Silent Students and the Benefits of Talking In Class


Kylie Thorpe, Reporter

At Ray high school (and any other learning establishment, for that matter), students have more than likely heard a phrase aimed at keeping them quiet. From “zip it, lock it, put it in your pocket” to “quiet coyote” and “catch a bubble” to point blank “be quiet,” a student is often well acquainted with the idea of sitting down and shutting up. And, at face value, this appears to be a  beneficial practice! In fact, it appears necessary to keep learning spaces productive and engaging, as extra side conversations can be distracting to students and encourage cheating. However, this idea, while it appears logical in nature, can have detrimental implications on the wellbeing of students, both mentally and academically, in school and after graduation.

At the beginning of each six weeks, many teachers rearrange the seating chart or encourage the students to move desks to prevent the atmosphere of the class from being boring. However, oftentimes students are also familiar with the instruction to “not sit next to someone they can’t focus next to.” From the very beginning of each six weeks, students are reminded to sit next to someone who will guarantee maximum productivity, which is often not those the student is comfortable with. While moving seats and encouraging branching out can be beneficial, this strategy of moving people away from their friends so they don’t feel tempted to talk actually has negative effects.

Psychology Today writer Dr. Diane Dreher elaborates that talking to friends and verbalizing our emotions to others (particularly those we are close with) can be massively beneficial for both mental and physical health. Speaking to friends is also praised for improving mental health and stress responses, stating that “self disclosure, whether spoken or written, relieves the long term stress of inhibition, leading to better health.”

Additionally, Elsevier News states that class communication is linked with improved academic performance across all categories tested, proving that speaking out and helping each other improved information retention considerably and resulted in better classroom performance.

The current practice of hoping for silent students is outdated and can be directly harmful to students both now, with encouraging feelings of isolation, and later, as we send students into the workforce with limited knowledge of how to work together and collaborate in impactful ways.

To truly benefit students, schools should not be encouraging students to “zip it, lock it, and put it in your pocket,” but rather to speak up, speak out, and engage.