Behavior modification

I’m actually kind of shocked that no one mentioned that the same lessons I want to teach my daughter, noted last week in my post Best behavior, would be just as valuable to my maba_pleasebemindful_signson. In fact, I was kicking myself for not acknowledging this in my post, because it’s 100% true. In any case, something had me thinking about my daughter that day and how girls need strong role models, and well, I won’t bore you with the rest. Just know that I desperately want my son to benefit equally from those lessons.

Which brings me to today’s musings. I had a conversation a couple of days ago with a friend, who shared with me her escalating frustration with her ex. The guy lives a couple of hours away, so they meet in the middle to pick up/drop off their son for visitation. It seems that lately, Mr. Ex has been getting quite handsy with my friend.

She told me that it started with Mr. Ex grabbing her backside while she was buckling her school-aged son into his car seat. She ignored it, but she noticed that her son was positioned to see everything.

The next time, Mr. Ex got bolder. He made the same grabbing move, but this time on the front side–if you know what I mean. My friend swatted his hand away and silently swallowed her indignation. Once again, she tried to ignore it.

I asked her why she didn’t tell him to keep his hands to himself (read: to get the he** away from her). She gave me an answer about not wanting her son to see his mom and dad fighting or to see his dad in a bad light or some such.

Back. The. Truck. Up.

I couldn’t stop myself from blurting, So you want your son to think that it’s okay to touch women inappropriately and without their permission? You want him to think it’s no big deal for a married man to grope a woman who is not his wife? You want him to grow up thinking this behavior is perfectly normal?

My friend stopped for a second and blinked. She hadn’t thought of it that way at all. She hadn’t realized that her lack of response was also teaching him a lesson.

My friend is a contemplative woman; she been on a constant journey of self-examination for the past several years. I know she has been chewing on this since our conversation, and I’m pretty sure she’ll handle similar circumstances much differently from now on–for her son’s sake, if not her own.

As I thought about her situation, it just reinforced my conviction about sending messages with our behavior. What we don’t do can be just as powerful as what we do.

Be mindful, always.

PS. In case you were wondering, my friend gave me permission to share her story here. 

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Great teachers

Teacher-writing-on-blackboard564At the end of every course in graduate school, my classmates and I were handed a course evaluation. Mostly it had to do with the professor, and the results were particularly important to the untenured. Good evals helped them along; bad evals put their positions at risk.

While filling out one of these forms for a particularly dry and uninspiring professor, I realized that the survey was all wrong. It presented questions such as Was s/he prepared? Did s/he know the material? Did s/he give clear instructions? Well, yeah, he did all of that stuff–but I still didn’t like him. He may have known his stuff, but he didn’t do anything to make me want to know it. He didn’t draw me in, he wasn’t very good at actually teaching it, and he was kind of a jerk. Yet according to the scores on my evaluation, he was perfect.

Unless the university was evaluating the guy’s preparedness, the survey was flawed.

Of course, that got me thinking.

I’ve already written about the importance of asking the right questions, so I won’t belabor that point. The other thing I’ve been chewing on since I recalled this experience is what does make a great teacher? It certainly isn’t knowledge alone. The world is full of really smart people who can’t teach a thing.

Thinking about my all-time fave, a language arts teacher from high school who taught me creative writing and English lit, none of the questions on that flawed evaluation would have captured her magic for me. What still keeps her present in my mind is the connection she fostered.

Sure, she was a smart lady who knew her subject matter and was prepared every day. What made her a teacher–and a great one–was her ability to get me engaged. I certainly didn’t like every book or every assignment, but I did like her. And she knew what buttons to push to keep me interested.

After all these years, I don’t remember a lot about what I read in her class or what assignments I wrote. I do remember HER, though, fondly and vividly. And I’m pretty sure she had something to do with the fact that I’m a writer now.

That’s what makes a great teacher.

Freewheeling Friday

I have about 32 half-formed blog posts in my head, but not a single one is quite ready to come out in its entirety. Apparently, I expect these things to spring from my forehead in the same manner in which Zeus produced Athena. In any case, thoughts are a-swirlin’. Here are a few of them for your consideration; I’d love to start a conversation around any of them, so please comment away.

It never ceases to amaze me how much I can learn from watching other people.

Mentoring someone is way harder than being mentored.

Modeling and teaching often go hand-in-hand or even overlap, but each is a distinct methodology.

I learn new languages all the time. Some of my more recent conquests are the languages of road cyclists, building planners, and middle school girls. I’m still working on not-for-profit committees.

“That’s the way we’ve always done it” is a poor excuse.

People can change. They either will or they won’t.

Human touch is underrated and disappearing quickly. It shouldn’t be reserved for intimate situations; incidental contact isn’t a bad thing.

Know thyself, and use your parameters to maximum effect.

I like the ritual of coffee even more than the coffee itself.

I still don’t like to wear pink.