Monday, April 21, 2014

The Power of Quiet~ Changing Perspectives and Opening Minds

I have learned many things from being a parent.  Some things I expected to learn, like how to make the best macaroni and cheese or how to do laundry, read a book and cook dinner all at once. These are the things parents expect to learn in the throes of parenthood, these are the easy parts. Fortunately, parenting runs deeper, parenting teaches us about sacrifices, differences and perspectives.

Our daughters are perfect replicas of my husband and me. The daughter most like me is alive and happy in the throws of people. Our other daughter who is most like my husband, is happiest curled up with a good book or hanging out with a couple of close friends. I have admired her love of quiet moments, times spent inside books and her ability to avoid drama.  This world has been unknown to me and it's a world I desperately want to understand.

Changing Perspectives and Opening Minds~
My perspective (or lack there of) on the power of quiet became evident one day when my daughters and I were shopping and I saw some cozy bean bag chairs.  I wanted these chairs for my classroom; I knew the kids would LOVE these chairs! Unfortunately, the chairs were $30 a piece and a little on the large side.  As I walked through the store I couldn't stop thinking about the possibilities of these chairs in our classroom. But where would I put them and how could I justify spending $60 on beanbag chairs!  Innocently my daughter asked me,  "Why do you always build your spaces for partners?  Maybe some kids want to cozy up alone."  These words opened my eyes and changed the way I look at teaching, learning and the world.

I bought the ONE chair and I created that cozy spot for ONE in our classroom and guess what?  The kids LOVED this space! They loved this space so much that THEY made a schedule for the space!  Seeing the popularity of this area and the quality of thought and work that was coming from this alone space I created 2 more independent spaces in our room. I was shocked when I noticed they were the first spots chosen as kids settle around the room to work!

New Found Power and Value~
The power of these quiet spaces demanded time for reflection and refining in my teaching practices.  What was it about these "alone spaces" in our classroom and the time my daughter spends reading and reflecting that transforms thoughts and focus?  What was it that I was missing? 
In my quest to understand and appreciate the power of this alone time and the power of quiet I started to listen more carefully to those around me and that's when I found the resource that changed my perspective on the power of quiet.  While talking with @CathyMere and @MaryLeeHahn,  Mary Lee shared a book and a recent post on a Ted Talk that explains the value and thought process behind quiet.  I was fascinated by her conversation and knew this book was moving to the TOP of my list!  

Susan Cain author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking -- Kindle edition is only $2.99, explains that it is only in our aloneness that we can go to that place where we are most challenged and work through our thoughts for our understanding.  Cain discusses the influence of an audience and fear of judgment that can actually change our thinking when working in groups. She explains that we are instinctively mirroring the opinions of the group without our knowledge and suggest we are best to go off and perceive our ideas then collaborate to take the thinking further.

Reflective Connections ~
As I thought about Cain's message I found confirmation not only in what I see in our classroom, but also in the way I work.  In order to feel prepared and to be an active member of a discussion I find I need time to think through the agenda and make notes of my thoughts prior to the group think.

 Cain suggests we allow our student's to be who they are and allow time for kids to work independently and in collaborative ways. She suggests we have time alone with our thoughts to allow them to grow and solidify. Cain encourages us to know ourselves and work to our strengths and share these gifts with the world.

Transforming My Teaching~
As I looked across my day I realized I had built in quiet time and group time in most parts of my day except math.  I have adjusted our math workshop to allow the kids to get lost in their math thinking and already I have noticed improved focus and some kids making shifts in deepening their understanding of math concepts.  

As I observed the power of quiet think time in our classroom I asked the kids to reflect on this time. You can see their thinking here.  It was humbling to listen to the kids openly reflect on their focus, process and learning.  These reflections have helped to shape our lessons, individual conferences and assess student learning.  I have found value in building in time for independent work and will continue to make space (and time) for kids to be alone with their learning. 

You can learn more about the Power of Quiet here~ 

Mary Lee's post- Last Week's Ted Talk

1 comment:

Mary Alice Pouliot said...

Wow- great thoughts! Thanks for that. I will have to do this in my first grade classroom as well. I have tried to build so much collaboration and partner/group work into the routine, that I wonder if I've sacrificed the individual think time in the process? What a wise daughter you have, and good job taking note!