Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Two Ears and One Mouth

About 7 years ago an Artist in Residence came to our school and created a wall tile sculpture. Each of the students painted a tile and the teachers each molded an apple and wrote a saying on it. It was then hung on a clay tree. It is pretty magnificant. On my apple I wrote the verse "Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry".

Sometimes I am "the enforcer". I am a teacher's assistant who works with Learning Support and Autistic Support students. As I am sitting on the carpet (yes, most of my day is spent sitting "like a pretzel on the carpet")  I sit there and watch. I make sure they have their eyes on the speaker, hands to themselves, and that they are understanding what is being taught. I will also say over and over - "look at your friends, is what you are doing making sense!?" Try that saying with your friends! Another good saying is - "I'm confused - what should you be doing?"

I also have a number of hand signals to redirect the students. I have the 2 fingers in the air which means I have to go to the bathroom, flat hand over my head means you are going "over the top" and a swipe down my face into a fist at my chest means - "get your self control". I love using the signals - they are quick and get the point across - with very little talking involved. And don't underestimate the power of the "evil eye"!

It strikes me as funny that I have become such a disciplinarian. When I had my own classroom in Dallas, that was my weakest trait. I loved to teach, interact with the kids, create bulletin boards, but I hated the discipline. I think because I didn't know how. But enter 4 children of my own and I became quite good at discipline. I had to! But I was sort of a "hammer" disciplinarian. I came down quick and hard - very little wiggle room. Something I have learned through teaching is to be more of a "screwdriver" - "Work" the discipline in, leaving room for it to sink in and hopefully stick. Nails are pretty easy to pull out, screws take a little more time!

The reason I put that verse on my apple is because I am "living" it everyday  - "Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry." I love that verse! And I use it everyday in the classroom. So many times if I pause before I react, I see the whole picture and it is not always what I think it is - for example we have a rule in our class that you have to ask to go to the bathroom, but you can get up at anytime to get a tissue (we are trying to discourage nose picking and eating). So when a student gets up, my first reaction is to ask if they have permission, but if I pause for a minute, I might see them getting a tissue - no big deal.

A number of you have asked me for more parenting ideas - well here is one. When I think back on my parenting, I could have used this technique - instead of reacting immediately to the situation, take a minute to look and listen and then respond - it would have saved me a ton of apologies to my kids and taught them to take the time to hear the other person's side of the story. Now, don't get me wrong, we are the parents and I'm not a big advocate of talking a situation to death, but I do think we do our family and friends a disservice by immediately forming an opinion and issuing the punishment. I can name numerous situations with my kids that if I had paused to see the whole situation, my reaction would have been very different and I think it would have resulted in a better correction.

Yes, I also said friends, this doesn't just apply to those in our family - we should be doing this with our friends, too. How many times have I formed an opinion of why a friend did or said something without taking the time to talk with them about it. I think this is where the anger comes into this verse. If we take the time to listen and take our time to speak, it helps to slow down or even eliminate the anger that can creep into our hearts.

There is a reason God gives us two ears and just one mouth. I need to use my two ears to listen and observe the whole situation and then use my one mouth -choosing my words carefully. It will help me to be the person God intends me to be - And it doesn't hurt to ask myself -  "is what I'm doing making sense?" Now that makes sense!!


  1. Good stuff as always, Mary. I may have to use those signals during class tonight! ;)

  2. i totally used the " i'm confused" phrase today!!! love you!


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