The best teachers remember what it was like to be a student. While teachers are preoccupied with their lesson, students are often preoccupied with different things entirely, When students are silent, they may be engaged with your lesson... or they may be having thoughts that are a bit more impertinent. Granted, the perceptions of kids can be irrational, and they may be skewed by the immaturity of youth, but they are still perceptions that need to be accounted for.
There were many things that I thought to myself during class... but never told my teacher. And I imagine my students thought some of these very same things:
I don't understand... but it's embarrassing. I'll just keep quiet.
This kid keeps cheating off my paper. Why can't you see that?
Copying down the questions is dumb. We think you are having us write them down so it will take us longer to complete.
Do you know how hard it is to sit quietly the whole period?
Every once in a while, change the tone of your voice. It will make the class more bearable.
How would you like to sit in here and do this stupid assignment?
Why do you always seem so annoyed with us?
I gotta pee so bad, I'm not hearing a word you're saying.
How am I supposed to be paying attention to you? Do you have any idea how cute that girl is?
I need your hall pass. I'm not thirsty, and I don't need to go to the bathroom; it's just that I'm bored to tears, I gotta get out of here for minute.
If you had some snacks available, we would all be in a better mood.
You're seriously making us copy down all these definitions? What good will that do?
Why can't you do anything about the kids who are mean?
You don't seem real interested in this lesson, so I don't think I'm interested either.
Are you really punishing the entire class for what Joey did? Do you have any idea how unfair that is?
I know life isn't always fair, but if you're not doing your best to make it fair, then you're actually kind of a jerk.
My butt is so sore! Are you sure that clock is right?
You do know that when you put us in these groups, I end up doing all the work? That doesn't seem right to me.
When we ask you why we need to know this, and you say... "Because I said so!" ... it ticks off the whole class.
We all know this is busy work, and it actually makes you look kind of lazy.
When you complimented me in front of the whole class, it made me feel proud.
(And other times...) when you complimented me in front of the whole class, it embarrassed me. It made me look like the teacher's pet.
Will you come to my desk and answer my question? I want to smell your perfume again.
I know I forgot my homework yesterday too.... but if you had any idea what was going on at my house last night...
We want our students to learn empathy. We can start by showing empathy. It behooves every teacher to consider what their students are actually thinking -- to imagine what it would be like to sit in their class -- to have to complete the assignment that is on their board. The teachers who remember what it was like to be a kid really do make the best teachers.