I was in church this morning when someone stood up to sing. Before the music started, the singer decided he wanted to say a few words. I have never been a fan of this “sermon before the sermon” but don’t mind if it is kept short. Unfortunately, this person wanted us to know just how passionate he was about the theme of the song and what it meant to him and how it had effected his life, and on and on. To his credit, most people forgave his indulgence once he started singing as he had a wonderful voice. Now I know I should have been listening to the words and considering their meaning, but I’m afraid I had tuned this gentleman out two paragraphs into his soliloquy.
My mind wandered to something I read this week in Gary Rubenstein’s book, Reluctant Disciplinarian. He says a mentor once told him that “teachers have only a certain number of words they can say in the year before their class tunes them out. New teachers use them up in the first month.” I thought that was particularly sage advice when I read it, and now, having sat through words I thought were unnecessary, I had a new appreciation for this bit of wisdom.
Harry Wong says much the same thing in The First Days of School. He says “the person doing the work is the one learning.” All too often, the person doing the most work is the teacher and frequently that work is being done in the form of talking. In Wong’s class, he had the work posted on the board and his students were trained to get started as soon as they entered the room. Now I know, subs rarely walk into classes so well disciplined, but I love the idea of keeping words to a minimum. Say what you need to say and let them get to work.