Teachers, why all the “shushing”?

Shhhhh. Finger raised to lips, teacher looks sternly at students. Once again, “sshsh:


What message are we sending our students when we shush them?

I recently posed this to some teachers I was working with.  I’d noticed it in their classrooms and in others the day before.  Now I couldn’t help but hear it.

And I cringed every time.

Look, I’ve done it. We all have.  But when have to ask ourselves—what’s happening in a class that leads to the shushing?

Are kids talking “out of turn”?  If so, why?

Are they trying to get clarification from another student? If so, why?

Are they shouting out the answer?  If so, why?

In the first example, let’s ask—when should they speak?

Why isn’t this the “right” time?  When CAN they speak?

More importantly, what happens when kids talk?

         They think.

         They inquire

         They communicate

         They make sense of things.

And when we shush, we shut that all down. We reinforce compliance and we make it clear who the class belongs to.

Shushing—that thing that we have ALL done at some point or another—likely means that we haven’t established a classroom in which students’ voice matters, in which they can engage with each other and with the teacher.

Let’s stop shushing and start creating robust classrooms full of meaningful dialogue and chatter.  That’s when we think. That’s when we learn.