The phone rang yesterday and a number I didn’t recognize appeared on the screen. Usually, that means “junk,” but I answered anyway.
The caller began talking rapidly and it became clear we were going to suffer a language barrier, but since she used the word “suicide” I knew it wasn’t a junk call.
Slowing the conversation and lots of repeating revealed that the caller was associated with a school and her question was, “I know you do suicide training for teachers, but would you do it for parents?”
I of course answered, “Yes!” My mind racing ahead to consider the idea of a school sponsoring a program for parents. I’m often approached by parents who are concerned about their kids but this was truly a first. Hmmm…
As we explored the idea, it occurred to me to ask where she was from. She replied, “Brooklyn, NY.” It didn’t occur to me to ask how and why she’d decided to call me in Central Maine. I was just glad she called.
I was able to refer her to some more localized resources using my NAMI connection and encouraged her to call again if I could help further. I hope she has success putting something together. I confess I felt a bit smug that I got the call–even though I don’t know how she found me. But I felt even smugger that the conversation around suicide prevention is becoming increasing normalized and easy to have.
Many people mistakenly think learning group advisers need to be the extreme experts in their field. The truth is that the ideal adviser often is one or two steps above the learner. Too much cognitive distance between the learners and advisers creates an environment where the extreme expert focuses on “telling” the learners what they need to know, rather than creating an environment that is open to exploring the topic, solutions and / or ideas.
I “borrowed” this quote from the November Issue of Training Doctor News because it’s a common mistake trainers and teachers make with students, particularly when we see ourselves as an SME (subject matter expert). Our real value might be as facilitators of learning, not simply dispensers of knowledge.
Just recently I had the opportunity to spend some time with two young ladies. When I say “young” that means one was a sixth grader, the other a fourth grader. Even though this was not school-related, I tend to believe we who are adults should always be “teaching” children, if only through good role modeling. So I stay alert for opportunities.
They were having a conversation in the back seat that began with an announcement that an adult friend of theirs was pregnant. For reasons I certainly do not understand, the younger asked no one in particular, “When the Mom is pregnant, can the Dad drink wine?”
I tried to look smaller and hoped that I would not be drawn into the conversation in spite of the fact that I certainly qualify as an SME (Subject Matter Expert) on this topic in a relative sense when compared to a twelve-year-old. I was reasonably sure a simple “yes” answer was not going to be the end of the conversation.
Worry wasn’t necessary, the sixth grader accepted the challenge, explaining that while the Mom shouldn’t drink, it would be okay for the Dad. The fourth grader accepted this, explaining that she understood the Mom shouldn’t drink since the baby was in her stomach.
The sixth grader gently corrected this, noting that she’d learned in health class that “the baby is actually in the nest mothers have in their bodies.”
I drove on, both relieved and feeling a bit smarter having learned a new vocabulary term associated with reproduction. I now have a better explanation of the process and successfully escaped from dealing with the topic.
That sixth grader was, in the truest sense, the “ideal adviser” because she was “one or two steps above the learner.” The conversation between the girls continued briefly as they were “creating an environment that is open to exploring the topic, solutions, and /or ideas.”
In fairy tale terms, we all “lived happily every after.”
It reminded me of being in a store once and hearing a youngster ask his Mom a question about something in the store. The mom replied in a genuinely interested way, “What do you think?” It wouldn’t have been appropriate for me to follow them and eavesdrop, but I’ll bet it was an interesting conversation.
Teachers and learners take note. Sometimes knowing the answer just isn’t that important–or necessary! There are times when we need to bite our tongues and sit on our hands so it’s truly about learning and not just about teaching.
My ongoing hope is captured in my observation that “We mentor people in ways we don’t even mean to.” A corollary to that is mentoring doesn’t have to be hard. By definition, mentoring is a relationship in which an experienced person helps guide someone who is less experienced. I think something as simple as a kind or encouraging word creates a connection that can be defined as a relationship, however brief. Let’s call it a ‘mentoring moment.”
Mine isn’t the only story in which an adult did something that at first seems small, but turns out to have major impacts, perhaps because it is about human connection. Hearing those stories is encouraging and heartwarming. But creating our own stories can be even better. Just look for those mentoring moments.
One of the concerns we sometimes discuss in the Substitute Teacher’s Course is “How do you quiet an entire class?”
Yelling is not an option.
Age is certainly a factor–some of the more common techniques involve ringing a bell, flicking the lights on and off, using hand gestures. When I’m in a strange school or class, I try raising my hand first–it seems to be somewhat universal.
Today I read one to use with the littles that I just might have to try because it’s fun! The instruction to “pop in a marshmallow” tells everyone to pretend they are putting a big marshmallow in their mouth. (Don’t hand out real marshmallows!) This means lips are closed and cheeks are puffed out. It’s pretty hard to talk with a big marshmallow in your mouth! I’m thinking it might also work with kids in the back seat of the car.