By Emily Polston
We all say we’re listeners, but how much do we really listen to what’s being said around us? In my leadership class this past semester, we had an assignment to stay silent and listen to others the entire school day. My teachers signed off for those classes saying I was silent, but I don’t think I was as successful as they said I was. Yes, I was silent–but I wasn’t really listening to what was said around me. I just felt as if I was in my own little world. Honestly, I don’t think I took it as seriously as I could’ve. The assignment was very interesting to me but I LOVE to talk so it was more difficult than I thought it would be. I talked to Mrs. Wright and asked her why she thought it was so important that we are slow to speak and more willing to listen to those around us.
“This is just a way to challenge students to consider that listening is actually probably more important sometimes than always talking,” she said.
So, I continued to think about it and thought maybe I should try to listen a second time and be more successful. I should go another school day and have no communication with others so I can really pay attention and get the full effect. I wrote down some of the things I overheard and what I learned in the process.
First Hour – “Where are you going to college?”
I didn’t start this experiment until about 9:10. In my first hour, it was really difficult not to talk. In Food Prep 2, we were writing a paper. Both my partner and I were trying to figure out who was going to do which part of it, and if someone was looking at me while I was trying to explain to her what I was saying, they might’ve thought I was crazy. While I was sitting there working, I overheard things about college and who was going where this year in the fall. I didn’t realize how many people were going to OSU until someone named off all the people they knew that were going there. Once the people around me knew I couldn’t talk, they started to mess with me knowing I wasn’t able to make any remarks back. It was actually kind of annoying that I wasn’t able to do anything about it. I laughed it off like it was fine but I just continued to ignore them and they eventually stopped. I mean, what else could I do?
Second Hour – “What are you doing for prom?”
Prom has been the hot topic in my second hour. All the girls were showing each other the dresses they hope to get, in the next month or so. They already have their date for prom, group, and everything picked out. I was sitting there very quietly listening to the conversation behind me and I actually started to stress out. I didn’t have anything done. I didn’t think that I would have to worry about prom especially since it’s almost two months away. I immediately started to look at dresses. No one asked me who or what I was wearing to prom and I’m being honest, I was thankful and relieved. Does everyone already know what they’re doing for prom? It seriously has me stressed now.
After second hour ended, I made my way to my third hour when I heard a conversation pass by me.
“What do you think will happen if I get caught with my Juul?”
I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but laugh. [OFFICIAL TROJAN TORCH STANCE: Don’t vape.]
Third Hour – “What’s a government shutdown mean?”
I walked into my third hour still quietly laughing and shaking my head when I looked over and couldn’t stop myself from saying “Mr. Mccown! You have a mustache!”. This was definitely new. I was not expecting this at all. If you have Mr. Mccown as a teacher, you understand what I mean.
As class started, we started to talk about the government shutdown of 2019. The longest one in United States history. I had so many questions and it was very frustrating not being able to ask them. I started to write, text, or type my questions out that way but after I’d ask, I would just have more. It was just a very frustrating cycle. After we discussed the shutdown, we all went silent and continued to work on our articles for this month. The rest of the class wasn’t hard at all to stay quiet.
I went to lunch and instead of going to the lunchroom, I sat in my car and ate lunch. I felt like I might’ve been too tempted to talk to others.
Fourth Hour- “Tattoos??”
After lunch, I started to walk to my sociology class. As I was walking, I overheard multiple things from a bunch of different people. People talking about girl drama, boy troubles, stuff they did last weekend or are doing this upcoming weekend. A lot of the things I was overhearing might not be so school appropriate. Once my fourth hour started, we talked about tattoos. Which tattoos are socially acceptable and when tattoos become not socially acceptable at all. Mrs. Frost showed us pictures of piercings and tattoos filled with color all over their face. People were showing off their tattoos or talking about how they were going to get some sort of meaningless tattoo the moment they turn 18. I always thought that there wasn’t really any point to getting a tattoo if it wasn’t meaningful but I didn’t speak how I was feeling. I felt like there wasn’t really any need to. But at this point in the day, I was getting frustrated. I couldn’t speak what was on my mind like I usually would.
I met my friends before fifth hour like I do everyday and they knew that I couldn’t communicate with them like I usually would. They talked like normal about their issues, boy troubles, what they were doing this weekend. You know, usual things teenagers talk about. Instead of joining in on the gossip and drama, I had to just listen. It was nice not having to feel obligated to have any input in the situation. I thought about why I felt good about this and I realized that when girls get together and start to gossip, it’s a never ending cycle. They’re just putting more flame into the fire and us teenagers just keep on going whether that’s our intention or not.
Fifth Hour- “Discrimination”
As my fifth hour class, Holocaust studies, started, I looked up on the board and realized we were talking about discrimination. Mrs. Henson asked the class on if any of us have ever been discriminated for anything before. I continued to think about this question and the whole class was silent for a few seconds.
I couldn’t help but raise my hand and say, “Gingers.” The whole class started to laugh and look at me funny. “No, I’m dead serious. Most of you don’t understand but it’s offensive when people look at you and tell you that you have no soul… it’s ridiculous and there’s no point to joke about it. I have a different hair color than you… big deal.” People stopped laughing while Mrs. Henson wrote Gingers on the board. I was happy I spoke up about how I was feeling but saddened at the fact I broke my experiment. That would be the second time that happened that day.
Sixth Hour- “… your mom”
My entire sixth hour class is pretty silent so I didn’t think I’d hear anything out of the norm. There’s usually a few students that are very talkative in the class but rarely are they like this. The girl sitting across from me would ask a question and a guy from across the room would answer it with, “your mom.” A bunch of them would start laughing. They did it the entire hour and it was very annoying. I wanted to speak up and say something but I just ended up ignoring the situation all together.
I’m really glad I decided to do this experiment again. It took me a few times to go through the entire day without talking but I think this experiment was really beneficial to me. One, I learned to listen about things going on around me. Like prom, for example. Who would’ve known everyone was already shopping for it! It still seems crazy to me. Two, I learned to pick and choose my battles. In my sixth hour, I could’ve kindly asked the guy to stop making those terrible jokes but I chose to ignore him. Three, I’ve realized how many teenagers at Jenks talk about their drama. It’s actually kind of eye opening. If you think about most of your conversations throughout the day, I bet at least almost half of them are consumed with talking about others. If you walk down a hallway completely silent with your ears open, you’ll be surprised at what you hear.
Throughout the day, I became frustrated. I wanted to speak my mind so badly but I didn’t for the sake of this experiment. Only twice I spoke aloud but for good causes. If you’re looking to get a better insight on Jenks High School, try this experiment for a day! You’ll learn a lot like I did.