Just dare to shut up!

It’s Friday late afternoon and school’s off for a week of Carnival madness. Before I don my witch’s robe and whizz off into the starry night on my broom, I would like to share one celebratory post with you! Celebratory?! Well, most of the time I have the tendency to criticize myself as a teacher. It takes me no effort whatsoever to find faults and shortcomings in my performance and as the saying goes, I’m my own worst enemy (critic). However, now that a merry making week has arrived, now that joy, laughter and crazy crowds fill the streets, I felt like talking about the good things, things I would celebrate.

Today, as my students were hunched over their worksheets deciphering the jumbled words into meaningful sentences, I contemplated the silent class and travelled back to the beginnings of my teaching life. I was thinking of myself back in the late 90s and started to compare the teacher woman then and now. Have I changed? Of course, I have! Have I grown? Yes, I have. Am I happy when putting on my teacher’s hat? Yes, I am! And what can I be proud of? What have these years, these hundreds of students, thousands of hours taught me? Well, that …

1. I am much more confident and much less self-concsious than I used to be (in fact I’ve become quite immune to teenager’s secret glance exchanges and nervous giggles – it’s their right in that stage after all!) In fact, I guess that most of the improvements I have made come more or less down to these two words, confidence and self-consciousness. When I feel confident, I can conquer whatever the mountains looming in front of me. When I’m free of clumsy inhibition I take risks without being afraid to fail. And as you all know, students feel it right away and having someone confident in front of them, gives them security and eases their anxiety. If the teacher dares, if she makes fun of herself, if she sometimes acts crazy, well, she’s human after all!

2. I know that difficult, grumpy, never-satisfied, bored-to-death students are an important part of every class as they make us try harder. Try more. Try different strategies. But putting all the effort into satisfying the stomach-ached students is unfair towards the rest of the class. You probably think I’m writing some obvious stuff here, but you know what, I only learned this lesson recently. Willing so much to please everyone, eager to create a happy atmosphere, working my socks off to meet everyone’s needs I had penetrated deeper and deeper into the tunnel of impossibility leaving the easy-going students  to their own devices. But then, thank heavens, something happened. I was listening to one of my favourite actresses’, Judy Denche’s audio autobiography “And Furthermore”. She told the story of how she used to single out theatre-goers from the crowd and played to this particular person only. Until, one night, the person she had singled out, left after the first act. When she returned on the stage and saw the empty seat, she was devastated and lost for quite a while. That extract made me think and suddenly all the students, all the nice, hard-working, and never-making trouble students came flooding back. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I had completely forgotten about them, but I had put way too much effort and time into pleasing people who probably didn’t even care. I remember walking into the classroom the morning after the realization, beaming at all the great students and having an exhilaratingly wonderful lesson with them all! So I guess, I have learned to celebrate the good and be easier on myself when failing to motivate the pessimists.

3. And last, but by far not the least! I have finally learned to SHUT UP 🙂 And that’s been hard, so extremely hard! Because to dare to listen to the silence, to dare to let the words resonate and not rush into filling the space, to dare to just think and wait – gosh, this has been the most difficult feat of being a teacher! And yes, daring to give yourself time before answering comes as a perk with confidence. If you feel confident, you dare to take the time. And not just time to answer students’ questions but time to let them answer yours. We should not be afraid of the empty space. Leaving them time and space is not only a sign of respect but it is also a delicate way to discipline them 😉 what do I mean? Well, you know these one word answers, don’t you?! Well, now, whenever my students give me these quick syllables, I just wait and look at them. And smile. And then the rest is …

And you, what do you feel celebratory about? Now that it is Carnival time! Now that everyone can feel mad and merry and forget about all the usual inhibitions!

Happy Carnival time to those who celebrate and happy weekend to those who … well, celebrate their weekend!

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7 thoughts on “Just dare to shut up!

  1. Thank you for sharing this! I start a new term on Monday morning, and I found your second point especially inspiring. I am only in my third year of teaching, so definitely still trying to figure out what matters in regards to student response, and I really appreciated your treatment of the topic. Thanks a lot!! Enjoy your festivities!!

    • Hi Liz, I’m really glad you found it useful …I think it is important as teachers to learn not to put all the pressure and blame on ourselves. And even though the bitter taste tends to linger much longer, we should not forget to appreciate the sweet ones 😉

    • Dear Naomi,
      so glad to hear your voice here! The carnival I’m talking about is the Shrove Tuesday celebrations (similar to New Orleans, Rio, Venice, Cadiz etc) As I’m living in a Catholic canton the carnival is very important here 🙂
      Have a great w/e and best of luck in Liverpool!

  2. Dear Sirja,

    What a great post – full of your positive energy! You should always be proud of yourself – good thing you have reminded us all to do that here and there : )

    Enjoy the carnival and may you always be happy and proud!

    Hugs,
    Vicky

  3. Pingback: What I’ve Been Reading « Just a Word

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