Stuck in the Middle: Sounds Like
A few years ago, the North Saanich staff participated in a professional learning activity where we created three large posters of what we wanted our school to ‘look like’, ‘sound like’ and ‘feel like’. Nowhere on any of those pictures were there images of silence on the ‘sounds like’ poster. We know that middle school is a busy, active place and we want our students engaging in their learning, not sitting passively listening to lectures.
What does learning sound like in middle school? It involves conversation between peers, students and teachers asking questions, or a less formal playing or designing of projects. We want the language being used to be respectful, kind and inquisitive, but we never want silence. Silence is a warning sign that no learning is taking place. Schools should have a buzz!! We want to hear the neurons firing as students engage in learning. At the minimum, we want pages turning, pencils passionately scribbling or Chromebook keys clicking.
So we should have been worried on Friday afternoon when we heard the ‘Sound of Silence.’
It happened at recess when Mr. Mark and I were walking and talking about what a great start up we have had at North Saanich. We were both very pleased at how quickly our students and staff had transitioned into learning.
We both heard the ‘Sound of Silence’ at the same time, so we walked in its direction. We could see a group of our students sitting in a tight group on the edge of the soccer field. They sat very still as the ‘Sound of Silence’ drifted our way. At first, I blamed the ‘Sound of Silence’ on cell phones, but I did not see a single phone in any of their hands. The sound was clearer as we got closer. The cluster of students was singing the classic song the ‘Sound of Silence.’ This makeshift acapella group would have made the members of Pentatonix pleased and Simon and Garfunkel proud.
I just sat there and listened, while Mr. Mark took out his phone and recorded them. Finally, the ‘Sound of Silence’ would fit on our ‘sounds like’ learning poster. Before we left, we chatted with the girls. They wanted to know if they could use their song as the song of the week at our Monday assembly. I asked, “Would you be willing to work with Ms. Sousa before going in front of your peers?”
A quick, “Of course,” was followed up by group chatter that was so fast and furious between them that I could not follow, so we let them giggle and laugh in peace, but it was not silent.
At North Saanich Middle School, we believe that learning involves the active participation of our students and this is rarely done in silence. Sometimes learning at NSMS sounds like music to our ears!