Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pedagogical Goal: Value Silence

Many years ago, I was meeting with a sohpomore advisee, a young woman who was generally very quiet, to discuss her mid-term narrative comments. All of her teachers had noted her quiet nature in their comments and encouraged her, some more forcefully than others, to speak more frequently in class—a message which she had received over and over again from an early age. When I raised this point with her, she looked down and said, "I'm sick of hearing about how quiet I am. They just don't get me."

Since then, I've thought a lot about that advisee and other students who are quiet. Last year, when I read Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, watched her TED Talk, and took part in a roundtable discussion on "quiet students" as part of a colleague's graduate school work, I gained a much more nuanced understanding of and appreciation for introversion. These experiences, along with an article that appeared this month in The Chronicle of Higher Education, "Sanctioning Silence in the Classroom," have prompted me to make valuing silence one of my pedagogical goals for the 2013-14 school year. I aim to do this by using silence as a tool for contemplation and reflection and by appreciating the extent to which, for some of my students, quietness reflects not a shortcoming but a powerful trait that can enrich the totality of the classroom experience for all.

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