unless an ear that hears for an open mind
Let them think you dumb.
Let them dominate the discourse.
Never reveal what shivers and boils
beneath brown tree green eyes,
unless what pleads to be said
trembles and echoes.
Ok, so here's a poem I wrote a couple years ago in college. I wrote bad poetry for a while. This is not a pity plea for you to tell me otherwise. It's just a plain old fact. Anyhow, maybe my professors, if any are reading, are laughing and thinking that they never knew me to be one to sit quietly. But it's funny to look back at the poem now, as a teacher. With all of the emphasis on getting to every student to contribute something every day, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that not every student always feels what they have to say is important. And yes, we should be validating their perspectives. And yes, we should be assuring them that their contributions are worthwhile and important to the classroom community. However, I knew as a student that at times what I had to say about something was either not topical enough to be addressed at the time or not pertinent enough to add depth to the discussion. It's a fallacy to assume that students always always always have something to say about a given idea. We need to remember what it felt like to sit in a class and silently evaluate whether or not we should speak. We need to teach our students that yes, what they have to say matters buuuuut we must teach them likewise to be thoughtful speakers who can contribute genuinely because they feel compelled to by the quality of their contribution, not just to have secured the much-sought-after participation point :::shudder::: --a point just undefined enough to dangle ominously over their heads. I don't do the participation point. I prefer to create a relationship with my students by which they feel comfortable enough to contribute without being forced or cajoled into it. This doesn't mean I don't push them towards and support them in the process of becoming more community-minded, social people. It means that nobody needs to be nagged into contributing. I'd rather not have them speak if this is how I must go about having them do so.