How 3 Math Teachers Are Honoring the National Day of Silence at ETHS

How 3 Math Teachers Are Honoring the National Day of Silence at ETHS

Whitney Rutherford, a math teacher at Evanston Township High School, is handing out this form in all her classes today:

“Please understand my reasons for not speaking today.

I am participating in the Day of Silence (DOS), a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies.

My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling and harassment.  I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward building awareness and making a commitment to address these injustices.

Think of the voices you ARE NOT hearing today.  Just because some of your classmates and I are not speaking does not mean it’s a free day.

We’ll just be doing math a little differently today…

I will cue you when we will be working individually, as small groups, or as a whole class by my “clocks”.  The one I want you to follow will be posted up on the screen or I will be holding it.

When I need your attention back:

I will clap twice,

You ALL clap twice,

And stop conversing.

Let’s practice…

Make and wait for my cue…

Further, to help with our mathematical discussions I have questions on notecards that I may hold up or ask one of you to read.

If you are participating in DOS please communicate your ideas by writing them on paper for your group members to read or for someone to read aloud to the whole class.

Ready. . .

Set. . .


Two other math teachers at the school – my husband Andrew and his colleague Rich – are also using Whitney’s methods to honor the Day of Silence.  Be the change you want to see in the world.

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    The whole concept of DOS seems wrong to me. Always has, especially when it was done at my school. Yes, many LGBT teens are forced into silence. Yes this is a terrible thing. But staying silent teaches teens that the best way to protest is to stay silent about it. I oppose this opinion. There are bullied teens who stay silent because of bullying. We should be spending the day speaking up for them, not joining them in silence.
    Schools should set up stations for students to write letters of support to other teens. Stations to write to state representatives, begging for change. There should be school wide assemblies about what bullying is.
    My biggest fear with DOS is that someone participating will walk past someone being bullied and say nothing, because they don't want to break their vow of silence that they took to help stop bullying.

  • In reply to madhatter360:

    I have participated in DOS for 3 years, and I have to say that I only agree on some points, though I do understand everything you're trying to say. When people are participating in DOS, they are much more aware of their surroundings, as much of the day is focused on how other people see them and how to best communicate. There is a specific set of rules for DOS involving how to deal with bullying. If someone is bullying you, walk away. If someone else is being bullied, many people will catch the victim alone and hold up their sign and smile. I've done it before. I've written notes to people who I thought were behaving badly. Believe me, it does work. The silence is symbolic, and no matter how many assemblies teachers hold, they cannot completely drive the point home. The only people who can are the students, and it is up to us to show people that we do have power.

  • That is a very thoughtful and interesting comment. All good points you make. What the Day of Silence does, I think, is raise awareness because it is attention-getting when people do not speak, and sometimes awareness is a good place to start. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and I will keep them in mind as I encounter people participating today in DOS!

  • I love this! Sometimes the silence of your peers, friends, and teachers actually speaks volumes. I imagine those LGBT students felt a huge comfort in knowing how many people would alter their lives so greatly for a day just to show their support to them.

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