“Sound can act like a psycho-active substance, altering and enhancing consciousness.” ~ Jonathan Goldman, Tantra of Sound.
I was in my yoga class the other morning it came to my attention, after we all chanted the sound Hammmmm that this sound alone can actually calm one down as the vibrations move through our bodies. Being the ever -present skeptic I decided to put this into practice. So each time I started to feel a bit stressed or frustrated I simply hummed to myself and the results were kind of freaky. I did instantly feel calmer as the vibrations moved through my bodies, like a tuning fork settling me in a most calming bath of sound. I liked it. I looked weird, I realize. But I liked it.
Babies do this automatically as they coo and hum to themselves in the cribs. Those moments I would steal outside the nursery just listening to my baby’s sooth themselves. I miss that.
That night I went, reluctantly to my singing group. I sing with a group of 200 women and we meet weekly on Mondays. This was the beginning of a new session and it was a rainy, cold night and the couch looked so much more appealing than actually stepping out into that crud. But I went. And of course, as is always the case, I left that rehearsal in great spirits. The “sound” of the collective voices will never cease to amaze me! We knock the walls off of that church. The sound is amazing!! I either get the chills or I well up at least once at every single rehearsal. The sound moves me.
So the question then becomes, what does sound have to do with learning? I am wondering about the silence of learning and how many of our kids are struggling within the cells of silence. My 19-year-old daughter, Emma, has always loved to read out loud. From the time she could hold a book in her hand she would line up her stuffed animals and dolls creating her own audience and “read” to them, holding the book up so that they could all see the pictures. Her stories went on and on, the book often even upside down. Her delight in herself and in her creation of sounds was always mesmerizing. Her stamina always outlasted mine as I sat off to the side listening or hopefully videotaping these acts of sheer pleasure. Nonsense words she would trill over her tongue over and over and over until the next string of words and phrases would come along. The stories sometimes made sense, as she recalled information from our readings together, but more often she would go off into a world of her own just bathing in the sound of her own voice.
Emma still reads out loud to herself. It is one of the things I miss with her being off at college. Thank goodness Zachary’s music fills in for her words bouncing off the walls. When I ask her about this she tells me that she understands it so much more when she reads it out loud. She loves to hear as well as see what she is reading. She knows it only slows her down, but the pure enjoyment she gets out of this process is one that she is not willing to give up.
So my question then becomes, why are so many classrooms going silent? Why have we created a self -imposed sound barrier of sorts? How many of our students need to “hear” themselves and others to make sense? How many opportunities are our students given to include the idea of sound, or as Newkirk refers to in his book The Art of Slow Reading, “auditorazation” when they are learning?
This generation is the “sound” generation. Never before has sound been more accessible and available to everyone. These kids are plugged in or jamming out to music wherever they go. As the “elder” generation we are supposed to see this as bad, and yet I can conjure up the days when I spent my entire summer’s earnings and bought myself my first stereo complete with turntable, receiver and kick ass huge advent speakers. I drove all the way to Manchester for a tent sale to get that sound and the first time I blasted Journey was sheer ecstasy. Kids don’t have to drive to get the sounds they love. They don’t have to wait to get the vinyl. They are surrounded by the sounds they love all day every day. They use this sound to connect with each other and the world.
And yet, in sharp contrast the classroom still remains mostly silent, less the sound of the teacher’s voice. How can we expect our students to listen to one voice for hours at a time when their minds are consciously aware at how one -dimensional it is? (The Charlie Brown teacher, wah wah wah rings in my head as I write this) When is the last time you saw a classroom bursting with sound? We don’t even want our kids talking in the halls.
I think back to the “Noisy Reading Around the Classroom” where my students would take rulers and pointers and anything else they could find and go around the room reading everything on the walls. The walls were plastered with poetry, lyrics, and phrases and such. The directions would only be that each child read noisily alongside each other and read with great passion and expression. It was sheer chaos and while I realize not for all students, it allowed others the chance to move and express loudly. How often are students asked to express themselves? Not nearly as often as they are asked to be quiet and sit down, or to walk quietly in the hallway in a straight line.
And as a disclaimer, please realize that I know there are many classrooms out there where it is not silent all of the time…. at the same time I would argue that more and more and younger and younger I see students in their seats and being asked to work quietly. And also know that I am not against silence either. My point here is that while we need silent time for quiet work we also need a balance of sound in our schools where kids are collaborating, talking, expressing themselves out loud, and connecting with each other, as well as having quiet work times and yes, maybe even perhaps humming to themselves along the way.
Ta la la