I'm blaming it on the round tables in my room. The fact that it seems so much louder this year in my classroom. By now, the fifth week into the new school year, loudness is usually not an issue. By now, the kids know the signals for quieting down when the volume gets too much. But every day, several times a day, I'm using every technique known to teachers to shush my class and quiet them down.
A good teacher friend actually suggested the idea of the round tables allowing more noise to travel around my room. I was perched in my doorway during lunch, watching the kids eat, and in all honesty, trying to get a little quiet in the hallway/doorway. My friend passed by, and as us teachers usually do, I called her name so I could have a few precious minutes of adult conversation and simultaneously not have to watch the not so appetizing table manners of a few little ones. Case in point, one boy trying to shove the entire hot dog into his mouth at once while three others looked on with a combination of intrigue and disgust.
So, after heading over to the hot dog eating boy and quietly telling him there was not a hot dog eating contest today, I scurried back to the doorway before my friend could disappear. It helps that this teacher friend's darling little boy is in my class. It was a win - win. I knew I would get a few good minutes of conversation from her and she could check-in and see her child.
"Is it just me or does this room seem really noisy?" I asked her, throwing my hands in the air.
She peeked in, scanned the room and made a concerned face.
"Well, it is lunch," she said, trying to bail me out. "Lunch is always noisy."
But I could tell she was looking for an escape. She wanted to go join her teacher friends in some peace and quiet. But I wasn't going to let her get away so fast.
"True," I agreed. "But my room sounds like this the better part of the day, it seems." I shrugged. "I will say, though, that they are almost always talking about what they should be during class - it's not like they are just talking to talk."
"Well, I think it's because of the round tables," she said. She waved her arm back and forth in the air. "There aren't any big desks to absorb some of the sound. It's all open in here - which is great - but it may create more noise."
"Of course!" I exclaimed. "I think you're right."
I was buoyed by the thought that it had nothing to do with my classroom management and was more to do with science.
We both looked across the hall into the fourth grade room with large desks grouped together around the room. Then we looked back into my room.
"They really aren't talking that loudly," she continued. "It just sounds like they are."
At this,I was interrupted by a little one tugging on my arm asking for assistance opening a package. Naturally, my teacher friend used this for a perfect escape and headed down the hallway, waving and smiling.
I helped my little friend open her carrots, reminded two others to wash their table off, and smiled and nodded at another who was telling me a story about the macaroni and cheese she was eating.
When the kids went to art after lunch and I sat in my still, quiet room, I thought about the noise level and the tables and kids. Could it be that it really was noisier but it was due to the set-up of the room? I know my class management is what it has always been. I don't mind talking, and love a good discussion, but it's the volume this year that seems out of sync.
Today, during chess, which is supposed to be a quiet game, I listened to the noise. I walked around the room and as the volume seemed to increase, I sat in on conversations and watched the kids play.
Here is some of what I heard:
"You can't move the knight there. It moves on a diagonal!" explained one little girl.
"Check!" exclaimed another. And then he followed up with, "But you can block me with your rook."
"I didn't like chess before, but now it's so fun to play!" said another, talking loudly.
"Can you help me? Does a knight move like this? Or like this?" asked another player.
And round tables or not they were all engaged. And they were all talking about chess.
And even though it sounds like loud noise sometimes to me, I'm thinking that what it really sounds like is learning.