The Illusion of Communication

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
                                                                                                                                                        ~George Bernard Shaw

I just heard this quote recently, and it reminded me of a student teaching experience I had back in 1989.

I was working in the education department at Vanderbilt Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital. The students there were inpatients,  admitted for 4-6 weeks for evaluation and intensive therapy. They were discharged when they were stable enough to go home and back to school. One sunny afternoon, a psychiatrist came to my classroom to announce that one of my favorite kids, Ed (not his real name) was going to be discharged the following day.

In my zeal to edify and encourage my young charge, I found a quiet spot in the classroom to celebrate this grand step toward wellness. “Ed! This is so great!” I enthused. “You’re going home, and you’re going to use all of the great strategies you learned here, and you’ll be able to finish each paper without stopping at school, Oh! and Ed! you’ll do just FINE on the playground, because we have practiced taking turns SO much, and you hardly EVER get upset when you lose a game, and Ed your teachers are going to be SO SO surprised and happy…. “

During my entire pep talk, Ed had been looking intently right at my face, his big brown eyes gazing steadily while the corners of his lips turned up ever so slightly. He had stood, motionless, before me, and I was certain he was hanging on my every word, so as to absorb not only my wisdom, but my confidence as well. My heart was racing, and I was certain that I, Miss Katie Livingston, would utterly change his life in this very moment.

“So, Ed,”I breathlessly concluded, “What do you think?”

Ed sighed, pursed his lips, and shook his head ever so slightly, before speaking. “Miss Livingston?” he said.

“Yes, Ed?” I asked, fervently waiting for his response.

“Your eyebrows are growin’ together.”

And with that, he walked out the door for lunch.

For the record, my kids would call this an “epic fail.”

In Tuesday’s blog post, we talked about writing measurable objectives so that WE know what the STUDENTS know. This is particularly important when teaching students with hidden disabilities. Short attention spans, language difficulties, and slow processing can make learning difficult for these kids. Therefore, as we plan, it’s necessary to build it multiple ways to experience concepts and express understanding.

We’ll be covering lots of ideas and strategies to accomplish this. But now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and pluck my eyebrows.

 

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