Unsolicited yammering. Intentional interrupting. Blurt blasting. You’re tired, you’re disheartened, you’re a teacher who is ready to crack the code and decipher the why and what to do about speaking out.
First, please know that you are not alone. Incessant interrupting has the power to throw off even the most seasoned educators amongst us.
Let’s use the acronym B.L.U.R.T to help us navigate this gong show.
Regulate yourself. Release the inner dialogue that doesn’t serve you that tells you: “This is a power struggle and the only way I win is if I speak louder or rule with authority.” Even if raising your voice or throwing out shame-inducing guilt (cue the, "How do you think you're making me feel right now?" waterworks go-to) works temporarily, it is not a long-term solution, nor an investment in relationship-building and effective classroom management.
In the same vein, it's time to accept that the ideal of a silenced classroom is an archaic and frankly absurd goal. Think about it- our students are developmentally and genetically wired to be curious and it's in their instincts to communicate and connect. The goal is not to silence all the time, but to support productive conversation at appropriate times.
Look & Listen
Observation can be the most powerful tool we have to assess the type of disruption.
Is it a single student? A small group? The entire class? Are they speaking out to try and get your attention? The attention of others? When in heart-centered roles like teaching, it’s so easy to be sensitive to every remark or action and to take them personally- it’s communicative NOT manipulative.
Are they overstimulated?
Are they understimulated?
Have you given meaningful opportunities to talk?
Is there unresolved conflict amongst students?
Have they just reached their capacity to focus any longer on the topic?
Does a student need some connection or coping skills?
Stay curious. Here are questions that we can ask ourselves to help inform our practice and to reassure our tender souls that the behavior is not a slight on who we are:
Respond to Needs
If it’s a single student or small group, we need to think about whether their connection-seeking behavior indicates the need for mindful breathing, a check-in, movement break, or restorative practice from recess, or other transitions. OR, consider the fact that it may not be a problem within the class, but a problem within our format or execution of our lesson. Keeping emotions out of the mix, remember this: it is not that your lesson is bad or that your execution is weak. It just means that it is not right for the target audience at that specific time.
Visuals are critical when supporting blurts, so as not to interrupt the flow even further. Model using the "thought bubble" with your students- make a fist and raise it above your head to demonstrate to your students when the time is more appropriate for a thought bubble, than a speech bubble.
Assess the room and then assess your own practice.
Channel chatter that matters into more productive, frequent, assigned periods (e.g., this could look like free talk for 5 minutes before a lesson or independent work)
Let the talkers shine by leading discussions or lessons
Schedule brain breaks
Survey your students to see when they feel most unfocused or ready to chat
Ensure you have effective attention getters
Review what blurting looks, sounds & feels like
Incorporate noise level posters as a helpful visual
If you're looking to circle back and start with a review lesson on what blurting looks, sounds and feels like, or a system to help reinforce these expectations, this set of Blurt Bunny tools might be helpful to incorporate into your program to celebrate on-task, Responsible Rabbit communication.