“Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” is a wonderful radio show airing on National Public Radio every Saturday. The show has special guests each week and asks them questions about current events. Like other quiz shows such as Jeopardy et al there is a pause between the question and the answer. Anyone who has listened to these shows may recognize that pause, or wait time (Stahl, 1995), between the question and the answer, can be suspenseful or even anxious.
Have you ever thought about why there is so much emotional charge as you scramble for the answer before the contestant answers? The answer is fear. Fear is an emotion that does strange things to the thinking process. It slows it down and even distorts it. Fear changes the physiology of the human. It drains blood from the frontal lobes and critical thinking areas of the brain, rushing the red liquid to the large muscle groups of the arms, chest and legs ready for flight or fight. But what are you afraid of? Making a mistake and looking foolish? Running out of time and feeling dull or witless?
In the class room students are asked questions all day. According to Mary Bud Rowe the average wait time given for a student is between one and one point five seconds (Stahl, 1995). After 1.5 seconds a teacher normally sends the child cues of impatience or simply moves on. This brief interlude has devastating consequences for the confidence of the student and more often than not, undermines the classroom atmosphere. In other words the classroom becomes a climate of fear. Fear to participate in the learning process.
The student is afraid of being judged and will often respond defensively by saying “I don’t know” or “IDK”. The IDK refrain is one of the most demoralizing expressions used in modern classrooms. Rarely is IDK used with sincerity by students. Instead IDK is used in a passive-aggressive way to defend the student from humiliation. This humiliation can be the result of beliefs such as “I can’t do this”, “This teacher picks on me” or “I never get the right answer.” These beliefs are built up over time because children are not given the space (wait time) to digest questions, reflect upon the solutions. Nor are they often given radical encouragement (Williams and Wegeriff, p9) when their answer does not satisfy the teacher.
Modern educator evaluation stresses the importance of extended wait time as a measurable teaching variable. Believe it or not, this simple act produces significant and profound changes in the classroom, including: 
· The length of student responses increases 400 to 800 percent.
· The number of unsolicited but appropriate responses increases.
· Failure to respond decreases.
· Student confidence increases.
· Students ask more questions.
· Student achievement increases significantly.
Many teachers will be criticized for their lack of wait time. Unfortunately wait time is not a skill taught very well to new teachers or introduced skillfully into the classroom by most teachers.
Introducing and using wait time skillfully requires a teacher getting comfortable with silence. For a teacher to get comfortable with silence requires two movements. One is to become aware of how uncomfortable our culture is with silence and secondly, to learn and practice silence as a skill.
 Stahl, Robert J. Using “Think Time” and “Wait Time” Skillfully in the Class. ERIC Clearing House for Social Studies, Bloomington, Indianapolis . http://www.ericdigests.org/1995-1/think.htm (Accessed January, 2014). “Wait time” was a phrase introduced to describe a teaching variable by Mary Budd Rowe in 1972.
 Williams, Steve and Wegerif, Rupert. Radical Encouragement. Creating Cultures for Learning. Imaginative Minds Limited. Birmingham, England. 2006. (According to the authors “All successful attempts at enabling people tom learn better…depend on effective encouragement.”)
 Fredericks, Anthony D. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Success as a Teacher .Alpha Books © 2005. New York, NY. https://www.teachervision.com/teaching-methods/new-teacher/48446.html (Accessed January, 2014).
LAWRENCE CARROLL EDUCATIONAL CONSULTANT & LIFE COACH
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