Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

Why the Imperative to be quiet and focused all day is hurting our kids.

Posted by   + Show Post



Why the Imperative To Be Quiet and Focused All Day in School Is Hurting Our Kids


By carolyncastiglia | November 13th, 2012 at 10:36 am

behavior in school, kids talking to themselves, how children learn

Think about this for a minute before you punish kids for talking.


My 7-year-old daughter, a second grader, was recently punished for talking while the teacher was talking. She was sent to the "learn how to behave center," she says, because she and her friend were commenting to each other about just how many kids were being sent to the "learn how to behave center." My daughter felt it was unfair that she had been sent there instead of being allowed to play, but I explained to her that it's not fair to talk while the teacher is talking. I assured her I would ask her teachers about what happened, though, because I also wanted to be sure she wasn't being unduly punished. When I approached one of her teachers about it, I was told that my daughter had been chatty all week, not just while the "punishments" were being doled out. That seemed reasonable, and since I was a chatty kid myself, I wanted to help my daughter understand why it's important to listen and not speak while the teacher is speaking.


When I broached the subject with my daughter again, she told me talking out of turn isn't the only reason kids are asked to "learn how to behave." Talking during what is supposed to be a "quiet" time seems to be one of the main reasons kids get sent to this shame-filled little corner of the classroom. While I understand the need teachers feel to control the chaos that can come with 30 elementary-aged students squawking in one small classroom, I think some allowances have to be made for children to talk at a low volume during certain traditionally "silent" periods throughout the day, like while reading or writing, for example. Here's why: 


As this article on Bright Hub Education indicates, "Many studies suggest that the function of private speech is to assist the child in performing some developmental task." Private speech is that quiet little voice kids use to talk to themselves, giving themselves a play-by-play of what they're doing, and it helps them accomplish the task at hand. So for example, if the task at hand is to write a short paragraph about how you spent the weekend, a child will likely feel the urge to verbalize his thoughts while writing in order to accurately recall what he did over the weekend. Contrary to the belief teachers have traditionally maintained, being silent doesn't actually help young children focus while writing. They literally need to talk it out, but as Bright Hub Education notes, "In most schools, such behavior is not encouraged." That's unfortunate, especially because the brightest students may be the ones that are hampered the most by a "be quiet" policy. "The brighter the child, the more time spent in talking to one's self," Bright Hub Education asserts. Furthermore, "there is evidence that talking to one's self is related to the quality of performance, particularly in brighter children."


But what about children who have trouble controlling themselves? My daughter is in a class that includes students with special needs, thus the emphasis on behavior modification. In fact, when I spoke to her teacher about the talking issue, her teacher told me, "Your daughter is a great student, and we look to her to be a role model. So encouraging her to address her behavior now will benefit everyone in the long run." (Yeah, okay, as long as she doesn't end up hating school in the short run.) But here's what's interesting about self-talk and kids with impulse control issues: allowing children who have poor self-control to give themselves "self-directing verbal commands" helps them learn how to behave. Probably a lot more effectively than a trip to the "learn how to behave center" will. According to psychologist Grace Craig, "Private speech is a way of expressing one's feelings, gaining understanding of one's environment, and developing language, as well as being a tool for developing self-control and inner thought." It doesn't seem like something to discourage, as far as I'm concerned.


I'm not trying to minimize the fact that a class of nearly 30 second graders needs to be subject to rules. Obviously there can't be out-of-control noise all day, if only to maintain the sanity of the teachers. But I think that allowing children a little more leeway in terms of expressing themselves while working - as long as they are indeed working - is a better approach. The idea that children must remain focused all day in order to achieve has been debunked by research indicating that daydreaming (which is essentially what one does while ruminating about what to write) is not only "crucial to our mental health, to our relationships, and to our emotional and moral development," it also "promotes the skill parents and teachers care so much about: the capacity to focus on the world outside our heads."


