A Time to Be Silent

By Cindy Hansen, President-Elect of Southeast Division and principal at Pine Island Elementary

Years ago, one of my mentors encouraged me to use silence in difficult conversations. When a student or adult says something insulting to me, it is not necessarily my job to ease the tension in the room by responding. It is okay to let the discomfort of their words hang in the space. Often the result is backpedaling or admission of guilt or personal confession that is far more helpful than a verbal sparring session.

As I am learning to use silence in difficult conversations, I am also starting to use more silence in my personal growth as a principal.

Life is busy. Noisy. Always a crisis to be solved, always a task to be performed. As principals, the constant demands for attention fuel many of us. We are good at dealing with noise, managing crises, prioritizing tasks, wearing hats, and keeping plates spinning.

I spoke with a principal several years ago who said of our jobs, “You could work as much as you want. You could never go home.”

Ouch. I did not want to become that.

Part of my solution? Silence, even in small doses. Taking a minute to think instead of do. Slowing down on purpose and remembering to breathe. Letting go of my need to be busy as a way to seem relevant. Stopping to look, really look, into the eyes of the student sitting in my office because he, again, got in trouble in class. Remembering that he is human. Remembering that I am, too.

Small quiet moments have the power to remind me of who I am and why I do this job.

I know you have a lot to do today. Your task list is probably overwhelming, and you will leave school to go home to even more tasks. But if you get the chance somewhere along the way, sit in silence for just a minute. Breathe, look, notice, remember. You will be glad you did.


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