Friday, October 12, 2012

Engaging the Audience

"One, two, three, eyes on me," the teacher calls. The children, most of them anyway, respond, "One, two, eyes on you!" By the third or was it the forth time I heard this in an hour, I understood the problem.

My child has been sent away from his lessons four times, unbeknownst to me until recently. Apparently seven year old children are supposed to self report these things, not the teacher, at least until you ask, in America. Interruptions to learning are not tolerated, it is only fair to the other students. Except until it is your kid not learning, until you watch the class, until you listen to how much time is spent demanding self-control of eighteen seven year old children.

I ask to meet with the teacher. In my one on one meeting, her language is neutral and her suggestions include we reinforce listening and not interrupting behavior at home.

Earlier in the week I had gone with the class on a neighborhood excursion.

I mull over the refrain train, the children who echoed the teacher. Several children including my own were oblivious to her attention getting calls, those kids are lost in their own thoughts. Mine is busy thinking of one liners, I'm sure. We're lined up in the hallway-- need to go to the bathroom on one side, went to the bathroom on the other.

Some of us bristle at the yoke, not the work.

I bring up experiences and stories from our time in Japan to see if I can inspire reflections or new directions of thought. There are other ways of doing things, other ways of thinking. I get an eye blink and no comment, from lots of different people.

In Japan, on any outing the children are assigned a buddy, which is another classmate. They spend the outing time with their buddy. They walk in pairs. They are told where they are going, how they will get there, and they are introduced to parent volunteers. Volunteers are thanked before and after any activity.

Here, in America, my experience differs, not better, not worse, just different.

I arrive at the classroom five minutes early. There are no children present. I poke my head into the class and see the teacher alone. I ask, "Do you still need help?" She replies, "If you like." I don't know how to respond to that. I stand out in the hallway and await the class's return from I don't know where. When the children return I overhear some class discussion about the first field trip at hand, namely that it could be the last depending on their behavior, that they must find their jackets, they must walk single file, they must stay up on the curb. I am not brought into the class; I am not introduced to the class.

Twenty minutes into the "if I like" use of my time, I hear mention of the goal of our venture-- looking in our neighborhood for nature and businesses. The kiddos at the back of the line, not my own by the way, talk nonstop. The kids walk single file. Being next to them in proximity, I somehow unleash the the flow of words-- basketball, perfect leaves, Halloween, brothers, kaylees, and more. We spot a concrete mixer truck, the Red Cross building, a dead squirrel, and a few tree stumps amongst other things.

At the end of our walk the teacher congratulates the children on their safe walk and has them say, "Pat, pat, pat, yourself on the back, back, back." Most of the children knowingly reach their hands across their shoulder and pat themselves during the recitation.

You are on an airplane. The overhead monitor flips down. The cabin attendant appears in front of you with a buckle. The airline safety lecture is about to begin. You know it by heart or maybe you don't, but if done with any frequency, you begin to tune it out.

You are on a different airline. The the cabin attendant asks you to clap and stomp. He looks you in the eye. All of the cabin attendants are present, right there looking at you, engaging you. They have a clever rap you have not heard before, a new way to present the lecture. You sing, you clap, you stomp. You listen.

Sometimes inspiration from another place is helpful to get someone's attention. When you get that attention, you just might engage the whole audience.

Made you look