Teach Houston

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 15 2013

do kids need to enter a room silently?

I’m throwing this question out there and I want your feedback. Here’s the scenario:

Every day, my kids line up outside my room on the crowded deck (my school has no buildings, as I’ve discussed) and patiently wait to be let in. I open the door, greet them with a smile and some brief conversation, and let them chat a bit as they walk in. There are directions on the board (the same ones every day – copy down homework begin Independent Reading). The kids take about 1-2 minutes to finish shuffling/talking and get settled. Independent Reading starts. I play music softly. I check homework. Life is good.


Today I was told that any talking during an entrance procedure is not allowed at my school, because students need to enter a classroom knowing it’s a place where they will be learning every second. This was all built within the “high expectations” context (i..e, by lowering my expectations for a silent entrance, I’m not setting my students up for success).


I’m conflicted. On one hand, I understand the high expectations thing; obviously I subscribe to it otherwise I wouldn’t be teaching here. But on the other hand…my kids are in eighth grade. They spend two hours straight in my classroom, every day. Their only time for socialization is the four minutes right before my class (excluding purposeful group/partner work in my class). I remember my own English classes being relaxed and warm places, where I could laugh and cry and push myself because I wasn’t being told I couldn’t talk as I walked in.

What are your thoughts? Is it okay for students to talk as they walk in, assuming they get right down to business with minimal redirection (as has been the status quo this year)? Am I being a slacker of a teacher? Is October getting to me?


EDIT: Thanks for the feedback, all! Not to worry – I was never implying that I would “pick this battle” or even seriously air grievances to my admin, because I understand the rule and I’m dedicated to following school-wide procedure. I was just curious as to outside-of-my-school opinions. I always like to broaden my thinking a little bit by trying to see as many perspectives as possible.

10 Responses

  1. G

    I don’t have a problem with my students talking as they enter the room, as long as they don’t get rowdy. I teach 5th grade and they need socialization (at the appropriate time, of course). It’s unrealistic to expect them to walk in and not talk at all.

  2. Jay

    Actually, I think you hold higher expectations for older students by letting them talk. Micro-managing upper middle school kids doesn’t prepare them for success at times when there isn’t an adult to manage their behavior.

    I think that students need to work hard; I think your classroom should be a place where all learning time is valued, but I think you want the kids to get there by valuing it intrinsically, not because you forced the value on them by enforcing silence.

    Nevertheless, you cannot win every battle; is this one worth fighting? How can you use whatever political capital you have at school to affect the most positive results for students?

  3. Anonymous

    Here are my thoughts (as a third year, eighth grade English teacher)–I think it’s a matter of taste. We don’t have bells (it’s exciting) and my kids can chat quietly as they come in, but they don’t always. Sometimes I have to tell them to make sure they’re focused, but it’s never a problem and it builds a culture we’re all comfortable and it just works well with the culture I’m in (Appalachia). That being said–school rules. The way you start your class sets the tone for everything else in your class, and if they start out in a way that’s different than what they’ve been taught to expect at the beginning of the class as part of high expectations… not ok. Also, keep your administration on your side as long as possible :)

  4. Kayla

    Crazy to watch current CMs struggle with the EXACT questions I had when I was in TFA.

    Wrote this entry 2 years ago. You should read it and check out the comments below.


  5. D

    You may be right.

    But it’s not your school yet and you don’t have much or any leverage in this situation.

    Either way you’ll be happier if you buy into the feedback rather than resist it.

  6. I know of NO research that supports silence during the time that students enter the classroom. As a former middle school teacher in a low SES area of Houston, I can’t imagine why an English teacher would need to limit student talking…which research does tell us often can lead to writing. Consider changing schools/districts.

  7. tlmerrie

    No, your instincts are good. This is not necessary, especially since they have no other time to talk and it is not causing a problem for you. You could try it to see if you do think it would work better, but you should be the judge of what is most appropriate for your classroom. There is nothing wrong with having students enter in an orderly fashion, but to have complete silence is not necessary in order to maintain high expectations. You are right to think back to your English classes and to want your students to have the same sort of positive experience with your class.

    I am assuming that, based on what you wrote, a person at your school directed you to do this. If so, you may have to submit because it is your job. But it sounds like you are at one of “those schools” where they like to teach children to be obedient and to do exactly as they are told in order to “save them” and help them “rise above their circumstances.”

  8. Zoe

    October is always hard for some unknown reason. I think the students should be quiet once the bell has rang. Do not say to them we are doing the same thing we do everyday. That just sounds so boring. Even if you are doing the same thing just don’t say it. Try to mix things up a little. If all the work is done there is time at the end of class to talk.

  9. I think it’s totally fine for students to talk as they walk in the room. When I start class, I put 2:00 up on a timer and give them that time to “get their lives together” — sharpen pencils, get books, etc. I found it was unrealistic to expect them to walk in like robots and sit down directly.

    In any case, it’s better to set an expectation that you can follow through on than set one that you have no intention of following through on!
    You’re halfway through October! Chin up!

  10. I think there’s something to be said for consistent building-wide rules and procedures. I also think the “silent entry” thing can sometimes be an effective crutch if one has crummy classroom management, or for dealing with an unusually challenging group.

    Those caveats aside, I think it’s frankly icky.

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