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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Look at Me and Other Rules

I often overhear a parent tell the child to “look at me when I’m talking to you.” In most of these cases, I have found that the student in question is not necessarily a visual learner, so “looking” is not the student’s natural response. Sometimes a gentle reminder to the parent that the child is not a visual learner will go a long way to lightening up the parent’s assumption that the child is disrespecting the parent by not looking at them. Also, I may need to remind a parent that some children become quite embarrassed when scolded in front of another child, adult, or especially the teacher, and these children tend to cast the eyes downward, or face away, or hide behind a music stand or another person.

I find it more helpful to discuss with the child that certain behaviors are considered polite. Even though I know and understand that the child can hear me without looking at me at the same time, I explain that there are many people in the world who will want the child or student to establish eye contact during conversation of any kind. And then I help the child to do just that.

In Ron Clark’s “The Essential 55” book, he lists the basic rules he asks his students to follow. One of them is to look the other person in the eye when he or she speaks (Rule 2). I enjoy referring to Mr. Clark’s book on occasion for a renewed focus. For example, recently I have begun asking students to look me in the eye (Rule 2) and answer questions in complete sentences (Rule 14). This may be more difficult concepts for younger students, but it is a great set of expectations for high school and university students, who are beginning to face the world as young adults and who may need interview skills for employment opportunities or college applications.

Other popular rules in my studio are that at the end of a lesson, a student may have a “Dum Dum” lollipop, which is a tiny little lollipop of about 15 calories. The student must ask for the treat and use the word “please.” Then the student must remember to say thank you within an acceptable lapse of time (Rule 9; Mr. Clark says three seconds is the appropriate length of time). If the student does not remember to say thank you, then we will throw the lollipop in the trash can. No student yet has forgotten to say thank you. In fact, they usually remember to say it at the time they receive the lollipop. I even had one student’s mom call me on the drive home from the lesson because the child was upset that I might not have heard her say “thank you."

Mr. Clark's little book is full of great rules for students, and for adults too for that matter. I highly recommend this book for every parent. Manners and general civility should never go out of style.

1 comment:

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