Everything we really needed to know. Also, 7 other things worth your time.
A while back I shared an interview I’d done with a middle school math teacher named Andre Sasser. If you remember middle school the way I do, you might understand the problem she faced.
At the end of her lessons, she’d ask, “Do you have any questions?” or even, “What are your questions?” and often be met with blank stares.
Then she got the idea to phrase things differently: “OK, give me two questions.”
This changed the calculus. (Sorry; most of us don’t go near calculus until long after middle school, but I couldn’t help myself.) Put differently, it was no longer her plaintive request, but instead, a bargain:
We’re not getting out of here until you’ve asked two questions.
Spoiler alert: She got her two questions.
Even better, 2 questions led to 3 and 4 and 20—pretty soon she wasn’t having a one-way conversation, but a real discussion. And that, she told me, led to real learning.
(She wrote about this on Twitter, which is how I heard about it.)
Remember that book from long ago? All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? Think of this as the middle school addendum, perhaps.
Anyway, this led me to think about the Kindergarten book, and to wonder if I could literally find some more 21st-century teacher tricks that would help us grown-ups navigate life a little better.
As it happens, Elizabeth Brown at Mic did exactly that. She sat a bunch of kindergarten teachers down a little while back and asked them for advice. So here’s the top advice they shared on getting people to pay attention to what you have to say:
Create structure. “[K]nowing what to expect in a classroom or a meeting establishes norms and puts attendees at ease, making it easier for them to focus on what’s in front of them and what’s coming next.”
Keep it short. “Adults are simply kindergarteners in bigger bodies with more responsibilities,” one of the K-teachers said. “Young children learn best when they have short periods of focused learning followed by play. Big people actually work in pretty much the same way.”
Offer incentives. Games, prizes, rewards. (Personal aside: Long ago I used to have to give some fairly complicated legal briefings for huge groups of Army soldiers who were about to fly overseas. I copied another instructor’s idea of throwing candy to those who asked questions or offered answers. It worked.)
Target multiple senses. Visual, auditory, and tactile—plus taste and smell if you can find a way. On top of that, there are also “proprioceptive and vestibular senses, which allow our bodies to perceive movement, lack of movement, and head positioning.”
Try different modes of communication. One of the teachers said she taught kids to say, “yes,” “no,” and “thank you” in American Sign Language, so that they could respond quickly without having to wait for each other to talk.
As Brown put it:
Instead of having coworkers deliver the famous, “let me piggyback on what she said” and then restating the previous speaker’s point as their own, have your colleagues respond to points with simple “Yes” or “No” hand signals, especially when conducting meetings via video conferencing.
Finally, always end with nap time and a snack, and have everyone line up to go to the bathroom. (OK, maybe not. But, I guarantee you would in fact get everyone’s attention.)
Call for comments: What’s the productivity or attention-capturing trick you learned in an unusual setting—grade school, an old job, the military, sports, somewhere else—that you’re still using today?
7 other things worth your time
Workers at a Kentucky factory where eight people were killed during a tornado strike say they’d begged to leave when they first heard warnings, but were told by managers they’d be fired if they did so. (NBC News)
Elon Musk was named Time’s Person of the Year. (Time)
Three soldiers will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously at a White House ceremony next week: Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz, and Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Nine years ago, an Australian artist named Thea-Mai Baumann created an Instagram account with the handle @metaverse. On Oct. 28, Facebook, which owns Instagram, changed its name to Meta; shortly after that Baumann’s account was disabled. She got it back after the NYT investigated, but the apparent moral of the story is: You have no rights when it comes to Big Tech. (NYT)
Leaked hospital records reveal huge, automated markups for healthcare. (LA Times)
Norway will ban the serving of alcohol in bars and restaurants, impose stricter rules in schools and speed up vaccination as part of new efforts to curb the outbreak of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, the government said on Monday. (Thomson Reuters)
A South Dakota hockey rink held a “Dash for Cash” even in which teachers competed, crawling on all fours at the center of a rink, to grab as much as they could of $5,000 in $1 bills to buy supplies for their classrooms. The crowd loved it, but as video went viral, people are calling it “degrading” and “dystopian.” (WashPost, Twitter)
Thanks for reading. Photo: Pixabay. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.