Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Please Stay Standing for a Moment of Silence?

This is only my second year as a teacher, but I have been very disciplined to take notice of all the important little apsects of the day that can make or break a nurturing environment. By nurturing I mean an environment that fosters a safe learning environment where meaningful life skills and academic learning occurs.

Every morning two sixth grade students lead the whole school through the Pledge of Allegiance,our school pledge, and miscellaneous announcements over the intercom. It is what the students say right after the pledges; "Please stay standing for a moment of silence" that has made me question what the students think this really means.

Last year I didn't say anything to anyone about it. I would just stand there and personally make a mental note about what kind of day I wanted to have and that I was thankful for having a job as a teacher.

But today I couldn't take it any more and I had to say something. After mentioning my concern to a few teachers, I had a conversation with my class. Since it is my students that take turns with another 6th grade class to make the announcements, I felt that it was a neccessary conversation. I need to mention that every time the announcements have been made the "moment of silence" literally has lasted about 2 seconds. It has almost been comical because I can't even gather my thoughts before the students say "please be seated."

To lead off the whole class discussion I first asked my students, if they knew what or who has given them the right to sit in their desk and to learn? I was pleased to hear one of my students say that it is because of the US soldiers. This led to me ask, what do you think the moment of silence after the pledges is for? The students just sat there and stared at me. So I asked more questions to get them to come to the realization that it is really about thinking about our freedom, those that have sacrificed themselves for our freedom and safety, maybe our faith, a moment to reflect on what we are thankful for or what kind of day "I" want to have.
After our discussions we came to a concensus that who ever does the announcements, they need to count 7 seconds so everyone can have enough time to do one of the choices we came up with.


  1. That's a wonderful way of getting kids thinking. Also, seeing as we leave at least 3 seconds for them to answer a simple knowledge recall question, your point about 7 seconds seems valid, and I would say why not even extend that? Encourage them to reflect, rather than surrendering to today's culture of instant gratification?

  2. Even your (post) title is a question!!

    Engaging young minds in dialogue through questions is one of the great privileges in life. How wonderful it is to see you taking advantage of this!

    The question is...Did you mention your concern to fellow teachers using questions as well? :)

  3. taxigirl,

    Thanks for your comment. I think you are right, the time should be extended. My thinking is that if I encourage them to change it from 2 to 7 seconds it would be less of an extreme change. Since the whole school hears the announcements, I didn't want some one to question a greater pause right away. As I mentioned I am only in my second year of teaching, I don't want to step on any one's toes or to bring too much attention to myself. Since my class and I have had a discuss about this change, we understand the point, but the rest of the school hasn't talked about it. I really can't speak for other teachers, that wouldn't be fair. I can say that if other teachers have talked about that "pause" and what it means with their students, I can't imagine how they could actually do anything during the 2 seconds that was previously provided. Maybe in a week or two I will encourage the students to pause for 10 seconds. Let's see how long it takes for another class to question the change. Maybe I can send some of my 6th grades to their class to have a meaningful discussion with the students. My school has grades K-6, so my students are the oldest student "role models." It would be nice to hear the my students inspire the younger students.

  4. Doug,

    First of all, thanks for following my blog and for supporting my work.
    Secondly, I have not mentioned my concern about using questioning to my own peers. Encouraging students to be active learners, advocating for themselves, and to take charge of their learning are a few things that I have briefly discussed a couple of times. Usually I keep my classroom practices to myself.