The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Industrial Ear Muffs

For all but roughly six months of my entire life, my mother has worked at the plant in Morton, Illinois, that processes and cans Libby’s Pumpkin. (As an aside, I find it very distressing that the official web page for this product does not show up on the first page of Google when searching for “Libby’s Pumpkin” but it does when searching for “Nestle Pumpkin.) When Mum first started working there, it was actually Libby’s Pumpkin. Then Carnation bought out Libby’s and then Nestle USA bought out Carnation. This is also why many Carnation products (like their sweetened condensed milk) now carries the Nestle logo, in case you were wondering. However, Mum has always just worked at the pumpkin plant, generally referred to as a factory in our family.

As a result of this career, there were items in my home that we always found commonplace that, apparently, weren’t common in most kids’ homes. Things like bump caps (different from hard hats), hair nets (more of a gauzy material than an actual net, though), ear plugs and, of course, industrial ear muffs. These items would accumulate around the house as any one of my parents eight children would spirit them off for various reasons and Mum would just get new ones. We always thought they were cool, especially the ear muffs.

Flash-forward to a couple of weeks ago. A parent, in an effort to help alleviate the oftentimes excessive noise levels in the room, offered to bring in some ear muffs for the students to use. It seems that many other teachers have used these in the past (or are still using them) and it has been successful. I am never one to turn down a suggestion to do something that will most likely help in a huge way, so I gladly accepted. Just a few days ago, these ear muffs made their way into the classroom. I unpacked them and put them in a box, not quite sure how I would introduce them to the class.

I shouldn’t have worried.

My students, as interested as they are in everything new and shiny (hey, I like shiny new things, too!) immediately caught sight of the box and started asking if they could use the ear muffs during silent reading. I’ll admit that I found this slightly odd, since silent reading is, by its very nature, already silent, but hey, if they thought they’d help, I wasn’t about to stop them! I doled out the eight pairs as randomly as I could and the class got started.

While we have been very successful in building up our silent reading stamina (I’ve mentioned before that the students once read for 35 minutes with just a few breaks), this seemed to be one of our best days. Not only was everyone silent for the duration of the reading (just 15 minutes), but I was also able to pull a small group to the back table to do a quick math check on place value without a single interruption.

However, there has been one downside to the use of these industrial ear muffs in the classroom: everyone wants to wear them. We only have eight pairs at present. However, at $3 a piece, I am seriously contemplating going out and getting a bunch more, or maybe seeking out either a donation or a micro-grant or something of the sort to get them. If external noise cancellation is all it takes to help my young charges focus and work independently, it is worth the investment. Besides, these are industrial ear muffs. I expect them to last a very, very long time!



6 responses

  1. This is wonderful! But where do you find industrial ear muffs for $3? I’d love to know. I’m a teacher, too, who has started using ear muffs in the classroom.

    April 27, 2012 at 2:15 am

    • I bought mine at Harbor Freight Tools. I actually did go to the store a couple of weeks after writing this post and purchased 20 more sets. When I asked the manager about bulk-ordering, he looked on their store inventory and found that they had enough throughout the store and sent several employees to find them for me. As I was checking out, he asked what I needed them for. I told him that I teach fourth grade and he just said, “Oh, yeah, that would make sense!”

      By the way, I just checked and you can buy them online ( I don’t know if you can use a tax-exempt code online, but I think the nearest HFT to you is about 30 miles away from your school.

      Good luck on your teaching journey! I’ve been reading through your blog and love what you are trying to do with your students!

      April 27, 2012 at 6:15 am

  2. This is so helpful. Thank you! I’m going to buy a few, test them out with my ninth graders, and see what happens — particularly with reading…and with the level of calm.

    May 8, 2012 at 8:24 pm

  3. Just ordered four! The shipping was only $6.99 and the tax was minimal. These are supposed to reduce sound by 23 decibels — not as good as the 30 decibel ones I currently use, but at $3 (vs. $20), I’m thinking these will be perfect. (Imagine if I had a class set of these!) I’ll let you know how my students like them. Thank you again.

    And by the way, do your students mind sharing them?

    May 8, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    • Awesome! Yeah, they aren’t the highest quality, but at that price, I can’t complain, and they work to dampen noise enough that small noises in the room don’t distract others.

      I keep my set of 30 in a box in the room and clean them off regularly. No one seems to mind sharing, and I even have students in other classes come in to borrow them.

      May 8, 2012 at 8:33 pm

  4. Pingback: Reducing Distractions |

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