Noise

One thing I struggle with the most in teaching is noise. Some days are naturally peaceful, each class comes in ready to learn, and joins me in the circle on the rug calm and ready to listen and learn. We  And I am ready to listen and learn from them, too. Other days it seems as if a storm is raging in every heart, energy crashing out into the room and bouncing off the walls. Students call to each other across the tables, my voice strains to rise above them, and soon the noise level crosses the threshold of my patience. Those days, when students are wound up, I feel like I am playing the old carnival game of Bop-a-Mole, trying to quell the energy, quell the noise, and calm things down.

Yesterday, energy was high in one of my middle school classes. I kept the pace of learning brisk, and with fifteen minutes left to go in class, took the whole group outside to the park next door for a brief lesson about plants in the park. The wind was lively, and the students frolicked like puppies. I didn’t even try to control their energy and enthusiasm. I just let myself enjoy who they were.

“Is this an angiosperm or a gymnosperm plant?” I yelled into the wind, my hand on a Eucalyptus tree. “Angiosperm!” they yelled back. We ran to another plant — I tugged up a blade of grass — “Monocot or Dicot?” I yelled. “Mono-Di-Monocot!” the crowd roared. “Which one, and Why?” I yelled, before three kids shot their hands into the air with answers.

It was beautiful, being outside with their wonderful young energy. We were enlivened by the wind, our minds alert and learning.

If only I could find that wind and bring it inside every day, or find a way to calm the storms that rage inside my students on some days. Some days I can, and some I can’t. It’s the law of 80 percent. If things are pretty good 80  percent of the time, that’s a pretty good percentage. The glass is  much more than half full, and I am much better than a half-good teacher.

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