Saturday, November 17, 2018

Silence is Golden... Sometimes

This last week, I had the amazing opportunity to once again go on a three day camping trip with my sixth graders to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. This trip is three days and two nights of outdoor games, hiking, bonfires, cabin sleeping and amazing relationship building opportunities. This trip not only gets my students to see nature in a new way, but allows me to see them in a new way. It is really that relationship booster shot that is much needed at this time.

One of my favorite things we do on the first night is take a hike after dark. The naturalists at the park take this time to discuss rhodopsin, which allows your eyes to adjust to the dark. Many of the students are at first fearful of this experience yet by the end of it all, it is one of their favorite moments as well. In this night hike, our naturalist stressed to the students that they be silent to really soak in the experience that hiking in the dark can bring to them.

There was no push back...

There were no sneaky talkers...

There was only silence...

It was this silence that truly brought a new layer to that hike and that experience. There is even a solo hike portion, in which each student had to walk a section of the trail completely on their own. Though some were fearful, many took this as an opportunity to take a reflective and silent walk into the dark forest.

This got me thinking....

What purpose does silence have in our classrooms?
 To channel my good #4OCFPLN friend, Elizabeth Merce, "What is the 'Why' here?"

 Do we use silence in our classrooms to push reflection or push compliance?

Do we use silence to help students control their learning or help us control their learning?

How many times have we said "It's too loud in here!" or used some sort of sound meter to monitor the volume?

What if we worded this in a different way? What if instead we stress the "Why" behind the direction. The students on the hike did not go against the wishes of the naturalist because they understood what they were getting out of the silence. Do they know what they are getting out of the silence that is forced in the classroom? Do we know what they are getting out of it?

It is just amazing to me how a walk in complete silence can speak volumes in my classroom. I know that from now on I will look at the silence in my classroom with more purpose and I will be sure to share that purpose, that reason, that "why" with my students.


  1. For SURE! After we - and the students - find out our WHY, it's time to ask the HOW. If we deem it important, ow can we sustain the quiet we decided we need? How can we help others do the same? I love that you go on this adventure with your students - we do the same, but in May, and in Oregon, IL. The solo walk at night is my favorite! Thank you for sharing, Jen!

  2. Years ago, while both a student at a Quaker school, and then the headmaster of a Quaker school, I learned the power of silence. Like you, I too loved the silent hike in the woods. The students loved it too. I don't think that they get enough opportunities to stop and listen to the world around them. No doubt, you will add this to your already vast repertoire of instructional strategies.