Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Telephone Syndrome

By Pam Greenholt
Challenge I Director, North Carolina

Here we are several weeks into the school year already. I am always amazed at how quickly the time seems to go when we are beginning a new tutorial year.

It always takes a few weeks to get all the students accustomed to my teaching styles and preferences for classroom behavior, and also for me to become familiar with their unique gifts and academic needs. By this time I think that we are becoming comfortable with one another.

While each year's students are different from those we've had in the past (even though we frequently have multiple siblings from local families), I have noticed that there are also striking similarities in students from one year to the next. One of othe most common is the topic of this commentary: I call it the "telephone syndrome."

When we were little, a game often played at birthday parties was the "telephone" game. In this game you made a circle of children, the more people the better. To start the game one person thought of a message to whisper to his neighbor. The message was whispered quickly from one person to the next with no repeats until it reached the end of the circle, and then the last person said the message out loud to the person who had started it.

Most of the time the message had acquired some interesting new words and twists during the course of its trip, and this led to great hilarity.

I get the most communication from parents at the beginning of a new tutorial year. I never cease to be amazed by the messages they say their students have brought home from me regarding assignments and other conversations in class. It is the "telephone" game all over again!!

I have to remind myself of this very true statement: Just because you think you are doing a great job of teaching, don't assume everyone in the room is hearing the same message and learning what you think they are learning...

It happens every year with all types of students, and it definitely makes me stop and think about communication.

I wonder if this is why Jesus so frequently included the phrase, "He who has ears to hear..." when he was talking with his disciples and other people? I'm guessing He knew about the "telephone" syndrome long before we did!

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