Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Silence is Golden

Those who know do not talk.
Those who talk do not know
–Tao Te Ching

I teach in a graduate school. The best class I ever taught was when I had laryngitis and couldn’t even squeak for several days. We couldn’t afford to cancel class and get behind, so I spent some time planning the class around group work. I typed out a series of steps that I wanted the groups to follow. When I walked into class, I smiled and silently handed out the instructions. At first, everyone just looked at me like maybe it was a joke and I would begin class in my usual way. Using hand gestures, I communicated that I wasn’t kidding and urged them to begin.

As they worked, I walked around the class and eavesdropped. I was amazed at the creativity and productivity generated by the students as they set themselves to the task. It was like a treasure hunt for learning. The instructions were clues, and the students had to interpret them and find the treasure. There was laughter and furrowed brows. Ideas flew around the room like dragonflies. The students challenged and helped each other. At the end of class, they had accomplished more than assigned, and they were excited and pleased with themselves.

They learned a lot, but I learned even more. I learned that the less I spoke the more they learned. It changed the way I taught.

Of course, I couldn’t talk at home either, much to my children’s delight. It meant that I had to do a lot of listening. It is amazing what your children will tell you when you can’t talk back. When you can’t correct or criticize or interrupt or command. Again, I learned. And it changed the way I parented.

Over the years, my voice has become more fragile. I get laryngitis from time to time. And if I yell, I quickly get hoarse and lose my voice. Although I missed cheering at my daughter’s sporting events the last few years (I did lots of thumbs up waving instead), I’m sure the kids don’t miss getting yelled at.

And while I am still prone to talking too much (Roger That, Sparky), I hope I have become a better listener. I know I have learned more by biting my tongue than by spouting off about whatever I think I know.

The more you talk and think about it, the further astray you wander from the truth. Stop talking and thinking, and there is nothing you will not be able to know. –The Third Zen Patriarch

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comment is valuable and valued. Comment moderation is enabled to block spam, so please excuse the brief delay until your comment appears on the blog.