Today, I get it! Today I understand why sometimes it’s hard to focus. It’s not your fault. You are trying to listen. You are trying to pay attention. You are trying to take it all in … but maybe that’s more difficult than I once thought.
Today you shared your Passion Projects with four classes of students. The Grade 6’s were writing EQAO at the time, and you wanted to stay quiet for them. None of you shared your work in the pod. We kept the doors closed to keep the noise in … but boy was there a lot of noise!
Between those of you speaking as you shared your work, the visiting students that asked questions, and the numerous students wandering around, the noise never stopped. Two groups were playing music: one student was playing a recorder song and one student was playing the guitar. Then there were the three videos people showed, the chairs that were constantly moving around, and the sound of lots of little feet as students walked from display to display. I didn’t realize that feet could be so loud.
Let’s not forget about all of the visuals in the room too. There were the display boards, the art pieces, the PowerPoints, and the movies. There were the baked goods, the hamster (in the maze), the volcano, and even the tsunami in a fish tank. Walls were covered in posters, and desks were full of objects. There were lots of bright colours and large visuals.
Students Sharing Their Passion Projects
There were also the lights on, the windows (and blinds/bulletin boards) open, the computer screens a-glow, and many iPods and iPads bright with colour as you showed your various media texts. I can actually feel my pulse racing as I write this letter … let alone remember what it was like to experience everything.
I couldn’t take the noise. I couldn’t focus enough to ask questions. I couldn’t pay attention when you were talking to me. I actually found myself standing at the door, watching the clock, and waiting until the visits were over. For the first time ever, I raced downstairs at the bell, sat alone on the sofas in the staffroom, took a deep breath (or many deep breaths), and gave myself the self-regulation lunch that I needed.
I understand Stuart Shanker‘s book even more now. I see the value in some empty walls and some quiet areas in the classroom. I think about the many anchor charts that I hang around the room — and yes you use them — but do I hang too many? How can I balance the needs for visuals and calmness? How do I become even more aware of those of you that would become just as overwhelmed as I felt today?
Yes, I know that you had fun today. I know that you enjoyed sharing your work with others, and I know that you had a lot to say. From our conversations this afternoon, I know that many of you learned new things. But for those of you that found it hard to focus, for those of you that found it hard to listen, and for those of you that found it hard to learn, I apologize. Next time, we’ll spread out the displays. Next time, we’ll try to control the noise. Next time, we’ll take into account all learning needs and all learning styles. Next time, we’ll make things better!