasions when wait time isn't necessary - was reading Eisner today and he makes that very point about the complexity of the teaching process and how we should never bend to generalizations).
Silence is definitely an indication of student learning and not as supposed by so many panicking, sweaty palmed teachers - a white flag of nobody home and they've all surrendered. Especially with language, wait time by the teacher fosters learning and gives students whose brains are overloaded and processing so much with so little power (access to LAD and all that), a chance to digest and turn on the ability to communicate. Actually, silence is essential to all speech, to all communication!
When I think of all the truly great teachers I've met in the classroom, either as a trainer or as a student - I got to say, they all had tamed their fear of silence. They'd wait. They get great learning and understanding from their students. They'd truly come to appreciate thought over noise.
But it is so difficult, to shut up and be silent! I still have trouble and what prompts this post was a recent class where I found myself posing great questions but not waiting long enough as the students thought. Finally realizing how frightened I was by the silence and forcing myself to count a full and slow 5 seconds before continuing.
Train yourself, force yourself to be quiet. Count to 5 or even 10. I guarantee you, your classroom will become a place of greater learning. Thought entails and needs silence. It truly does. So let's not be afraid of it!
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