I’ve been speaking to a few teachers lately about how to tackle that moment when a student gets you to the point of “Let’s have a little chat.”
In my early days of teaching, I’d deliver a speech. A good one too. I do good lecture you see. And the student would sit there clearly doing little more than enduring me while I finish my rant and thinking little more than “Blah, blah, blah” in their heads.
I decided, when I learned about Restorative Practices, to ask more questions and deliver less lectures.
I usually begin with a past based question like “Hey, what’s the story with not starting your work?”
And then I stare … deeply … into the student’s very soul. It’s so awkward … for us both.
The student, in the horrific vacuous silence, is usually playing a game. A waiting game. That student is banking on me breaking – the silence that it – before they do.
Teachers suck at silence. Students know we suck at silence. They know our bent for ranting and lecturing. They’re betting on our inability to endure any extended period of silence.
Well, I’m not breaking.
I count to at least seven (just an arbitrary number) in my head before I ask my next pre-planned question “Would you really prefer we talked about this at recess?”
And then I stare. Again.
My ambition is to get the student’s internal dialogue to change. I hope they begin to wonder “Why is this freak staring at me? How can I get him to stop? What the hell does he want? Oh, that’s right, why I wasn’t working. Why wasn’t I working? I suppose I was just being a bit lazy.”
“I dunno, Mr Voigt. I was just being a bit lazy I reckon.”
And now, we’re talking. Because of the silence – that beautiful, torturous silence.
Silence, it seems, really is golden.