By Anna Krieske, The Charter Opinions
Study hall. Always a hot button topic. Since a few years ago when study hall shifted gears, there has been an undeniable rise in complaints and avoidance of study hall. Some students have been generally unhappy, expressing negative emotions in non constructive ways. So, let’s be constructive and address one of the main problem- silent vs. noisy study hall.
Everyone has their own method of studying. Some need silence, some need white noise, some need to communicate. The question is,which is truly the most efficient? The jury is still out on whether music is exactly harmful or helpful in studying, as it differs from person to person, but take a look at this excerpt from brainscape.com
“According to some studies, silence really is golden when tackling the most difficult tasks. When learning or analyzing highly complicated material, our brains process information significantly more quickly without ambient noise. The extra brainpower required to interpret the noise input increases the amount of processing that your already overloaded brain has to deal with. When the ambient noise is particularly loud or grating during difficult tasks, it can even have a negative impact on your health, quickly raising your blood pressure and stress levels.
Still, noise can have its benefits. When doing routine or moderately difficult studying, low chatter and noise (such as the ambient noise at a coffee shop or in the student center) can actually help your brain filter material and spot the most important information more easily. When using tools for adaptive flashcards (like the ones designed by Brainscape), such noise may even allow you to remember each individual piece of information better. Even more interestingly, a moderate level of ambient noise actually is ideal for creative thinking. Apparently, moderate noise increases processing difficulty, which in turn promotes abstract processing. In other words, the extra work our brain has to do while processing a problem or task in a relatively noisy environment gives us the extra push we need to find more creative solutions.”
I conducted a survey which 26 students participated in that attend study hall and the results weren’t at all shocking to me. In response to the question “Do you need absolute silence to be productive?” not a single respondent said yes. Eight said “in between”, but nearly 70% said no, blatantly. When asked if they preferred to be able to talk in study hall (at a low volume), 25 students said yes. Yes, 96.15% agree that talking should be allowed in study hall. So why isn’t it? My only guess is to protect those few minorities who do need it quiet, at the expense of the majority. What’s sadder still is the responses to the question “are you happy in study hall?”. One person said yes. One. Only 3.85% of people are happy in study hall, and that is simply disheartening.
Clearly there is considerable and understandable upset, me included, but what are we doing about it? Very few of the people I’ve heard complaining have actually told anyone about it or tried to make a difference, for they are often, as one student put it “calling people out… (afraid) that i would be next, or that things would escalate” (this goes for many school issues).
I talked to ACA Director Nic Chapin about the subject, and he wants people to step up and help solve the problem, “a student lead group that kinda decides/has questions about or thinks about new ideas for what we can do in study hall..a group of 4 or 5 students had some ideas and wanted to come talk I’m definitely open to working on it to become the best place possible.” We need constructive ideas; not pouting. That being said, some things can’t change. “ study hall in a sense isn’t gonna go away because we have to have certain things as a school, but how can we make it the best place for kids…I’m totally open for ideas as long as they’re constructive ideas, obviously if you just say we don’t want anybody supervising us, we don’t want to do anything in there; those aren’t going to be constructive ideas of how to make it better.”
I also spoke to Merrie Miller, the study hall supervisor, about the matter. Even when, on occasion, the majority of students need to talk or have nothing to do, “I see someone studying quietly I feel that they have priority in the study hall and I should be advocating for them,” says Mrs. Miller.
This does create a difficult problem to work around with quiet studying often being viewed in favor of conversive studying. In that particular issue I think there are some misunderstandings, as often people tend to label any conversation as off topic, when in reality a lot of study hall talking is about schoolwork. Not to mention majority rule being pushed to the wayside to make room for quiet.
Mrs. Miller said “I also think there are those kids who are in study hall for extended periods of time and don’t need to be. Those kids have their own transportation and can come to school later but choose to come and chat in study hall” which I think is possibly another misunderstanding, as everyone I speak to seems to do everything they can to get OUT of study hall, not vice versa.
So the next step- suggestions! I’ve already been talking to Mr. Chapin about a few ideas… Specifically he has had the idea to create “study cubicles” with office partitions. These study cubicles would serve as a place for slightly quieter conditions and elimination of other distractions. Mr. Chapin said on the topic
“Some of the ideas that came up were adding some dividers and stuff for kids that wanted absolutely quiet studying, I know that doesn’t eliminate ALL noise going back and forth, but it does eliminate visual distractions, which for some learners is a big deal…so those were a couple ideas we have looked into if we did a few study cubicles, and some group space, but really it’s gonna be up to the students in there wanting to come and discuss those ideas…”
I know many have thought of simply encouraging those who need silence to go to the library, myself included, but that won’t quite work. “If it was a direct shift, we don’t have anybody in there supervising, so that’s kind of an open space. And for some kids that’s awesome and that’s what they want to do. But for some kids say they want to go to the library, then never end up in the library OR the study hall, and we end up having to try to find out where they’re at.” says Mr. Chapin.
So, if you have ideas for how we can improve study hall (talking wise), you can email
Nic Mr. Chapin at firstname.lastname@example.org
And heck, email me if you want to be anonymous at annakrieske.SMILE@gmail.com
“Can “Distracting” Noise Actually Help You Study Better?” Brainscape Blog. N.p., 15 June 2016. Web. 6 May 2017
Nic Chapin, personal interview, April 17, 2017.
Anonymous student, personal interview, may 23, 2017.
Merrie Miller, personal interview, May 24, 2017