Quieting Down

A student was upset. He wasn’t my student. He’s not even in Grade 1, but he’s still somebody’s student. And this student happened to be coming out of a classroom near the one where I was delivering my students for my prep. I noticed because he ran past me. I noticed because I heard a supply teacher at the time call his name, and I knew there was a problem. That was when I started walking back to class, and I heard his name on the announcements. I also saw him sitting in an alcove not far from my classroom. So I stopped. I sat down next to him. I thought back to Stuart Shanker‘s Calm, Alert, and Learning book that I read last year, and I forced myself — really forced myself — to keep my voice very low. And in that whisper voice, I asked him, “What’s wrong?” He told me. I listened. I let him calm down, and then I convinced him to walk with me to where he was asked to go. We spoke about staying calm. We spoke about what he could do if he was feeling upset. We spoke about the fact that it’s okay to ask for a break, but it’s not okay to scream and run. In those few minutes, on a difficult day, I felt like what I did mattered.

That’s when I started to think about what I did. I kept calm and stayed quiet. This is hard for me.

  • I’m a loud person.
  • I speak loudly.
  • My actions are big.
  • I get easily excited, and the more excited I get, the louder I get.
  • I’m passionate, and passion can be loud.

I think it’s a good thing to be wrapped up in the true joy of learning, and it’s one of the reasons that I’m thrilled to go and teach every day … because I truly love what I do! For so many of us, this excitement shows, and for me in the classroom, it can often be in my louder words and bigger actions. But that afternoon, I couldn’t help but think of this student. I wonder if “the quiet” helped him, or at least it did at the time. And so as the day came to an end, and the volume in the classroom got louder, I tried hard to quiet down.

  • I turned off the overhead lights.
  • I talked less.
  • I whispered more. 

In my head, I had to talk myself through this process, but it worked! The students were calmer, and the environment was calmer. I liked the feel of this!

I’m not perfect! I know that many times, I’m loud and excited, and most of the time and for the majority of my students, this isn’t a problem. But what about my students that would do better with this “quieter” tone? How do I give them what they need? How do you create this calm classroom environment? I wonder what impact this would have on all students, and I wonder how I can do it more. 


6 thoughts on “Quieting Down

  1. Aviva,
    I find that lamps rather than overhead lights along with a bubbling fishtank and playing classical music (during work time) all have a very calming effect. My kids now hate the fluorescent lights and feel somewhat blinded by them.

    • Thanks for the comment, Joanne! I have a big window in my classroom, and I try to keep the curtains open to bring in natural light. I don’t have really convenient outlets for lamps, but I think I need to look and see what I can do. I do try to only keep one of the two overhead lights on to minimize the brightness. I have never tried the fish tank idea or the classical music, but now you’re giving me more things to consider. Thanks for the suggestions!


  2. Hi Aviva – I can relate, as though I’m not an overly loud and excitable person, I tend to move and think at a million miles an hour. It’s often a very conscious effort on my part to *slow down* in order to properly listen, or help a frustrated student.

    My classes are usually loud as students are up and moving or working together, and keeping a reasonable volume is often a challenge. One of the ways I help those who need a more quiet environment is to allow those students to spill out into the hallway to work (I even have floor cushions for them). I’m always trying to keep on top of the noise level, but it’s a struggle (especially when most of them are engaged in on-topic discussion!).

    I try, also, to match activities with the day of the week – Mondays (when the students are always chatty after the weekend) and Wednesdays (when I have a particular class at the end of the day) I can plan activities that take advantage of that energy. Other days I can plan for more quiet work and have a more realistic chance of it staying quiet 🙂

    • Thanks Heather for sharing what you do! I like your idea of planning ahead based on the days of the week and what you know about the students. It’s clear that you’re putting students first, and when it comes to planning, I think that’s most important. I like how you give some quieter areas to your students as well. With younger students, I struggle with having them work out in the hall (if I’m in the classroom), but we do have a pod attached to our room. This is shared by all of the Grade 1 teachers. Maybe I can create a few quiet areas out in the pod, but near enough to the door, that I can still see and help the students but provide that quieter area. Thanks for giving me more to think about!


  3. I teach a transitional k, andI have used classical music during work time. It’s amazing how they’ll ask each other to be quiet if they can’t hear the music anymore. It really helps them self regulate during work time. As they finish their tasks, I hear them whisper “what do you think this song is about?”, as I had explained that some songs were written to be danced to, or to represent war, etc. they are super into it.

    • Thanks for the comment, Shirley! I’ve never used classical music during work time before, but now you’re giving me something new to think about. Do you have a classical CD or online collection that you like or do you constantly choose different pieces? I’d love to know more about what you do.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *