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Talk

Sometimes I wonder about the expression, “You talk too much.” To begin, I would never say this to a student or anyone else. But if anyone ever said it to me, I would be likely to take the statement very seriously, depending on the source.

What constitutes too little, enough or too much? Ultimately, we must all be the monitors of our loquaciousness. We’ve encountered the chatty people who talk on and on, often without sense or awareness of others. Saying, “Stop talking! You’re not saying anything worthwhile” doesn’t work very well. But there are always ways to encourage the end of a long and tedious discourse.

Providing the information that we need to make an appointment or get somewhere (anywhere) else is useful. Another option is to attempt the interjection of something that will redirect or disconnect the conversation. At the very least, asking a question such as, “Do you really think so?” can often terminate an endless diatribe.

As a writer, brevity is usually the best path. This is also true for the length of sentences. One of the books I read recently had a sentence that droned on and on for about 100 words. Functionally, this is annoying as well as generally incorrect. While it’s unlikely that any of us will speak a 100-word sentence, there’s a lesson for all with regard to overstatement.

My recommendation to those accused of talking too much is to ponder why we are doing so in the attempt to abbreviate our language. While I’m not suggesting that you speak in two or three-word sentences, consider your conversation partner, time and location when forming your responses.

 

The best example I can muster is when a student asks why we should use “whom” instead of “who.” It’s fair to conjure the concept of object versus subject – we give something to whom rather than who is responsible. But going into painful detail about prepositions, case and forty-five examples is a profound waste of time.

And so, if you are accused of talking too much, think about who is making the comment and determine whether or not the source is reliable. From there, either shorten your language or determine that the person making the statement is communicating something totally different from time. Shalom.

 

If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com and I hope that you will not use this address for less than honorable purposes.

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Do something important

Many of us began hearing the expression, “Do something important (significant, worthwhile, respectable) with your life” from the time that we were very young. In those days, it meant that you had to go to college and become a teacher, a doctor or a lawyer because those roles were considered to be worthwhile.

The rules changed minutely if you were a female because at that time, it was sufficiently valuable to be a mother and perpetuate our society. If you were very fortunate (and unusual) you could have both a career and motherhood. Thankfully, today’s women have opportunities to dedicate their lives to careers, opting out of marriage and/or childbearing.

Thankfully, norms have changed but we are still lagging with respect to considering many roles and titles as less noble than others. Now that we are seeing a noteworthy movement toward respecting trade schools and other non-traditional occupations, I believe that we are moving in the most appropriate direction.

First, I give profound thanks and admiration to the caregivers, educated, licensed or not, compensated or not, who dedicate themselves and their time to the care and comfort of others. These are true heroes to me as they make life exceedingly better for those who are unable to fend for themselves.

And thank you to the public servants of all types – fire fighters, law enforcement officers, teachers, administrators and jobs at all levels within our schools. You save us from disasters, criminal activity and ignorance with your individual and collective contributions.

Finally, thank you to our armed forces personnel. Without you, our freedom and security would be at risk and we are all grateful for your sacrifices and daily acts of bravery that preserve this country’s freedom and greatness.

The fact that these people may or may have the degrees that we formerly thought to be mandatory is a profound tribute to our country’s diversity. We are made up of millions of citizens of all sizes and configurations, educated and under or uneducated. Without your doing thousands of important tasks, our lives would be devoid of past, present and a prosperous future. Shalom.

If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com and I hope that you will not use this address for less than honorable purposes.

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A delightful day

It was certain to be an unusual day in the classroom. But it wasn’t until 4:00 pm that I found out how extraordinary it would be. This was a school that I had never visited before and I was a floater, meaning that I would be relieving four teachers, enabling them to attend meetings.

From the time that I entered the building, I was received with appreciation and cordial smiles. That approach continued throughout the day, with the first three teachers thanking me profusely for my presence and engaged teaching approach. All three of them requested my contact information so that they could invite me to return to their classrooms.

Then I entered the second grade classroom for my last two hours of the day. My kids immediately appreciated the fact that I had a sense of humor and wanted to take whatever steps to teach them something on a late Friday afternoon. As they were finishing their activities, each one found a reason to arrive at my desk for approval, assistance or acknowledgement.

