Strange Noise


Parmeshwor Baral

In our schools and colleges we want our students to pay full attention to us during lecture and full attention to their work during other activities in class. So when we hear any noise other than what we expect, we rush to the judgment that they are developing a bad habit and disrupting the normal functioning of teaching and learning in the classroom. But the reality might be something different than what we expect from our students. It is hard for us to see any other reasons for students to make noise in the class, other than a lack of attention, not understating our accent or ideas, lack of motivation, or just lacking the discipline in themselves or respect for teachers. I learned something else the hard way.

When I was teaching compulsory English in a class in Pokhara some years ago, I could not understand why three of my students, who I knew were academically successful students, constantly made noise. I wondered if my teaching and the classwork that I gave them was not interesting enough for them. I felt offended because it seemed that they were trying to undermine my authority in the classroom because I was a newly appointed teacher in the college after a teacher left in the middle of the year. Day after day I changed my strategy and teaching technique, and yet they were busy in making noise. Not that they interrupted the entire class, but they were still very distracting to me.

I consulted senior colleagues about the problem and no one was able to explain without being in the class. Someone said that they could be inattentive because they were sons of affluent families in town and they might have private tutors to teach them the content of my course afterwards in the day. That made me wonder why they would come to class in the first place, because if they didn’t want to I had no ways to oblige them.

After a while, I got a few opportunities to meet with those boys, when I asked them why they made noise during class. At first they tried to evade the question and then pretend to not know about the noise I was referring to. But one of them, Sasanka, apologized for the problem without telling me the reason for the noise. These students asked for some advice about the chapter that they were studying, and I responded to their needs.

When I came home that evening, I started thinking about how to integrate these students with the rest of the class and how to encourage them to be attentive in class. I kept trying my best, using different ways to make the class interesting and engaging for all students. One of the things that I did to engage this group of students was to give them specific activities after inviting the whole class to join the conversation, form discussion groups, or share ideas with the whole class. For instance, I told them to write a summary of a reading or respond to comprehension questions at the end of the chapter. Interestingly, the noise suddenly went away.

This incident made me realize that students not only make noise for all the bad reasons that we tend to think about. They may make noise in the attempt to be more engaged about what is going on in the class, the activity that we have given them—or for that matter that we have not given. Some groups bond well, and they engage themselves in critical discussions of the topic at hand. They need to be intellectually challenged. Yes, students may also start making noise when they don’t understand what they are being taught, like they may stop doing the activity they’re asked to do and start doing something unproductive if they don’t understand the given task well. These days, when I hear noise coming from any part of the classroom, I start thinking about positive causes of the noise, or positive things that I can do about the noise by challenging students to be “in class” intellectually and emotionally.

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8 Responses to Strange Noise

  1. […] “Strange Noise” (a reflection on a teaching experience by Parmeshwor Baral) […]

  2. Hi Parmeshwar Ji!
    Greetings!
    I came reading your post .I am highly impressed with your experience. It mostly happens in all the schools in Nepal.We shouldn’t be aggressive to those who make noises in the class. We have to think over positive reason behind the noise.
    Thank you.
    Upendra.

    • Parmeshwor Baral says:

      Dear Upendraji,
      Thank you for the prompt post of Nelta Choutari. Yes it happens in an academic situation but because of lack of experience, we sometimes let it go unnoticed which I later on realized. But these days, whenever there is noise I treat it positively and try to sort it out the way I mentioned above.
      Thank you once again

  3. Mandira Adhikari says:

    I accept this situation arises in our real classroom because we think that our students makes noise because they are naughty but sometimes we need to be careful that our students might be trying to be noticed in the classroom and may be waiting to express ideas in front of the class and we need to provide opportunity to them.

  4. Very inspiring and interesting issue. Liked it!!!

    • Parmeshwor Baral says:

      Thank you Mandiraji and Sharmilaji for the comments. Once again your likings have became a means to energize to produce similar ones in the days to come as well

  5. surendra kumar karn says:

    Thanks for your sharing and experiences posted on the blog of Neltachautari is very inspiring and interesting . I went through your writing and came to the conclusion that really it’s very reflective one as it reveals the classroom problems that we, English Teachers, mostly feel and realize in the schools of our context. At such condition we become either nervous or aggressive besides giving them time to work in pairs and groups to those noisy students who time and again try to hinder our teaching learning environment. Infact as a teacher educator we should not use as such irresponsible words to them so that they could have negative impact on learning. sometimes lack of teaching tactics and experiences also make difference in our diction of teaching. so being a psychological teacher we must be careful in our workshop.keep it up,sir.

  6. pbaral2000 says:

    Thank you very much Surendra Karnaji for the linking!
    I think that such incidents happens in our professional lives but but do not care of such or with lack of adequate exposure to the language that we use (being novice), we blame ourselves that because of my lack of linguistic knowledge or because of my command over the language students are making noises in the classes. On the other hand, in such a situations our primary concerns will be to continue the job (because we might have got the job after many attempts).
    Thank you once again and hope for the similar comments from colleague around the globe.

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