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  • Writer's pictureDonna Gerard


Updated: Oct 6, 2023


Teaching is not a silent profession. While there are many professions in which you spend significant amounts of time reading, writing, creating, drawing, or calculating, teaching is not that job. You get to talk to your class, to small groups, to individual students, and to your colleagues. Of course, most of your conversation will be with six-year-olds, or with adolescents. But there is lunchtime for adult conversation, and you may sorely need it. Here’s a guideline to classroom conversation.

· When talking to a class, you have a limited time. The general guideline is to talk one minute for each year of the students’ age. If you are teaching seven-year-olds, you’ve got approximately seven minutes to get your point across before they lose their concentration and start sliding off their chairs. You have a bit more leeway with older kids, but your highschoolers will still slide off their chairs or fall asleep. Give them something to do. That could mean asking a few questions to seek feedback from them, giving them a practice problem, or assigning them to write a few sentences summarizing what they learned so far. Then you can continue with your lesson for another 7–17 minutes.

· When students are doing group work, this is theoretically a great time to check understanding and reteach something they may be confused about. In real life, this is also your chance to observe behaviors that will prompt you to say things like:

o Do not lick the desk.

o Stop kicking Johnny.

o The scissors are for cutting paper, not your hair.

· You will get frequent chances to talk to students one on one. Embrace it because it can’t be avoided.

o There will always be a student who comes to you immediately after recess to report the details of what happened on the playground.

o You will have meetings in the hallway to explain that it is not acceptable to touch other students’ butts. The offending student will deny touching anyone even though they did it while you were watching from three feet away and the other student is complaining loudly and smacking their hand.

o There was one year when I wanted to write for my fifth period plans, “I will be standing in the doorway with one foot in the hallway trying to ascertain why (use the name of the student of the day) is crying, while Roger runs three laps around the room bopping kids on the head or taking their pencils.”

o Speaking of pencils, you will spend many hours listening to reports of missing pencils and helping to hunt them down.

o You will also hear about why students don’t have their homework, what happened in the bathroom, and you might be treated to a medical report on dad’s hernia operation.

· At lunch time, and sometimes during your prep, you get to talk to other adults. These adults are going through the same experiences as you, so some of the talk will still be about what happened in the bathroom, and what inane thing had to be said to a child. Although it is tempting to spend all of lunch venting and sharing do remember that lunchtime is fleeting (even if it is technically just as long as language arts) and it is nice to sometimes have regular grown up conversations.

· Of all the things I’ve had to tell students, my personal favorite was, “You should not be kissing the bathroom walls.”

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