Quick Hit: Vow of Silence

I’ve got this kid who’s taken a vow of silence.

image credit

No shit.

It seems that she’s decided she needs to ‘find herself” or some such and, in pursuit of that goal, has decided she’s not going to speak (at least, not in class; I have no idea whether or not her voice works during lunch or after school).

My classes are heavy on the participation; the way I assess whether or not kids are getting what we’re doing is in large part through the things that they say during class conversations.  That she’s decided not to speak in class is going to make that work much harder (add to that the fact that she’s not actually done anything in class yet – I’m pretty sure her grade is in the low single numbers) and you can see how this is working out all the way around.

She wrote to me this to me this afternoon:

is there any particular format you want the questions for the questions due monday in?

and also, is there any way i can get around not talking in class, but still getting participation points? it would be very much appreciated.

What I wanted to reply was “Huh?”  I decided that the first order of business tomorrow will be email etiquette.  What I actually wrote back was:


I’m not looking for you to answer the questions one at a time; I gave you those questions more as a launching point for your own thinking.  Compose an essay (to the best of your ability – we’ll be going over the writing process again this week) in which you address as many of the issues I brought up as you can.

As far as the vow of silence goes, I’m pretty conflicted about that.  The way I gauge students’ understanding of the material we’re working with is through class conversations; if you’re unwilling to participate in those discussions, your grade will suffer (and, can we be honest?  You’ve thus far been unwilling to participate in any meaningful way as it is).  I am entertaining the idea of having you write every night to analyze our class discussions, but you’ve not handed in the writing assignments I’ve given up to now, so giving you MORE writing you won’t do seems a waste of both our time.  Let’s agree to get together with Ms. Guidance and Ms. Director tomorrow to see if we can work something out that meets both our needs.


Mrs. Chili

I mean it; I can’t make this shit up



Filed under dumbassery, funniness, I can't make this shit up..., I've got this kid...., student chutzpah, You're kidding...right?

8 responses to “Quick Hit: Vow of Silence

  1. I have one (senior) who announced that it is his senior year and he has better things to do than come to school on time or every day. I am his first period teacher and haven’t seen him in four weeks.

    He needs my class to graduate. He is smart enough to know that and to know how to fix his grade.

    I am conflicted about calling his mother who will say, he is 18 what can I do?

    His grade is higher than one I see every day who does NOTHING.

  2. What I’ve noticed is that it is almost never the students who excel in class who want to change things or go their own way on things, even though they are the only ones who are maybe capable of pulling off some sort of educational experiment.

    My physics professor relayed a story of a student who decided that time limits for tests were unfair, and that he should be given unlimited time to take the midterm… which I would answer by saying that you get almost unlimited time to study, so there shouldn’t be a problem.

  3. Is this the one day Day of Silence I’ve read about or is this supposed to last until the end of the school year. Is it just for school or does it apply at home, out with friends, etc. I’m betting that it just applies at school. But that’s just my cynical take on this.

    Anyway, I’m sure that in considering her vow of silence and her quest to find herself, she has considered what she is willing to gain and lose with the chosen method for her quest. And she also knows the class requirements even if she’s not currently living up to them.

    BUT, I also know that you are wise and will approach this with grace and fairness (not just to your student but also everyone else in the class who is participating). I am looking forward to seeing how you handle this.

  4. sphyrnatude

    Sorry kiddo. Vows of silence (and other “find yourself” activities) are all well and good, but don’t expect the world to mold itself to your little personal crisis.
    If I’m teaching a class that requires participation, and you feel (for whatever reason) that you are unwilling to participate with the rest of the class, be ready for your “F”. If you really need to take a “vow of silence” go hang out someplace where such things are the norm, or expect the results that come with not being willing to function as a normal part of society. I wonder how she’s dealing with cell phone calls…..

  5. I think that a vow of silence must come with the understanding of what’s being given up by adhering to the vow. There is nothing wrong with a vow of silence but she has to accept the consequences of her actions.

  6. I don’t think it has anything to do with this particular situation of yours, but I do think it’s funny that I read this blog entry on the same day that I read this:

  7. I have a friend who has decided to give up speaking this week. While unintended, it has already had the consequence of him being left out of things and when he is present, simply not being spoken to. He says he gave up speaking so that he could listen more, but it seems counterintuitive when people simply stop talking to you. He’s also perfectly willing to send text messages, emails, write notes, and other similar things, which seem to all be forms of talking to me. I hope you have good results from your student and that she doesn’t frustrate you to no end.

  8. Maybe you could have her write an explanation of her choice (a manifesto of sorts?), which would not only help you to understand why she is doing it, but might also give her some clarity as well.

    Also, there is something to be said for students who make choices based upon principle (vaguely formed or strongly reasoned) and who take the blow. Any proponent of passive resistance–MLK, Thoreau, etc.–claims that if you are breaking a law (or a rule or policy, in the case of school) to make a point, then you must be willing to accept the consequences/punishment. If you get off scott-free, then you really haven’t made a point at all! So, if this young lady is observing her own personal silence for some principled reason, perhaps she needs to be willing to take the low grade for class participation. It doesn’t mean you don’t respect her decision…

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