"Silence is the Golden Key…"

…a quote from one of our students this week. We forget that life has become increasingly noisy and distractive. And we noticed noisy and distractive class habits developing already in this second week of the quarter. “What are we going to make today?”  and other questions were becoming conversational ice-breakers, and it was easier to stop and talk with friends, or ask where something was, rather than applying one’s self to the task on hand.   This is a default human tendency in general that I’ve seen in some of my most qualified new employees too.

In the workplace, conversation and communication can be two very different things and we were struggling with how to teach this in an active classroom (with sharp knives and hot surfaces).  Requesting students to read a prep list wasn’t the answer either.  Not only that, what if our students started asking questions non-stop while on a job shadow in a restaurant?  That would not work.

So one day this week, we had a silent class.  To make it more playful, we added music (thank you Greg, for the great playlist) and had a few instructional tent cards to provide lead in.  We kept the tasks simple and safe, rolling dumplings, and were amazed by the efficiency and togetherness that the students created.

Twenty minutes later, we had over 200 dumplings and a room full of focus.  I almost cried.  Here are some of the quotes from the students:
“I think working silently is fun and you have to pay attention a lot.  It teaches you too because of your surroundings.  Working silently is an effective way to get the job done because there isn’t as many distractions, we should do this more.”
“It let us focus on the task at hand and I enjoyed it.”
“I felt this is nice.  Everyone can learn more things in the class and nobody is talking.”
It was amazing to understand how many students really appreciated the experience.  It may require more planning, but we could tell there was a new sense of awareness in the room, one that they want to develop further as much as we do.
The next day?  It was a typical, crazy Friday, that we turned into a standing Asian Noodle Bar.  

Chicken Potstickers
Won Ton Soup with Vegetarian Wonton
Fresh Spring Rolls with Two Dipping Sauces
It got noisy, but we all started together more on the same page than ever before – and we cleaned and put away more than 80 dishes in 5 minutes – now that is focused work!