But there were two who made more of an impression than they would ever know. The first was a little boy we’ll call Conrad. When I handed him a flyer to read and provide answers to questions, he said, “I don’t know how to read.” It’s not uncommon to find wide disparities in reading levels so I made certain to read the titles and important pieces of information. There were six questions to answer.

Six times Conrad appeared at my desk and asked what the question said. After I read it to him, he smiled broadly and went to scribble what appeared to be gibberish. And when he returned for the next question, I congratulated him on his great answers before reading the next question. He amazed me with his cheerfulness, perseverance and determination to complete the assignment that was all unreadable.

Finally, there was Yurely. With no words spoken throughout the two hours, she approached me for a hug. Of course, I returned the affection and followed her example to be silent. She returned to me four times, each time delivering a hug. The last time, I asked her name and she told me, smiling with as much smile as her body could produce. Whether she hugs all of her teachers or not makes no difference. Somehow, I had persuaded that she was special, silent or not, because she was. Shalom.

 

If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure to do so. You may contact me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.

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Don’t ask

From the time that most of us were very little, we were taught that it was a good idea to ask questions. If you tune into a household with three or four-year-old children, you’ll hear the word “why” more than any other. My take on this is to call it intellectual curiosity, a quality that I revere and encourage.

As I get older (not to be confused with getting old), I have started to believe that sometimes it’s better not to wonder. Never will I cease learning, investigating and discovering information that I find meaningful. But I am thinking that sometimes the brain benefits from not asking why.

Please allow a few examples. In spite of having moved out of Austin, Texas over twenty years ago, my husband is a serious and dedicated University of Texas fan. He is not an alumnus, nor are his sons. It’s better in general not to ask why.

And speaking of rabid, why are Nebraskans so passionate beyond reason about their cornhuskers? Is it genetic or geographic? The same could be said about Green Bay Packer or Oakland Raider fans.

Then there are the New Mexico drivers to whom I’ve referred on several occasions. It doesn’t surprise me that our drivers are ranked among the top ten worst states in the US in which to drive. Rather than wonder why so many persist in driving 20 to 30 miles per hour over the speed limit, I’ve stopped doing so. Maybe if I don’t ask why, my frustration will diminish.

Why does the letter carrier arrive at exactly the same time that I want to collect mail? Why does my cell stop announcing texts? Why are all the avocados as hard as plywood when I need them for a recipe?

Some questions must be asked – why does that child behave as he or she does? But I’m learning that occasionally my intellectual curiosity is more appropriately put on time out or saved for fourth down situations. Shalom.

 

If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure to do so. You can reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com, but please don’t send spam.

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Lesson learned

Several days ago, I had the occasion to escort a class to the library for their weekly assigned session. Doing so, I observed a library teacher whom I described as harsh and abrupt. Today I learned how absolutely and completely wrong I was.

Fate put me in that library again for several hours. While I had an assignment for the day, that teacher had a student teacher in charge and didn’t need my assistance. She was kind enough to suggest that I visit the library to assist there because the library teacher had no assistant.

Said library teacher was cordial, congenial and extremely appreciative for my help. She also takes her role as book maven very seriously and responded enthusiastically when I referred to the library as sacred space.

Was she having a bad day when I encountered her the last time? Maybe. Was I tired or frustrated or preoccupied enough to misinterpret her child management techniques? Also, maybe. The only thing that we know for certain is that I was guilty of prejudging, misinterpreting or simply jumping to totally incorrect conclusions.

We exchanged pleasant conversation, worked cooperatively toward straightening her library and I believe that both of us felt good about the outcomes. She is a dedicated and compassionate library professional who was very sweet to the students who arrived in the library while I was present. Everyone won – the library teacher, the students who had additional support in the library and I.

The moral is pretty obvious. But in this case, indulge me for conjuring a cliché that is altogether appropriate for this situation. Never judge a book by its cover. Shalom.

 

If I may assist with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com but please don’t use this as an opportunity to send spam or solicitations.

