I thought I might escape the Horrid Virus/Allergies/Plague thing that was attacking both the staff and students at school, but it got me. It started last week with the sniffles and a bit of a cough, and escalated to include an eye infection and a desire to trade heads with someone else. Anyone else.
After a doctor visit and some antibiotics, I was on the mend. There was one more little surprise, however, that was in store. When I woke up yesterday, I had completely lost my voice. I couldn’t make a sound–not even a whisper. I headed to school with some trepidation, wondering how to get through a day of teaching without being able to speak at all.
It was an unusual day, both for myself and my students. I invented some crazy ways to get my kids’ attention and ended up giving math directions in giant font up on the white board screen. My kids started the day with bewildered looks as they realized I couldn’t talk to them, but as the day wore on things started to change.
We only have a few days left of school as a class of second graders. As my students realized that I couldn’t be at the helm, they stepped up. They drove their own learning, ran their own routines. I heard them reminding each other of directions and how to find their own answers without asking the teacher. They took turns speaking up when it was time to clean up, line up, change rotations. They helped each other solve problems and fix mistakes. In short, they ran their own classroom as if I wasn’t even there. I was so proud of them! It was a gift to witness the way the way they took charge of their own learning and managed their own classroom.
I also learned the value of listening. If I thought I had been a good listener before, that was nothing compared to how I had to listen when I couldn’t make a sound. It was amazing the things I learned yesterday by listening to my students. I heard the way they support each other and the way that they can turn on each other. Without me to help them fix it, I heard them talk out their conflicts and walk off to start again. I heard them encourage each other when the math seemed too hard to solve. I heard them share ideas about writing that wouldn’t have happened with my bossy voice in the way. It did me a world of good to be forced to do nothing but listen.
I stayed home from school today so my students could work with an adult who could actually speak to them–but I know we all learned some valuable lessons from the day that the teacher had no voice. Just as it should be at the end of a long year learning together, it was the students who had all the voice we needed–and a teacher who did nothing but listen.