There are plenty of times in a school day when I encourage lots of talking--about different kids' approaches to solve a math problem, planning out how to do a collaborative art project, or about the news article we just read. When it's time to rein in the noise, though, I reach into my bag of noise level tricks and pull one out: "If you can hear me clap three times;" our school quiet signal; a clap pattern to repeat; or a good old fashioned "Shhh!"

I do a lot of shushing every day. The playground noise level that's currently happening might need to be turned down to the currently required lunch noise level or a lunch noise level might need to become a quiet voice. Sometimes even a quiet voice, though, is over the noise limit and must be shushed down to a no talking level. Fart noises get shushed. Random comments shouted out get shushed. When the drama teacher explains, "This activity will require self-control," and Christopher blurts out, "I have that!"--yes, more shushing.

Nowhere do I do more shushing, though, than on a field trip. Towards the end of a field trip, I often slip into a subconscious zone of quieting where I just utter a long, continuous shhhhhh to dampen not only the noise level but the general body movement level. This extended shhh has been known to last for up to 12 minutes and also, on occasion, to occur while I sleep, dreaming of a field trip.

Any given field trip from art museum to anything involving a bus has quite a heightened number of noise level reminders, but today we went to the ultimate shush-fest known as the U.S. Capitol. The building is beautiful and stately. "This building is important!" the kids declared. Yes--so important, in fact, that they have gold trash cans. Or at least gold-colored trash cans that Thomas and Kyron were pretty sure were the real deal. And if gold trash cans don't dictate a certain noise level, I don't know what does.

Once the tour guide started talking in the rotunda, I was in the zone, trying to break my 12-minute record. At the end of the tour, we got to visit the place where all the legislative magic happens--the House floor! We entered the House gallery to watch the Congress in action below. And by "action" I mean seven House clerks standing around chatting with each other. Nevertheless, this was the REAL, actual-laws-get-passed-here, shown-on-the-news-all-the-time House of Representatives and it was time to break out the deadly combination of shush + extreme glare, meant to convey, "I say 'no talking' a lot during the day, children, but you must believe me that there is REALLY no talking in CONGRESS."


forty-something chick said...

Oh so true....there should be a certificate in "shushing" when you get your teaching credential!

I work with small groups of K-5 kids on social skills, etc...and find myself doing lots of shushing, sometimes sh-sh-sh-sh (like that's any different!), and ah-ah-ah, which means anything from "stop pushing your partner" to "stop making fart noises with your armpit".

And summer IS coming!

Sarah Garb said...

Good point--if I get tired of the shhhh, I could switch it up with either the sh-sh-sh-sh or the ah-ah-ah-ah. Mm-mm-mm often does the trick as well ;)

Nate said...

Ah, I can hear the shushing now :) And the Christopher line is a classic!

TeachEnEspanol said...

For field trips I make a huge deal about how my students are representing their school when they are away so field trips are worth "triple points" when it comes to our classroom reward system. They tend to keep each other in check better that way. :)

Sarah Garb said...

I'd say a place with gold trashcans would definitely be triple points ;) Getting them to keep each other in check is brilliant!

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