As I relaxed with family and friends over the holiday break, I reflected on my first four months as a French teacher in the Middle School here at Crescent. Comparing and contrasting against my previous teaching experiences, I recognized that there was one large difference: the noise.
Coming from a smaller, younger, co-ed school and being someone who recharges with silence, I used to believe that a quieter classroom allowed students to better focus, listen and thrive. To me, quiet conveyed that students were learning and, therefore, I was doing my job.
This perception was not my reality at Crescent. My classroom was loud. I struggled to see the good in the noise; to understand its place in the Middle School classroom. After enduring the "chaos" for a week or two, I challenged myself to embrace the noise and find its meaning.
I first sat back to observe. What was happening during those periods of “noisy chaos”? I listened in and was pleasantly surprised to find that the boys were mainly on task: collaborating, discussing, debating, sharing the information I had just presented to them. Of course, some boys were distracted, discussing last night’s hockey game or dribbling a basketball they found in the hallway, but they were easily persuaded to return to work by either their fellow students or with a slight nudge from me.
By stepping back and listening, rather than assuming, I recognized that the boys were enjoying their freedom, toying with their independence and learning to take responsibility for their time and work. The problem wasn’t the noise, but rather my expectation derived from my preconceived notion of what made a successful classroom. By removing my assumptions, I was able to see the reality that a loud classroom can be an engaged classroom. And after all, isn’t that what we’re hoping for?