411 Focus

We must provide space in the school day for children to interact verbally, not just raising and waving their hands to get the teachers' attention

Contributed By:Dorothy Nevils maslivend@sbcglobal.net

How about a Makeover?

I read something a few days back that got me thinking. The writer asked, “What is your formula for providing a quality education for our children, and inspiring them to accept the challenge?”

That question came from Carl Champion, an educator from a family wired to Gary, and while I’m a transplant, my two brothers and I were all teachers, with one a principal; so, with Daddy narrowly escaping slavery, we know a thing or two about the importance of education.

When we consider the word educate, we cannot ignore its etymology, “to train.” That is the task before us – training or bringing up children, with the end result being their fitting into society, or “synching.” That takes me to another word with a similar etymology, communication, from shared, as one.

We look at communication as in a rather limited “field.” Say the word, and people, even “professionals” think talking. It’s a word “saved” for specific occasions, specific ages, “past puberty.” In school, it’s a semester in a “speech” book, and teens “do” speeches. Bet-ter, methinks, would be beginning communication instruction when the child begins school.

Too often, children in urban areas don’t get the head start suburbanites do. I remember when my granddaughter was at IU. Accustomed to being included in conversation at home and hangin’ with Grandma, she was outgoing and confident, engaging with adults socially so that one of the professors dubbed her “a social butterfly.” When she entered Banneker, however, she was forced into conformity. Individuality wafted away like smoke!

The very word communicate is about interacting with others. If this is a desired goal for our students, then we must provide an environment, a time, an opportunity for them to develop that skill. That means space in the school day for children to interact verbally, not just raising and waving their hands to get the teachers’ attention – and favor – for textbook answers.

Communication is more than listening for a question, answering correctly, and earning a smile; communication is interacting with others. It’s interpreting messages and reacting; it’s sending a message and receiving a response. It’s inquiring, it’s requesting, it’s community… and that’s important. Communication is becoming a whole person, and responding to others. It’s listening. It’s caring. It’s shaping your life… and the lives of those around you!

We don’t spend nearly enough time teaching our students about “messaging,” leaving them to believe that emojies are “it,” when the feet, the arms, the pitch, the volume, the eyes, the breath – everything connected to the person is sending messages that cannot be relayed in writing, tapping, or tweeting!

So what happens? Our children grow up acting, instead of interacting. They get their “skills” from others who, like themselves, have none. They look to grown-up versions of themselves as models, taller kids who have no answers, yet share those non-answers freely, older versions of themselves who get angry in a minute, and strike out at anyone within striking distance…

I don’t know if we’ll ever reach the point where we stop what we’re doing. To use the vernacular, it ain’t workin’, and, if that’s the case, it’s time to pitch it! It’s time to give up “feet flat on the floor, eyes straight ahead, a hand in the air to answer the teacher’s – and only the teacher’s question – exactly the way it’s written on page 17!”

It’s time to teach the kids how to communicate – then, darn it, let’em do it!

Story Posted:09/02/2018

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