I am rather inclined to silence – Abraham Lincoln
We take it for granted that our students can speak. They have successfully enrolled in an institution of higher learning and presumably have talked to a few people along the way. Some speak more and some less; some dazzle with their rhetoric; others lull you into a soporific daze as you wait for the pause and some need to be cajoled into a one-word answer as reluctant to speak as if they had been asked to turn over a treasure map or their puppy. But regardless of their proclivity, all speak. And so, we, as educators, ask them to speak and answer and we may include oral communication as a goal in our syllabus, or we might expect that students can articulate course concepts - but do we do anything to make that speaking productive? Are we the quintessential diplomat, knowing when to speak, when to listen, how to advance our goals – or are we mere messengers, transmitting, and hoping for reception?
As a language teacher, I am always maneuvering, steering and compelling speech. We know that there is difference between receptive proficiency (reading and listening) and productive proficiency (speaking and writing). I also know that when I speak, my students do not. And thus, I can’t gauge their understanding, so I’m rather inclined to silence.
So, why try silence?