Tuesday, September 10, 2013

In Search of Quiet

Quiet Reflection.......

There was a great bit of irony in the summer's homework assignment.  For the better part of the summer, I craved "quiet."  As many parents know, the summer can be especially harsh when summer camps are done and you must find activities for your kids.  With the passing of many days and hours, as I juggled keeping my son occupied, away from too many video games and involved in more productive endeavors -- trying the balance the never ending work-home life imbalance, my inner voice kept screaming loudly for QUIET!!!

I would quickly resign myself to the fact that "quiet" would only return when I revisited the halls of LaGuardia, and my son and his testosterone laden buddies returned to middle school.  Continued irony: I would have to return to a hectic paced environment that alternates between total chaos and constant "busy-ness" in order to get some semblance of quiet.

As I began preparing for the term in my late night quiet reflection, I eventually gave thought to the assignment at hand.   How might I translate the information from Cain's work on quiet into my classroom?  In one sense this seems easy.  I totally connect and relate to everything that Cain espouses.   I had immediate reflections going back to high school when I was frequently among the heavy chatter in the classroom of my obnoxious peers who loved hearing themselves speak.   I recall always feeling the pressure to "say something" so that my teachers wouldn't think I was an idiot.   When you are surrounded by loud and fast talking people, you can easily be drowned out and not have any presence in a space.   Ones silent can easily be misinterpreted as “unknowing.”  I have always been cognizant of this.   Thus, when I think about the implicit as well as the explicit demand placed upon students to “participate in class,” I know have to rethink what I previously placed value upon in my classroom.  How could I be living two contradictory existences?  On the one hand, clearly acknowledging cultural differences in self-expression, but on the other hand proscribing the “right way” for a student to show their connection to the course material.  
It is my goal this term therefore to make use of more creative assignments that will allow the quieter students in the classroom to have a “voice.”  I was able to do this somewhat with my students during the Spring 2013 term using the Community 2.0 assignment.  I was awe-struck to see the end products of students sharing their neighborhood and community assignments.  Two sections of students taking Urban Black Psychology were sharing video projects of their neighborhoods and commenting on others’ videos.  Students who had been reticent throughout the term were able to shine.   Not only did they have a voice, but it was powerful!  

Because of this experience, I plan to use more creative assignments that will allow students to give expression to their thoughts, ideas and feelings that they might otherwise not do in the classroom.    One possible project that may allow for this is an event that I am planning with Steven Hitt this term for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.  The Women’s Center will be working with PACT and developing a Bystander Intervention Program that is intended to make bystanders aware of what role they can play in reducing partner violence.  I plan to have my students blog about the experience – what they learned, what they took away, and what value they believe an event like this offers students at LaGuardia.  

I am eager to have students share their ideas about this as I believe such a sharing creates a community -- one that many can learn and benefit from.   More on this to come….

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