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IT’S ALL IN THE EYES

IT’S ALL IN THE EYES
Category: Blogs
Posted: 07-10-2018 14:35
Comments: 0 [Post]
Synopsis:

Those eyes… warm, dancing. Soft brown, not quite gold. The kind that hold you captive in conversation. In random seating at a long table, I sat across from her. We had all gathered to participate in what has become a Mothers’ Day tradition in our family – the stroll down the boardwalk on the Jersey Shore sporting matching pink braided bracelets. At one point the ladies all huddled, locked arms and enthusiastically sang a song offered to the heavens and delivered through a sea breeze, off-key of course. It was all followed by brunch. I was the token gentleman at the table. It seems they only allow one of us at a time, and it was my turn.   (PLEASE CLICK ON THE TITLE ABOVE TO CONTINUE READING)


Her appearance there was a surprise to me, probably as much as mine to her. She is the elder sister of my aunt’s lifelong friend, as much a part of our family as anyone else at the table. The sister is a nun. Those old, very tired and worn nun jokes and memories were shared, as those of us at the table were all educated in Catholic schools. I could almost hear the predictable, canned laughter track in response to the story I told about a time coaching basketball in a Catholic grammar school all those years ago. Not Marion, though. She simply said “I’ve never raised my voice to a child; I never had to. It’s all in the eyes. The eyes tell the child everything they need to know”. Now locked in those eyes, I understood.

Knowing she had my full attention and interest, we engaged in a very enjoyable, if unexpected, conversation covering a wide range of common interests and experiences. She explained her devotion to working with Central American immigrant families; its challenges and rewards. But eventually we got back to kids and the classroom and her decades as a teacher and an administrator. She wasn’t on a soap-box. She wasn’t trying to fix all education problems or even advocate for religious education. She said things differently, in a way that made me hear them as if for the first time. She was relaxed and spoke easily, clearly explaining why kids need structure in the classroom. Not the ruler slapping, hands-folded, stern faced, rote memory, speak-only-when-you’re-spoken- to discipline we might have experienced as school children. Rather, the very practical laying out of simple and clear expectations, boundaries and consequences based on a keen understanding of human behavior. Keep it simple, she urged. Don’t overwhelm them. Focus on just a few of the basic rules and expectations. “I believe, still, that most children, most people, want to do good and to meet the expectations set for them, and that they are disappointed in themselves in those moments when they fail, as they inevitably will”, she said. But be fair and consistent.

She explained that based on her experience, most students respond positively to structure, especially those who have little structure and stability in their home life. In structured classrooms, students can enjoy themselves, focus on learning and experience personal growth. A lack of structure or the pre-mature granting of too many freedoms no matter how well intentioned can undermine a teacher's authority, leading to chaos, misbehavior and wasted time. I was immediately aware that we were each in very comfortable roles– she teaching and me being the observant student. I looked down to make sure my hands weren’t folded in front of me.


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