Communication

It’s Labour Day as I create this post.  I made the mistake of logging onto Facebook and my friend, Alfred Thompson, threw this particular link at me.  Ironically, he’s probably celebrating Labor Day where he is.  It’s also appropriate for the start of the new year as it reminds me of learning about language/communication and all that goes with it.

I can’t remember what year in my teaching career that this happened except early and it taught me a lesson that stuck with me throughout.

There was one student who really had me scratching my head at the end of the day.  She was in one of my computer science classes and, no matter what I did when addressing the class, I would have to repeat things two or three times specifically for her.  I took it personally and tried to find some way to get her more engaged.  I thought that perhaps the study of computer science was somehow not as exciting for her as it was for me.  Gasp!

No matter what I tried, I didn’t seem to make any headway.

Now, I know it was early in my career because I remember talking to my Department Head who offered some ideas but that didn’t solve the problem.  Finally, I booked myself an appointment with the Guidance Department who went through the student file and couldn’t tell me anything.  It must be that I was an uninspiring teacher.  A couple of days later, I took which I thought would be a risk, and asked Guidance if they would make an appointment with the parents.  “Well, we don’t usually do this – parent/teacher night is later in the year – but OK”.  So, I got a chance to talk to mom and dad and got to the bottom of things.

Did I mention that I had a big bushy moustache at the time?

It turned out that was part of the problem.  The student was supposed to be wearing glasses and wasn’t for a variety of reasons.  Think teenagers and I’m sure that you can pick a good reason.  She also had been a lip reader from way back and the combination of my moustache and her eyes meant that, while she tried, the message just wasn’t getting through.  But, armed with this, the student and I worked out a plan that saved her teenage concerns and addressed mine.  Marks improved and my frustrations subsided a bit.

But it does drive home a point.  While you may think you’re communicating properly, maybe you’re not.  There may be other factors at work.

Back to Alfred’s share.  It’s a fun website that takes you through a number of questions to “detect” your dialect.  Now, nothing is perfect but this was just fun.  Answer a few questions and the program tries to put you somewhere in the United States.  I took it.  A graph with my results appears below.  Most similar to me appear in dark red.

img-2013-09-025088

and suggested cities are….

cities

Look at those cities in the eastern area of the United States!  No wonder Alfred and I communicate so nicely!

I’d love to see a similar quiz dealing with fluency in programming languages.

It was a fun exercise and I found it interesting to spend the time to complete.  It’s also a great reminder of how diverse society can be.  It does beg the question, and it’s really timely as school returns on Tuesday, are you being heard?  There may be all kinds of reasons, including geographical, cultural and physical that may stand in the road.

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