I am used to a classroom full of students who may require me to quiet them down a number of times. I have no problem with that. I prefer that they remain quiet, but if not, I can handle it.
Lately, I have been faced with classes of kids that will not quiet down. Or if they will, they remain quiet only for a second. Explaining concepts is very difficult for me in those classes because it is never quiet long enough for me to speak.
I've dealt as well as I could with the challenge. I've tried being quieter, being louder, and being meaner. None of these things really seemed to address the issue.
Finally it occurred to me what might be happening. I had been working under the assumption that these kids were not interested in following my directions. As I continued to observe, it struck me that this was not exactly true.
Most of them were simply working under a faulty assumption: "Teacher, if you are not giving me an instruction, you're not asking for anything. At those times I can do what I want." In other words, they're perfectly happy to do what I ask, as long as I am asking them to do something. In their minds, sitting quietly is not "doing something," even if I am talking. At those times, they will replace inactivity with activity and if I do not supply the activity, they must!
Warnings and punishment have not effectively solved this difference of mindset. They may not understand the warnings and punishments, because, in their minds, they are always doing what I ask them to do. They may be unable or unwilling to think of sitting quietly and listening as an active thing. Until I address the difference between their understanding and my expectations, we will get nowhere.
The best immediate option is to always be giving some kind of active instruction. A child in one of these classes who is not active will be talking. Therefore, I must always be giving some kind of active instruction to them, and if I want them to sit still, I must tell them how to sit still ("Be an icicle") and for how long ("until I stop talking.")
Later, if I'm clever, I can begin teaching them what I want them to know: active listening; that when they are not "doing something," they are to be attempting to figure out what I want. This will be a slow process, because changing minds is harder than giving orders. It is, however, the true definition of education.
Does this scenario seem familiar to you in your classes? Is this revelation helpful to you?