Silence and Productivity

“The productivity of work is not the responsibility of the worker but of the manager.”
– Attributed to Peter Drucker

Productivity is an interesting concept, particularly in the context of a classroom. As teachers, we often find ourselves asking students to work harder, to put in more effort and to stop being distracted. How many classrooms still expect students to be still and silent in a classroom and are surprised when there is the constant susurration of whispers?

Our brains are highly active beasts, and like to fill in the void created by silence with something, whether it be a catchy song that we’ve recently heard, or a conversation that we’ve had and are replaying, or a conversation that we are preparing for. I see this at night if I am not completely exhausted and drop off to sleep straight away when I go to bed and turn the light out and it is silent. My thoughts turn to songs, conversations, television shows or similar to create some sort of noise.

How much of this is natural, and how much of it is as a result of the rewiring due to the continual use of devices in the current age, I do not know. However, the continual need for noise is certainly something that seems to be embedded in our psyche, and our brain fills in the blanks when the environment does not.

When I am at home working on material for my teaching, I often do not have music on, so that I can focus, and so that the audio of the song is not competing with the audio of the video I am working on. I have found that in this environment, I am as easily distracted as I am with music or the television on. I have been looking for something to fill in the blanks, a source of white noise as the sources I used to use no longer fit the bill and have recently discovered Rainy Mood.

The Rainy Mood website plays the sound of rain falling, and scattered throughout are thunderstorm sounds. It works, for me, very effectively, as there are no patterns for my brain to latch on to, the sounds are natural, which I find quite relaxing in general, and the volume and intensity of the rain does vary as you listen to it, simulating a real storm. As a source of white noise, I find it very helpful for my own productivity, and whilst I understand that there are going to be some who find it as distracting as any other source of distraction, I would encourage you to try it out if you are looking for something to use whilst studying, planning, programming, marking, writing reports or even trying to get to sleep (I have used set it to run on my phone at night on a few occasions and it works quite well).

As a teacher, I would very much like the opportunity to try this out in a classroom, to see if it helps to increase focus and reduces the amount of distracting chatter that students engage in. I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has done this, or anyone with any other techniques or tools that people have for filling in the sound void to maintain their own or their students’ focus.

As always thank you for reading, and good luck for the week.

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