Despite my best efforts at eliciting answers and coaxing their voices to come out of hiding, I failed. I’d never encountered such silence in the classroom before. After our reading, I would ask, “So, what do you think?” Silence pounded like slow drum beats. They stared at me, occasionally blinking their wide eyes. I tried again. “Hello, how was your weekend?” Boom. The silence crashed hard and their vacant faces withstood the blow. On the third day, I got super casual, “How are you?” Boom. I heard someone blink. Boom. It was my death drum song.
Had their bodies been taken over by alien drones and their spirits sucked out into space, being held in jars as specimens in some experimentation program? Were their minds focused on getting their next incoming text message? Was I, as a teacher, now irrelevant since they had Google and they could just ‘Google it’? Google required no feedback and certainly no critical thinking. Google thrived in silent responses, while I was dying because of them.
I got on my knees and begged them to speak. I threw Smartboard pens in the air in frustration. I even collapsed on the floor and groaned in agony. Dramatic? Yes. Was I trying to get a rise from them? Certainly. I yearned for a giggle, a laugh, a sigh, any response at all. But it was always the same: deadbeat drum silence.
If ya can't beat 'em, join 'em.
I put masking tape over my mouth to ensure my silence. As the students entered the room, they gasped. A few giggled. A few pointed and could not close their gaping mouths. They each received instructions, read them and followed task directives. They tentatively moved around the room in partners, reading and gathering and analyzing information from text on the walls. I pointed out leaders to lead the class discussion. At first, they tried to look to me for approval, but my raised eyebrows and hand clapping urged them to do better than that: to think for themselves. I shut myself up and laid the foundation, giving them no choice but to hammer and chisel, to build and bang their own way to the beat of their own drum. I smiled under my masking tape and danced to ba-boom ba-boom. At long last, new, fiery drumbeats. "Yes," the world answered. "There you are. I've been waiting for you."