At Lodge Park Academy we have lots of silence. We are silent at morning line up and in assemblies. We are silent at the beginning and end of lessons and we are silent when working independently.
We are not afraid of silence – we embrace it.
We like the calmness and stillness it brings and the opportunity for us to spend a little time in our own heads – opportunities to momentarily escape the stuff of the day and centre ourselves.
We like how silences are different – how some are filled with peace and some are prickly with pleasant anticipation. We like to be able to listen to what we are being told properly and we like our moments of thought and reflection.
And we like noise too.
In drama and music, when it’s break and lunch, when it’s sports day, when it’s time for our #LPAdance and when we sing happy birthday to members of our school family we are loud!
We recognise silence and noise need not be in tension. We understand they serve different purposes and there is place for both in every school day. Silence and noise are comfortable colleagues; the qualities of each allow us to appreciate the other.
This is not always the case.
Silence can be unpleasant. It can be tension filled and oppressive. When silence is used as punishment or simply to impose order for its own sake it can be stressfully charged. When members of a school community do not know why they are asked to be silent, looking at a silent class or assembly can be nerve-wracking – a contest of competing wills.
It happens when schools are uncomfortable with silence. It happens when there’s a cultural view something has gone wrong if everything is quiet. There are understandable reasons teachers feel this way. When I trained the silent classrooms were frowned upon and the ideal was a sort of mostly unattainable ‘working buzz’ in which everyone got loads of work done while chatting, sometimes about the work and sometimes not. The imposition of silence was viewed as an indication this had gone wrong and the teacher and class had failed.
I think this sort of belief persists in some places and this leads silence to be viewed as a punishment, which inevitably makes if feel horrible.
It should not be like this.
Today our Y11 filed into the hall in silence. They stood in front of their chairs without talking and waited quietly for an assembly to begin. In the comfortable, pleasant silence one student caught my eye and smiled with her eyes over the top of her mask.
I smiled back.
It was a good silence.