Growing up, I talked all the time. I’d talk to strangers like they were friends. In class I wouldn’t be quiet. No matter who the teacher put me next to, I’d talk to them. Come middle school and high school, I was convinced that those conversations I was having during a European History lecture were private. Alas, they couldn’t have been that private since I got kicked out of class until I could pull myself together and stop talking.
I really had no idea what I was doing was disruptive, because to me, disruptive meant disrespectful. But, as I realize now, I was at the least disruptive to the classroom environment and at most, obnoxious.
I now teach those exact students like my younger self, and am in the process of raising one as well. The class chatterbox. Filled with poorly timed jokes, an infinite amount of questions about a topic that has grasped their interest, and a natural curiosity about the lives of those around them. These are all wonderful attributes, if you are not the one trying to teach a curriculum on a time schedule.
If you are raising the class chatterbox, here are a few thoughts to keep in mind from the perspective of a former chatterbox, chatterbox parent and teacher of chatterboxes:
1. Please know the teacher most likely adores your child.
Some of my most difficult students to manage are my favorites. I don’t love their off-task behavior, but I LOVE the curiosity about topics we aren’t even studying, their sincere interest in the details of the lives of their classmates and their humor which seems to derail an important moment of learning. Big personalities don’t fit into a little box, and as a teacher I love that. But, sometimes we just have to reign it in a bit.
2. If the teacher calls you to discuss the situation, please acknowledge that it is disruptive to the classroom environment.
While these behaviors aren’t disruptive in the home environment or even a small group, it’s increasingly difficult to manage in a class of 30. I don’t want to squash their spirit or creativity. I just want to channel it in a way that contributes to the learning environment, not distract from it. I may want to know if they’ve given you any feedback on the subjects they like or hate so I can find a way to help them thrive, or conversely, gain the perseverance to struggle through a task. When I call parents, I’m calling for advice on the best and most effective way to help your child gain the skills necessary to be part of a large group, not to make a parent or child feel bad about the behavior.
3. These qualities will serve them well in adulthood.
Kids with dynamic personalities are generally adults with dynamic personalities. They are liked by bosses and co-workers for their friendly nature and caring demeanor. Sure, some school years may be tougher than others but with guidance and discipline, no doubt that your child will land in a successful career where their ability to talk and relate to people on an informal basis will serve them well.
4. Check to make sure there is not an underlying issue.
In my case it is ADHD and a visual processing disorder. In my son’s case, it is ADHD. While my son’s talkative nature is in combination with an inability to sit still and other sensory-seeking behavior that are symptomatic of ADHD, young girls can present differently. Young girls may be overly-talkative, emotional and reactive. They may present as silly or forgetful but are competent in the social aspect of school. I am not implying that every class chatterbox has ADHD, but if it’s an issue that has appeared several school years in a row, it may be worth investigating, even just to rule it out.
Being the class chatterbox, parenting one or teaching one can be a challenge. But, the goal is to not make the child, parent or teacher feel bad. Rather, help the child take those strengths to further their involvement in their education. Together, parents and teachers can help a child foster the self-discipline needed to focus on the task at hand while allowing them to feel competent as a social leader in a classroom.