#FFE – Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard


I decided to again reply to an old expression prompted by Fandango.

Fandango’s February Expressions #5


Two distinctly different experiences came to mind on this topic. Both very different in nature. First, I thought of the happy experiences sitting in my grandfather’s den watching the Dodgers playing baseball. The second thought was my experience in my classroom.

When I taught in the elementary classroom students were expected to sit still, be quiet, and follow directions. Our school was built with no internal walls. It was all the rage back then. Now fire laws have changed and forced them to put in walls.

When you taught your lessons everyone in all the other “rooms” could hear what was going on. All our furniture was portable, so we used the bookcases on wheels and rolling storage cabinets to define our areas. I was not a sit still and be quiet kind of teacher. I learned to adapt with some of my own strategies. I taught my students silent cheers with their hands, air high fives, and claps that purposely missed your hands. It made for a fun environment.

I did appreciate the need for maintaining a comfortable noise level though. In an adjacent room, a teacher who often lost her voice, loud booming noises were common. She used a megaphone in a room with no walls. It meant teaching could be a difficult task, if not impossible.

Much to my delight, when I moved to the middle school, things were different. Well, different for the most part. My new assignment was in an all portable school. For years we existed in pods of three trailers with a throughway cut out between them. While it was better than an open classroom, it still required some restraint.

When we finally moved to the permanent spanking new building life changed. My classroom had sinks, lab counters, supplies, and best of all, walls. The rooms were in clusters of four classrooms with an adjoining computer pod. Teachers could move from room to room without exiting the building. Teachers enjoyed a never before experience of autonomy.

My classroom routine fell into a wonderful rhythm. A typical day began with students entering my room with the outline of the day on the board. Blasting on the LCD projector was a video clip or YouTube song that tied into my lesson of the day. I enjoyed the search. Students had until the end of the clip to write their homework in their agendas. If some needed more time, I would stall by passing out papers or something else of that nature.

While I was speaking, students were to be seen and not heard. But many times, during the instruction students were told to talk with their tablemates about what they were learning. I loved explaining that scientists rarely worked in a vacuum and needed to work with their colleagues to problem solve. The best times were during labs. On many occasions a visitor would come to my classroom and question the noise level during an experiment or lab activity. My favorite expression was always that I fostered the controlled chaos.

I encouraged my principals to ask the students what they were working on. Much to my sheer delight, almost without fail, the kids would explain in detail the objective of the activity. They were engaged and encouraging with each other. It was fun to explain to parents at back to school night that apart from quizzes and tests, science was a joint learning experience.

With my language arts background, I enjoyed having my students write poetry, read plays, and listen to music related to my science topics. My classes were not usually places where children were seen but not heard. And I loved that.