Don’t find fault…

February 7, 2011 § 6 Comments

“I would rather entertain and hope people learned something,
than educate people and hope they were entertained.”
Walt Disney

Cecilia’s post was about bad behaviour, and how (not) to deal with it. On the radio today, there was an interview with a politician about prisons. His belief, and mine, is that prisons don’t work for many young kids who have had it rough, and need support rather than more isolation and scorn. Preceding it was a programme about the Roma community, who all spoke with genuineness about their hopes and fears.

Before Christmas, I wrote about an assembly I did at a local school on the benefits of languages. Things are moving. Next week, there’s an International Language Day, and eight business people who regularly converse in a language other than English are all giving workshops. I’m one of them, not so much for the extrinsic motivation it is hoped to inspire in them, but the intrinsic, looking at activities that they can do in their Arabic and French classes.

They sound great individuals, these business people, and I’m looking forward to chatting with them over lunch, a photographer who takes part in Paris fashion shows, a radio presenter who spends time in Switzerland, a professional dancer who tours the world. The day has been organised to show it’s not only the doors of teaching and translating that are opened.

So I decided I’d visit one of the groups I’ll be working with to introduce myself and see them in action. It was an Arabic lesson, by a newly qualified teacher not from these shores. The lesson had sparkly little diamonds in it, like when she indulged us with a part of her life story, and when she invited one boy to write some Arabic on the board. When she laughed at a mistake she’d made, that was warm too.

But I left with the impression that crowd control was a major issue. The diamonds were encased in hard-edged rocks, which hurt. There was a group of girls who spent the entire lesson chatting away, ignoring and ignored. One got sent out for 10 minutes or so, and scuffed her way out and scuffed her way back. Soon, another one got ordered to the back of the class and crashed her chair down in disgust, facing the back wall, so that she was surprised, but not unnerved, when she sensed me approaching.

For another gem was towards the end of the lesson, a buzz of enthusiasm when we had to mingle, and ask and answer the questions on the board, a language awareness activity. I had decided to bite the bullet and make friends with this outcast.

She was actually very obliging. Question 1: Do you speak another language? Well, I can understand my mom, she speaks Pakistani, oh really, which language? Mirpuri, and I reply in English, and your dad? No, he speaks English to me, so what do your mom and dad speak? Mirpuri, we went to Pakistan, a long time ago, when I was little, I could understand a bit, but I can’t speak it, have you got any brothers or sisters? No, it’s just me, oh, like me, I haven’t got any either. Do you know that poem Presents from my aunt in Pakistan, yeah, I like that, we studied it in English, yeah, I like it too, I saw it in another class I observed, have you ever had presents from your relatives in Pakistan? Yeah, they send me stuff. But you prefer western clothes yeah? Yeah, jeans and stuff, and you don’t wear a head scarf, no, some of my friends do, but I don’t.

The other three had drifted over one by one by the end, and all joined in for a minute or two before the activity, and the lesson, was called to a halt. We never got to Question 2.

I’m glad I went. I’m looking forward to next week. I think it’ll be fun.

“Don’t find fault.
Find a remedy.”
Henry Ford

§ 6 Responses to Don’t find fault…

  • I love the way you noticed the outcast girl (with an apparent attitude) and was able to engage and draw her out by simply showing real interest in her. It takes sensibility to do that David. But I am not surprised, since we’re talking about you 🙂

    Another beautiful post – and plants. Thanks!

  • dingtonia says:

    Hi David

    I love this post. I have huge issues with young people -basically I don’t like them much. I find them generally inaccessible, rude, belligerent, annoying, unpleasant and – to be honest – frightening. I was DoS at a summer school for 4 years, and that didn’t do anything to change my mind. BUT, on a one-to-one, SOME of them can reveal THEIR diamonds….but it takes time and the right question.
    Thank you for reminding me of that.

    • David Warr says:

      Hi Candy,
      I’ve had my fair share of “incidents” too! I think we can pretty much all sense uneasiness that someone is feeling, and that makes us feel uneasy, and it can build and build. I’m trying to do the opposite, just relaxing with people. Sometimes easier said than done thougn, as you say.

  • Shelly Sanchez Terrell says:

    Hi David!

    I was going to address handling behavior this week as part of The 30 Goals. Now I’ll be referencing both yours and Cecilia’s post. I wrote this post about how I handled a boy who threw a chair at me,

    The problem is most punishments don’t deal with the root of the problem. No sense in suspending a child and sending them back to the terror that is home if the home life is what is causing the behavior. When working in some very violent places and with juvenile prisoners I often found that sometimes they needed someone to just listen and believe in them.

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