As Anne Murphy Paul, author of Brilliant: The New Science of Smart, says, "educational practices that demand constant attentiveness, even from young children" interfere with "opportunities to exercise the vital capacity of introspection." Paul wrote in a recent article for Forbes:


Over time, of course, giving yourself instructions becomes unnecessary - but while you're learning, it does three important things. First, it enhances our attention, focusing us on the important elements of the task and screening out distractions. Second, it helps us regulate our effort and make decisions about what to do, how to do it, and when. And third, self-talk allows us to control our cognitive and emotional reactions, steadying us so we stay on task.


If that advice is good enough for billionaire business people, I think it should be good enough for our children. I understand that it may be difficult for teachers who are used to running their classroom in a particular way to open up to this line of thinking, but my daughter actually had a brilliant idea about how to accomplish a more open atmosphere that includes allowing students a bit of self-talk throughout the day. In another classroom that my daughter visits after school there's a sign that lists all of the "voices" kids can use, ranging from whispering to yelling for help in an emergency. She thought a visual reference like that would help her and her classmates remain respectful while giving them the bit of wiggle room they need to keep themselves out of the "learn how to behave center." They already know how to behave - the impulse to self-talk is a natural one. One that teachers can hopefully learn how to work with.


by on Nov. 18, 2012 at 2:53 PM
Replies (21-30):
by Platinum Member on Nov. 18, 2012 at 9:39 PM

This school sounds terrible.  My son's school has a more hands on approach.  Our state changed their curriculum this year to encompass a more hands on approach to education.  We are trying to also phase out standardized testing.  My son's teacher has experiments for science, math, etc.  So is working.  They still have spelling tests every Friday, but she also incorporate their spelling words into other subjects.  We chose a really good school district because homeschooling was never considered an option for our family.  We visited three private schools in our area and were not impressed with their religion over academics approach.  

Daisypath Anniversary tickersLilypie Maternity tickers

Lilypie Kids Birthday tickers

by Member on Nov. 18, 2012 at 9:58 PM

I homeschool three of my kids. I find it much better to work around their individual traits rather than them be lumped in with a bunch of other kids. My kids have never had any problems in public school with grades, but I just think kids need more individual teaching/learning.

My oldest dd, 13, wants to go to public high school next year and I am just not sure what I want to do. We started homeschooling almost a year ago and I really enjoy it. I would hate for her to go back to public school and have issues with what goes on there. In our local high school that my oldest, 19, went to, there were kids caught in the hallway doing sex acts... Kinda scary!

by Member on Nov. 18, 2012 at 10:12 PM
As a high school English teacher, my classes are 90 minute blocks. I can't be still and quiet for 90 minutes straight, so there is no way I expect my students to. Each day, I break my class time into sections of about 20 minutes each. There is always collaborative time. During independent work, I allow students to communicate with people in their immediate vicinity, as long as the conversation is about the assignment (for the most part). Most of my classes sit in groups, so that facilitates conversation among the students.
Posted on the NEW CafeMom Mobile
by on Nov. 18, 2012 at 10:13 PM

Yup, there really needs to be a serious, long-term overhaul of the public school system. 

My kids go to the best elementary school in our town (I chose to pay more in rent to get them in this district), and even that isn't what I'd like it to be. My oldest does exceptionally well in school with very little effort. He makes a's and b's with, I'd estimate, about 65% effort at school work. My youngest, on the other hand, has dyslexia and finds school incredibly challenging -- not just with reading and school work, he's just a very hand-on, likes to be engaged kind of child.

So for both of them, their needs aren't being met at school, though for very different reasons. I think a Montessori or Waldorf school would be great for both of them, because there is a flexibility there that works with the children and for them. 

*Edit: um, yeah, my oldest isn't in elementary school anymore (doh!). He's in middle school. We do have some great magnet programs here for middle school. He's in the science magnet, they just got back from an overnight field trip to a space museum (and they got to spend the night in the museum, which is, obviously, sooo cool). They get more, and more intense, field trips as they progress. The 8th graders go to Washington, D.C. for their big one. 

But even with these awesome programs, it's still not great, because only 70 kids are admitted to each entering 6th grade class, and that is determined by blind luck lottery. That cohert then goes through 8th grade together. So yes, they really are getting an intensive, thorough, and overall great education in these programs. But that should be extended to ALL students. 

