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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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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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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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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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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.

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Importance

One of the things that we thinking humans often do is minimize our importance. There are as many methods for doing this as there are situations in which we find ourselves. Most recently, I was pondering my communication from God and immediately terminated the process with the idea that God had much more important issues to address than mine.

In addition to that manner of thinking inappropriately limiting God’s abilities, it serves to diminish my overall value. If I think about it long enough, I can identify a litany of examples where we subordinate ourselves when there was no justification in doing so.

Every time one of my students inquires about asking a “dumb question,” I quickly respond that there are no dumb questions – it’s simply not smart to hold back on asking questions. We often refrain from sharing important information from our physicians, attorneys or accountants. Somehow, we believe that what we have thought to say is not noteworthy enough to utter.

While I often ask people behind me at the grocery store if they would like to go ahead of me, that’s not in the effort to make my time insignificant. The same is true of allowing people to enter a highway by creating a break in the traffic. Those are simply good manners and kind gestures.

But when we extend that to, “You go ahead. My time doesn’t mean anything – I have nowhere important to be,” we sabotage ourselves. Or we can cancel an “optional” appointment such as a haircut or massage, in order to see someone or go somewhere that can just as easily be scheduled at our convenience instead of theirs.

This is not a habit that we want to teach our children. Every appointment, opinion, position or possession that we own is as important as those belonging to others. When we minimize and de-emphasize ourselves long enough, we find ourselves firmly established in the inferior position.

It makes more sense to posit our relevance whenever and wherever necessary. The busy, competitive world is eager to hand us sufficient negativity to diminish us and it is only through persistence and pride that we can hold up our heads and be whoever we want to be. 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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Pancakes

If you are anything like me, certain words have the power to trigger memories, good or bad. A word that I hadn’t heard for years and years, standpipe, reminded me of those days in Chicago when we had heavy rains and worried about flooding, so we had to put in the standpipe. Other words and expressions have the same effect – Volkswagen Beetle, spelling bees, custard and Beeman’s gum.

One word that always conjures explicit and positive memories is pancakes. Everyone knows what pancakes are. They are flat breakfast foods that are most often eaten with butter and syrup. In more exotic venues, you can add pine nuts, fruits such as blueberries or strawberries and virtually anything you like.

For me, pancakes remind me of the few and treasured times that we went out for breakfast when I was a child. With five people maintaining busy schedules (for me, endless homework) and somewhat compromised finances, going out to eat anywhere was unusual. But breakfast was always very special because I always ordered pancakes.

Venue was irrelevant. It could have been one of the delis that were in our neighborhood. It could have been a restaurant that was one of my dad’s customers. But except for very few occasions, pancakes were never something that we ate at home. To this day, pancakes evoke memories of the rare trip to a breakfast spot where I immersed myself in buttery, gooey splendor.

While I quickly admit that these observations have no national or global significance and won’t improve the world in any way, I always hope to inspire and educate. Three of the five participants in this memory are no longer here to reminisce but the recollection remains.

If you have reminder similar to mine, share them with those who may be enhanced through the suggestion. When that’s not the case, celebrate the reality that something mundane can bring a smile to your heart. Shalom.

 

If I may assist you in 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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When I grow up

A short and somewhat chubby third grader tells me, “I want to be an astronaut when I grow up.” His classmate, a very thin and fragile little girl, advises that she wants to be a firefighter. Very often, I ask my classes what they aspire to become in their lives.

Under no circumstances and for no reason will I ever criticize, contradict or minimize these dreams. To begin, I have no right to do so. More importantly, we adults do these children a huge disservice by suggesting that their expectations are unrealistic.

If I think about my own childhood, women either got married or became teachers but rarely both. My dad was forever reminding me and others that I was going away to college to acquire my Mrs. degree.

For fear of sounding as if I am grandstanding for women’s rights, I’m extremely glad that opportunities for women have dramatically improved. Would my life have evolved differently if he had encouraged rather than insulted my intentions? It’s difficult to say. Ultimately, I achieved what I intended, often in the face of gender discrimination.

But I won’t allow my students to ask that type of question of themselves. What characteristics present in third or any other grade are nearly irrelevant. That generalization, however, does not apply to passion.

Passion is an emotion that I seize and explore as thoroughly as possible. We can’t create it but we can identify and champion it. If you want to be a police officer when you grow up, I’m sure that you’ll be able to become one. No matter what and no matter who tells you otherwise, you can be what you want to be.

It used to be that height, weight, gender and other factors served to prevent us from pursuing various endeavors. Much less of that now exists. But our students may continue to receive negativity from parents, grandparents or classmates.

Many of us can speak literally about the teachers or other adults who had lasting influence on us. My experience suggests that most of this takes the form of enthusiasm and encouragement. We can also learn from those who worked to discourage or insult our aspirations.

Help those who can benefit the most from the help to build dreams. It’s likely that each of us who touch the lives of others have the potential to make profound impacts on them. As I often mention, we will never be able to calculate or measure how much influence our words and actions will have. 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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Guys

Make a list of all of the world’s injustices and crises. At the top will likely be crime, world hunger, discrimination and the worldwide need for quality education. While I understand that this list will vary according to philosophy and society, my guess is that this covers some of the most crucial. If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that the use of “you guys” is among the top ten of issues that I would change if I could.

There are several explanations for the origin of the word “guy.” One is from the French word guier that means to guide. Another explanation is from the old Germanic word that means woods. No matter the origin, the American version of this word is used so often and so disrespectfully (in my opinion), that I have come to dislike being called one of “you guys.”

You hear this term everywhere you go. On the internet, I hear one of my husband’s American favorites use the term at least ten times in each occasion that he posts a video. Likewise, I just heard one from a non-American who has adopted this unfortunate habit, repeatedly referring to his viewing public as “you guys.”

If I could, I would ignore it. Yesterday, an otherwise excellent restaurant server stopped at our table at least four times to ask, “You guys doing okay?”. It amuses but doesn’t surprise that there exists a verb form of guy that means to ridicule. But the term disrupted me far before I discovered that.

My hope is that I don’t unknowingly use the term, especially in the classroom. Students need to be addressed as students or class or boys and girls, never as guys. The fact that we use it so easily and repeatedly makes the term unexceptional and crude.

While I realize that I will have a better chance at correcting world hunger than eliminating “you guys,” I will continue to point out its offensive nature. In a restaurant, I am a guest or patron or client, not a guy. Maybe if I am an example to enough people, I can watch it disappear as effectively as “my bad” or “at the end of the day” or “reach out.” Being a one-man band allows me to select my music, regardless of the size of my audience. Shalom.

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

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Make it matter

During my quieter and more introspective moments, I ponder the recommendations that I have for those near and far away –

 

Make

as many minutes count as are deserving of recollection.

certain to tell those close to you how much they enrich your life.

all of your affairs orderly and understandable. The future is always                                     uncertain.

more love than hate.

peace with those whom you have wronged or who have wronged you.

more friends than adversaries.

at least as many compliments as criticisms.

a difference for as many people as possible.

an effort to do acts of kindness on a daily basis.

it a habit to be grateful for all of your gifts and advantages.

others feel good about themselves as often as possible.

your parents proud.

your children and grandchildren proud.

it a point to withhold negative remarks about others.

more smiles than frowns, more laughter than tears.

 

And most importantly, you have the ability to make the world a better place.

 

Writing and editing projects are the most gratifying work that I have ever done.

If I may assist you with any of your writing needs, please contact me at csbutts19@yahoo.com. Shalom.