When I was a small boy (ok, “smaller”) my father would often communicate his displeasure with my comments or behavior with a swiftly delivered smack to the back of my head. I remember thinking at the time that this was a particularly barbaric way to deal with people who disagree with you and that surely in this day and age we’ve evolved past such things. Of course this only reveals how young and naive I was back in the day.
I understand now that Dad didn’t slap my noggin when he disagreed with me, he did it when I was acting like an idiot. It was a simple, quick, and effective way to make his point which had the added benefit of short-circuiting whatever it was I was doing that prompted the whack in the first place.
Now that I’m older and balder, it occurs to me that I still on occasion act like an idiot. Now however, there is no one to point that out to me in the amazingly effective way of my father. In fact the more I think about it, the more it occurs to me that nearly everyone would benefit from those helpful reminders.
I spent this morning helping students review for their impending EOC exam out of the kindness of my own heart (and because due to budget constraints we had to lengthen the exam schedule by a week and pay dozens of teachers to sit around and do nothing). I didn’t know most of these students, but I’m nothing if not unfailingly kind. These weren’t our brightest students and several of them were having trouble with some of the more difficult questions on the worksheet; like where the word bank was for the fill in the blank questions at the top of the page. For example the very first problem was “Name _________________,” so you can see how that would be confusing.
Anyway, roughly an hour and a half into the review session some of the students began acting up and I had to spend several minutes getting them settled and working again. It seems to me that if I had been able to administer a few “reminders” the students would have gotten back to work much faster and more reviewing could have taken place.
Let’s also consider our interactions with other adults. This past weekend I had run out to pick up some odds and ends and actually had to pay the cash register guy with actual money. Naturally, being a proud product of the Citadel of Circus Acts, he gave me incorrect change back. I pointed this out to him and explained that he owed me another dollar, when we got very agitated and insisted that he had counted it out correctly. There were several tense seconds of staring until he agreed to count the change out again. When he did he discovered his mistake, called the manager over to unlock the cash drawer and gave me the correct change. I really feel that this deserved a smack to the head either from the manager or myself, not for the mistake but for the stupid belligerence.
Imagine if we were all a little more slap happy. Wouldn’t everyone around us be that much better off for those gentle reminders?