There are 9 magnet programs, in 4 different schools: engineering, art, multimedia, dance, piano, theatre, media, science, and music technology. 

Quoting tooptimistic:

I agree. Public schools would work so much better for our kids if the Waldorf and Montessori philosophies were applied.  Our schools are very broken, and not working for the majority of our kids. 

I homeschool, because the public schools in my area are not very good for autistic children who are high functioning. 

Quoting krysstizzle:

Any type of experiential learning is a good thing, imo. And though I'm not throughly familiar with it, what I've seen and know of Waldorf schools seem to be a good system as well. Academics are important, of course, but the sole focus on rote memorization and sitting in a chair for 6 or 7 hours a day is just awful, I think.

I should say, my two children do go to public school, and I make the best of it. The things we do together involve a lot of experiential type stuff, a lot of fun stuff. 

Quoting desertlvn:

Quoting krysstizzle:

I think our traditional school settings aren't very condusive to healthy, creative, and exploratory development in our children in general. 

What type of school systems do you think does? 

by Ruby Member on Nov. 18, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Interesting article. Child got in trouble for talking to a friend & not self-talk, however.
Posted on the NEW CafeMom Mobile
by on Nov. 19, 2012 at 9:34 AM
1 mom liked this

Talking to oneself is much different than disrupting the classroom by chatting with a bunch of friends.  It used to be (in olden times when your grandparents had to walk to school, in the snow, uphill, both ways) that children were only allowed to speak with spoken to.  And, they got to wear a dunce hat when they sat in that corner.  So.... neh - I'm not seeing that this is a problem.  Be quiet and listen to the teacher or suffer the consequences.  It's not all about you or what you have to say all the time (general you - not you OP you).  Maybe it we expected kids to behave just a bit more, and take responsiblity for their own actions - say sitting in a corner doing nothing while their friends played - and then didn't coddle them by running to ask the teacher WHY did you do that to my sweet baby, then they'd learn a bit more about their actions.  Sorry.

by Platinum Member on Nov. 19, 2012 at 9:45 AM

When I broached the subject with my daughter again, she told me talking out of turn isn't the only reason kids are asked to "learn how to behave." Talking during what is supposed to be a "quiet" time seems to be one of the main reasons kids get sent to this shame-filled little corner of the classroom.  

A seven year old knows the main reason for punishment of an entire classroom?  IMO, 7 year old might be pre occupied with " the learn how to behave " system and not her own learning.  Or, mom is looking for her 5 min of fame based on writing an article that focuses on what her 7 year old perceives as the main reason for a teachers time out system.  

by Member on Jan. 29, 2013 at 7:05 PM

DD1 has always been a shy, quiet and respectful kid at school.  We encourage her to speak up and to not be afraid to voice her opinions, thoughts, and feelings in a public setting.  She bloomed last year.  She found her voice and unfortunately, she was in the most unwanted class in the whole school.  While I was friendly with the teacher, she complained that my daughter didn't make star student because she talked too much and was one of the worst offenders of disruption.  But not in a disrespectful way, she added.  I was so happy to hear DD1 was talking that I explained to the teacher that she was giving me good news because DD1 must feel so comfortable in her class that she is expressing herself.  The teacher was not amused.

by on Jan. 29, 2013 at 8:01 PM
I agree.

Quoting Veni.Vidi.Vici.:

I think that it can be very difficult to help kids understand quiet time, what it means and why following directions is important. In my opinion it's important that children learn to follow directions and also learn that when they do not there are consequences. I'm all for healthy group discussions, even those that tend to get diverted into a different direction, but it can't happen any old time.

I want my kids to feel comfortable asking questions in class and participating in discussion. I also want them to be able to keep quiet when they're asked to do so, even if that means not talking to ones self.

Is it ALWAYS appropriate? Most likely no. Are there going to be exceptions? Absolutely! Is it unreasonable to ask children to oserve quiet time while working? Not at all.

Posted on CafeMom Mobile
by on Jan. 29, 2013 at 8:08 PM
Mmm.. I Chose to not talk in class..ever.even now, and I'm doing just fine.
Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)