As part of being a teacher, parent and a mother, I have grown accustomed to “assuming blame” when something has been misplaced or heaven forbid moved somewhere such as sweaters or a sock. Even my husband claims he put in two socks and only got one back from the load of laundry. The missing items are sometimes discovered in backpacks, lockers or underneath something or discarded on the floor near the laundry basket and still unwashed, in the case of the missing sock. There is no use arguing or protesting the gross injustice of blaming me for things. It goes with the territory. My students often claim they handed in the missing assignment only to discover it in a notebook and unfinished in the first place.
One of the best pieces of advice regarding teaching or parenthood came from an unlikely source: a soccer referee who happens to be my husband. When tempers flare either on the playing field or in the classroom, that advice plays over in my mind. To be a good referee, one has to be a little deaf, a little blind and have a thick skin. When I really think about this, I am slower to respond verbally to that complaint. Whether in the classroom or elsewhere, my brain sometimes wonders which language to use: English or German. Thus, when I hesitate, the person lodging the complaint usually repeats the utterance and asks if I have heard. Of course I heard, but the split-second timing of deciding upon which language to use, has often proved beneficial.
Let me offer an example of one way I inadvertently solved a problem. Overheard by colleagues in the teachers’ room recently was a phone conversation between an automated voice of a well-known computer company and me. My colleagues cautioned me that I would never get a live voice to speak to. At first, I enunciated my responses to this machine-recorded voice. When it became apparent that it would be impossible to follow the instructions given, I blurted out a sentence in German which roughly translates as “If I knew how to do that, I would, but I don’t, and can’t do it at this time.” After a brief pause, the automated voice informed me that it had not understood me. Told to wait, I was connected to a live customer service representative and arranged an appointment that same afternoon. My colleagues thought this a clever idea and asked if I could make a recording for them to use as well. Of course, humor always aids in diffusing issues.
Maybe we can learn to think outside the box for different ways to say and do things. Learning to think on our feet is an invaluable tool and an important skill to teach children.