Growing up in rural southern Mississippi, we learned that respect for elders was the epitome of proper behavior.  One indicator and example of proper respect was silence. In K-12 education classrooms, it has been and continues to be the belief that a silent room, is a learning room. For many of my formative teaching years, I held firm to this sentiment until one day in my classroom, an area originally designed for basketball storage, I noticed how QUIET my room became.  An accurate example of how quiet the room was is akind to an old adage, "You could hear a mouse lick ice."

Proud of my taming of the proverbial shrew, I began to notice that students were working harder at being quiet, than learning in my classroom. Since 60% or more of my students, who sat speechless successfully for 50 minutes per day were failing, it became clear that silence was not to solution to classroom learning. More importantly, was the realization that I was failing students with my belief of QUIET learning traditional wisdom.  

Upon this revelation and to my student's delight, I began changing instructional delivery. Once I completed lessons, students were made responsible for the reviews. I ACTUALLY GAVE THEM THE TEST! Then, I facilitated as they conducted review sessions in the classroom as the teachers. This is when I learned the importance of teaching. I stopped focusing on how much I knew and began celebrating how much students could teach each other.

Coach Hickmon with student athletes

In the picture above, we are winning a basketball game by about 30 points and close to scoring 100 points. My two top players standing to my right, have left their seats on the bench, and are begging me to put them back into the game. Notice the young man to my left smiling, his name is Steven Rogers... He was an underclassman who loved basketball and supported the team as a statistician, ball recovery, or truly in any capacity.  Tonight, he was coaching the team! He made all of the coaching decisions toward the end of the game, and we did score 100 points. Steven never allowed those two back in the game, and everyone to this day remembers this as a joyous night.

Celebrate our students' abilities to learn, and use our knowledge and abilities as educators to create a space to develop a love of learning for all we teach.

Dr. Fred Hickmon

Contributed by:  Dr. Fredrick Hickmon, Assistant Superintendent of Kemper County School District and National Trauma Skilled Specialist

Dr. Hickmon can be reached via email at or on Twitter via @fredhickmon.