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Learn Loud

April 7, 2014
(Photo credit: Sharon Mollerus) I wanted them to be quiet. To teach my students about weather instruments, I had them read about, create, and then do a jigsaw-puzzle activity on the subject. I framed the exercise as a “mini science fair.” They were off the chain. I stared at my students as they got way too loud, jumped up and down, and caused chaos. I found myself fearing the moment when Ms. Moore or Ms. Spinney or Ms. Mason would walk into my room and give me that look. That look that says, “This is a disaster.” The science coach for our district was in the room with me, and as the activity grew louder, my students grew more obstinate, and as the day continued, I felt myself growing tired in that, “Why am I here?” sort of way. Somehow, the chaos was more painful and prevalent with an audience. Ten minutes. I told myself. You can make it for ten minutes. We walked to the busses, and the blisters from my new flats matched my mood. After the students were on their way, I walked into the coach’s office. Elaina pulled out a chair for me, but instead I kept standing, shifting my weight back and forth. I wasn’t ready to sit down. I wanted to be up and moving, up and doing. “I’m sorry it got crazy in there,” I said. “I don’t have good enough control to do an activity like that. Especially with that last block.” “You know, I really liked the lesson,” she said. “Your kids were really learning. There’s a few things you could do to improve it, but they understood the concept. Even Ron could explain how a barometer worked. He was telling me about how low-pressure meant bad weather. I was impressed.” I left Elaina’s room hopeful and thought-filled. Sometimes Matt will hold up his hands and say, “This is chaos, Ms. Freeman!” Sometimes I nod and respond only to Matt: “I don’t know how anyone can learn in this.” Sometimes I find myself shaking my head and sounding like the Grinch: “All the noise, noise, noise, noise!” And yet, I want my kids to like learning. I want them to get excited about anemometers and jump up and down when they get an answer correct. I want them to cheer for their successes. I want them to bounce back from failure. I don’t know the balance. I don’t know how to make quiet and engaged work seamlessly. I don’t know how to have perfectly prepared and scripted lessons with students that smile and sit still. But today, all that noise was okay. Today, we learned loud.