Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The thing I actually said to my students in class yesterday

...after the fourth incredibly long pause in which I waited for someone to speak up in discussion:*

"There's something you need to know about me. Every morning, I practice twenty minutes of silent meditation. I also practice yoga 4-5 times a week. So not only can I outlast you in sitting here without saying a word; I can do it standing on one leg."


*To be fair, this class is not normally like this. But yesterday appeared to be the day that everybody figured that someone else would do the reading and talking. And for what it's worth, they laughed. But I think they'll come prepared next time.

12 comments:

Sydney said...

I had a teaching mentor during my brief stint at a private boarding school who would begin the first day of class discussion by telling her students, "I'm a Quaker. This means I'm *very* comfortable with silence, and I will wait as long as I have to until one of you has something to say." She meant it, too.

ABDMama said...

Awesome. Did it work?

Dr. S said...

This is AWESOME. Nicely done.

On the other hand, if they're sitting in productive silence, that's not a bad thing. Just not necessarily comfortable. I sometimes worry that I don't create enough time/space for silence in my classroom.

(I had my first day of seminar here today!)

Anonymous said...

"There's something you should know about me. I grew up in a house full of guns. That's unusual for a Commie social scientist, I know, but it's true. I also learned to speak when spoken to. I am speaking to you. You are not speaking. Do you know what my parents did to me when I didn't speak?"

Notorious Ph.D. said...

@ Anon: Okay, now I'm a little scared. But I will make sure to come to class prepared from now on!

Dr. Koshary said...

LOL! In fact, I have said something similar to at least one of my classes, although I'm not a yoga practitioner, and so I left out the one-legged part.

I've always been inspired by a story that a history prof told us when I was freshman in college: a senior colleague of his was implacable in making students participate in discussion. He would begin class by asking them a question to get the ball rolling, and if no one responded after a short period of time, he would announce, "Well, if you don't have anything to say, I certainly don't have anything to say." And he would sit there in the increasingly uncomfortable (but productive!) silence until the students piped up.

Dr. Koshary said...

@Sydney: Oh, please, if it's all right, I made need to appropriate that quotation for my classes. :D

Good Enough Woman said...

I love this! Wish I could have said it.

J. Otto Pohl said...

My experience is that if I tried this then a very large number of my classes, maybe a majority would be totally silent. Getting undergraduates to talk may be easy in the US, I do not know. But, I have found it very difficult here in Ghana and it was equally hard in Kyrgyzstan. Maybe its just me.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

@ J. Otto -- It's likely as much the way you say it as what you say. But yes, cultural differences are important as well.

Matt Duckworth said...

I will sometimes point out that while I am comfortable with the silence in the classroom and that I am fine if we don't quite get to everything I had planned for us to discuss for the midterm, they might want us to get to more of the material that's going to be on the midterm. That works for a day or so. And, frankly, just calling on people for a few days usually sets the pattern for talking in class too.

Matt Duckworth said...

Oh, Notorious, your comment was far funnier than my comment, and--like any good teacher--I may steal that sometime. Humor can work wonders too. I find smiling at the students helps a lot too.