The #1 …. (thing teachers are scared of)

** Not your ordinary, endless list – just what’s number 1.


I remember being a new teacher and I was so deathly scared of any silence in the classroom! I’d yammer and stammer away just to fill that void. It was a panic attack, it was a nightmare, it was worse than death.

Now, with time, experience and a lot of training, I’ve come to see the value of silence. Come to see silence more as a friend/partner than a Freddie Kruger. I see how silence is not “nothing” but something very key and elemental to the learning process. Something necessary and valuable. A teacher’s best ally.

Silence is definitely an indication of student learning and not as supposed by so many panicking, sweaty palmed teachers – a white flag of nobody home and they’ve all surrendered. Especially with language, wait time by the teacher fosters learning and gives students whose brains are overloaded and processing so much with so little power (access to LAD and all that), a chance to digest and turn on the ability to communicate. Actually, silence is essential to all speech, to all communication!

When I think of all the truly great teachers I’ve met in the classroom, either as a trainer or as a student – I got to say, they all had tamed their fear of silence. They’d wait. They get great learning and understanding from their students. They’d truly come to appreciate thought over noise.

But it is so difficult, to shut up and be silent! I still have trouble and what prompts this post was a recent class where I found myself posing great questions but not waiting long enough as the students thought. Finally realizing how frightened I was by the silence and forcing myself to count a full and slow 5 seconds before continuing.

Train yourself, force yourself to be quiet. Count to 5 or even 10. I guarantee you, your classroom will become a place of greater learning. Thought entails and needs silence. It truly does. So let’s not be afraid of it!

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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1 Response

  1. Jure says:

    I totally agree. When I first started teaching children about 4 years ago, I always felt the need to keep talking in class. After a while, I realized that I had to keep the students engaged at all times, so I kept up the tempo. Only after 6 months or so did I change my “strategy” and start focusing on “think time” and being more comfortable with silence. Teaching university aged students now, I leave plenty of silent gaps for the students to process what I’ve said, understand it, and think of a response. I have to do the same when I learn Korean, and hate it when I don’t have enough time to process. Language learning isn’t about moving forward at the speed of light, but rather moving forward one step at a time, with an occasional step back in order to re-grasp the concepts and ideas.

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