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Rocket

In a class of twenty-two kindergarteners, I always make a sincere attempt to remember their names. In some situations, my acknowledgement of each child is critically important. This was the case with a young man whom I’ll call Rocket.

Rocket (not his real name) was smart, attentive, respectful and all those attributes that are desirable in a student. Early in the day, he made it a priority to ask me if I knew his name. Because he and his name were noteworthy, I offered it to him and received a broad smile in return.

Suddenly, he and I had a connection that will stay with me forever. As they were constructing an art project, he diligently produced two ladybug stickers that I firmly attached to my security badge. To accentuate the significance of his gifts, I assured him that if anyone ever asks about the origin of these stickers, I would reply that they were gifts from Rocket.

Designating children as special makes them exceptional. When children gathered on the carpet for story time, he made certain to be inches away from me, adding that I was the best teacher he had ever had. (Keep in mind that his experience was probably limited, because this is early in the semester and he’s in kindergarten. That fact really doesn’t matter.) With a very small voice, I responded that he was the best student I’ve ever had.

To say that his affection touched me deeply is the same as saying that earth is a significant distance from the sun. While we were in the playground, students devoured their special popcorn treat. Rocket made it a distinct point to hand kernels of popcorn to me on two occasions. And when it was ready for him to leave for his school bus at the end of the day, he dropped all of his possessions to find me for a goodbye hug.

If I am fortunate enough to encounter Rocket again in my teaching, I suspect that we will spontaneously remember each other. If that doesn’t transpire, I believe that he will always recollect the time when he was the best student a teacher ever had. The best possible outcome is that I helped launch him to personal and academic heights. And if none of those materialize, he and I will have shared the delight of being elevated by each other’s company. Shalom.

 

 

If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.

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Educating

Looking at seventeen fifth graders, I am immediately aware of their absolute uniqueness. Six boys and nine girls, the gender differences are obvious. It’s the more subtle distinctions that intrigue me. But one fact is always a given. No-one ever asks these students what they want most from an educator.

Maybe many educators don’t care. There is no democracy in a classroom, after all. Or maybe teachers assume it’s such things as fairness, kindness and intelligence. Because my relationships with students are generally fleeting, my guess is that if I ask any of my classes, they’ll either say that they want their regular teacher or for me to tell them to do what they want to do, no matter what it is.

It makes me wonder how much control students have over the course of their learning journeys. In my case, I wanted to emulate a literature teacher who was engaged, knowledgeable and fun. It makes me think about a billboard I saw recently. It showed a young boy with the words, “Be the teacher he won’t forget.”

Perhaps the decision to emulate a particular teacher or discipline is the only decision that really matters. While they must all complete levels in math, science, reading, writing, social studies and physical education, the love for any or all is self-determined.

As educators, we have the powerful responsibility to ask the students what they need from us. If we’re honest, straightforward and sincere, we may be the teacher they won’t forget. In a more perfect outcome, we convey a love for learning, educating and the pursuit of truth.  The most important prerequisite for education is the belief that education is what educators do. All other considerations are superfluous. Shalom.

 

If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure and privilege to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.

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Earning trust

How many people can you say that you truly and completely trust? While family members are generally at the top of this list, recent horror stories of moms and dads doing unspeakable harm to their children make this questionable. What about brothers and sisters? We can also find evidence of this form of trust being violated or unwarranted. The same is true of sons and daughters, cousins, aunts and uncles, etc.

Excluding these aberrations, most of us can say that we have family members or close friends in whom we deposit all or most of our trust. Husbands, wives, confidantes and offspring are usually the people for whom we have the greatest confidence. But beyond that, when was the last time you told someone that you trusted him or her?This subject came up the other day in a conversation I was having with my hair stylist. When I assured her that I had the utmost confidence in what she does, we decided that few of our contemporaries issue the statement, “I trust you.” Why is that?

For one, I’m thinking that we are often reticent about expressing our trust for fear of having that status somehow violated. That seems ridiculous because if we truly had faith in someone, why would that deposit of confidence be susceptible to being overturned?

