This past week, a teacher and I discussed the frustration she was having managing the voices of a few students in her classroom. Her biggest fear was missing out on the important things that her more introverted and quiet students had to say. We brainstormed ideas by which a teacher could manage a lesson so that everyone’s voice could be heard. We talked about having silent chalk-talks or passing out 3 chips to every student, indicating the number of times a student has to participate verbally during the discussion. Both strategies work very well in helping loud students center themselves and begin to self-reflect on participating in meaningful ways, instead of verbalizing everything that enters their mind. These strategies also help the shy, quiet students who have valuable things to contribute but feel unable to do so when others are taking up all of the air space.
This discussion reminded me of a blog post written by teacher, Seth Godin, titled Loud Voices vs. Important Voices. Seth writes, “We can acknowledge that someone is upset, we can see them, respect them and help them. But we shouldn’t get confused that there’s a correlation between their ALL CAPS EFFORT AT ATTENTION and our agenda to serve the people we seek to serve.” This resonated deeply with me because a critical part of my role as Director is to have a clear purpose when serving my students, faculty, and the greater community. It is easy to get sidetracked from that purpose when I only listen to the people who are the loudest or those who say the scariest things. I can listen and help those constitutes AND I can make sure I am elevating voices and ideas of those who are easily overlooked or unheard.
In Lower School, one way we work on teaching students to find their voice and be able to make room for other voices and perspectives is through the daily routine of Morning Meeting. The components of Morning Meeting allow students to be seen and to have a voice each and every day, teaching students many valuable lessons about communication – specifically how to have respectful dialogue, listen attentively, speak clearly, ask clarifying questions, give reasons for assertions, and agreeing and disagreeing respectfully. Students also learn how to respond when a friend shares something that’s really upsetting them. Lower School teachers model how to ask questions that demonstrate you are listening attentively and for understanding. Most importantly, we know that when students feel connected, they excel academically and socially. Morning Meeting helps create a space for learning all of these valuable communication skills.
Stephanie Medcalfe is the Lower School Director at Cape Fear Academy.
Stephanie and her husband moved to Wilmington from Indianapolis, Indiana where she was the Assistant Principal for Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School. Stephanie has taught in both elementary and middle schools and has been a Special Educator. She graduated from Ball State University with a B.S. in Elementary Education and an M.E. in Educational Administration. She is responsible for the Lower School Faculty and the After School Program.