Most likely, I think that we don’t tell people often enough that we trust them. If you were a physician and heard from your patient that you were trusted, wouldn’t that enhance your feelings of self-confidence? The same question can be asked with regard to dentists, car repair professionals or educators. As I consider the concept, I don’t think that I’ve ever had a client or student indicate that they trusted me.

Because I believe that the consequences of telling someone, “I trust you” are so positive, I think that I’ll assure more of my network of people that I trust them. It appears to be a gift, a statement of faith and an affirmation of value. If the trust is returned, I am certain that it will enhance me to be that person who is trusted. Shalom.

If I may assist you in any of your writing endeavors, it will be my pleasure and privilege to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.

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Timeless

What is it about traveling down a highway or state or county road with no other traffic that’s so memorable? You’re free of tailgaters and dawdlers behind and ahead of you. But there’s something far more meaningful in the journey.

For one, it removes all obstructions between the magnificent vistas and me. Depending on the time of day and cloud quantities, the mountains are purple, beige, pink or brown, along with the deep, delicious leafy trees.

Along with that, you can pay more attention to the sights along the road We have the Busy Bee Cafe, Crazy Beaver Bar and Grill, bowling alley and miles of roadside sunflowers. If you’re fortunate, you can spot live wildlife. We see antelope, raccoons, migrating birds and various flavors of deer. The farm and ranch critters are entertaining as well. Horses appear in many sizes and a wide range of hues. Cattle are also interesting, especially if you can spot calves grazing while warily staying near a grownup.

Ultimately, the cars and trucks and RVs and motorcycles are intrusions. The mountains and fields preside, altering their shades, shapes and sizes. Happily, most of them are immune to human contamination.

Driving through America is always part education, part awe for this country’s diversity and timeless splendor. While the occasional wildfire may clear an area of tall trees, bushes and saplings erupt, reminding us that nature always prevails.

The same lesson applies to changes in season – while the spring and summer growth is plush and golden with exploding lushness, fall and winter emphasize the evergreens that are tall, stately and resistant to all of nature’s whims.

Whatever you see is better than Dodge tailpipes or political bumper stickers. Our human contraptions and contrivances never compare to our surroundings – a fact never clearer than when you have the road’s glory to yourself. Shalom.

 

If I may assist you with your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure and privilege to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.

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Conversation

Oh no – it’s library today. I like to read but I just don’t like to go to the library. Can’t we go to music instead?

When I heard all of this complaining from fifth graders, it was easy to attribute it to the new school year or simply being fifth graders. But once I entered the library, it was easy to see why they objected to that environment.

Although school rules require silence while standing in line, I think of silence as a relative term. From my standpoint, that means no yelling and no interacting with people throughout the line. This line into the library needed to resemble boot camp formations. The library teacher (apparently, we don’t call them librarians anymore; at least in this school) demanded absolute silence and complete lack of body movement. She reluctantly allowed blinking and breathing. As she directed them to their assigned seats, any infraction sent the offender to the end of the line.

This was a young teacher. My guess was late twenties or early thirties. But she was harsh and abrupt. She instructed me to leave the library, adding (reluctantly) that I could return for the last fifteen minutes. This is wrong, on a variety of levels.

In my opinion, a guest teacher should be welcomed and invited to stay. How likely are students to respect me if my colleagues don’t? And her facial expression never changed from resolute and strict. At no time did I see her smile.

Most importantly I talk with kids, not down to them. Respect from them is earned through the delivery of courtesy and kindness, not barked orders. As a relevant aside, my next teaching assignment included second and third special education students and an educational assistant. She referred to me as “the sub” for the entire day, instructing kids to ask the sub, show it to the sub or it’s up to the sub. Each time she did it, I cringed, particularly because I had prominently posted my name on the board.

Because I haven’t walked in the library teacher’s shoes, I don’t know the struggles and particular pitfalls of her work. But in the process of setting the tone for class, having some respect, fun and smiles would result in much more positive reactions. Call me by my name and remember that these are tiny humans who are worthy of kindness and as much love as we can deliver. Above all, they are amenable to compassionate conversation. Shalom.

 

If I may assist you in any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure and privilege to do so. You can reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.