The other day I was sitting in the old rocker in my sunroom organizing mail. I’m certain I had a frown on my face, because I have a strong dislike for mail. Like I seriously wish every piece of mail I received would just turn into a giant electronic cloud and load automatically onto my IPad, and I would never have to go to my mailbox again…except for greeting cards and handwritten notes–I like those.
As I was doing this, I looked out the window of my front door and saw my new neighbor walking by. I hadn’t met him yet, but I had heard him. He lives above me and likes to listen to Led Zeppelin. He also had been hammering something loudly. A lot. I hadn’t held that against him as my strong willed daughter can be awfully loud at times, so I figured we were even.
“HI!” he said to me through the window.
“HI!” I loudly said back to him.
“I’M ___________, YOUR NEW NEIGHBOR. I LIVE UPSTAIRS!” he proclaimed.
“HI! I’M EMILY. NICE TO MEET YOU!” I nodded in the general direction of my daughter’s room. “I HAVE A DAUGHTER,” I acknowledged, in hopes that he would know it was my kid and not me who was always making noise.
“YES, I KNOW,” he stated.
“SHE’S LOUD, ISN’T SHE?”
“NO… I MEAN, NOT REALLY. I MEAN, I WAS JUST SAYING I KNEW THAT SHE EXISTED.”
“OKAY, GOTCHA!” An awkward silence ensued.
Because my daughter seems to also have a penchant for nosiness, curiosity, and just general people watching, I told her the next day that I finally met the new neighbor whom we have heard hammering upstairs.
“What’s his name?” she inquired.
“Oh, I dunno…He told me but I can’t remember.”
“Maybe it’s Mr. Hammerhead,” she said. “Was he carrying a hammer?”
I saw my neighbor again, two days later, when we were exiting the building at the same time.
“Oh, hi!” I said.
“Hi, Emily!” he said.
“I’m sorry, now, what’s your name again?” I asked.
“__________,” he said.
I then repeated his name outloud, thinking that would help me remember it.
We exchanged pleasantries, and commented on the weather. By the time I was getting into my car, I realized I didn’t remember his name anymore. It was like my brain had pseudo-stored it.
“What the heck is wrong with me?!?!” I asked myself. I was starting to wonder why I couldn’t remember what he had literally JUST told me. His name was a generic one, too, which didn’t help of course.
I didn’t see him then for probably about two weeks, until one evening I was rushing out of my home to meet my friends for dinner. It was freezing outside, and he was wearing shorts.
When I spotted him, I got slightly nervous from not knowing his name, and blurted out, “Why are you wearing shorts?”
“I’m going for a run,” he said.
“Outside?” I asked.
“No, at the gym,” he said.
I then learned that we go to the same gym up the street and that he works for WFYI, the local public radio station. The longer we chatted, the more I began to realize the inevitable–I would have to ask him his name again.
“Okay, sooooooo…you’re gonna think I’m dumb, but tell me your name again,” I said.
“Haha, no worries, it’s _____________,” he said.
Once again, I utilized my familiar tactic of repeating it outloud. As you can see, this tactic doesn’t work, since I am still filling in his name with a blank line.
Upon getting into the car, I once again realized I had completely forgotten his name. It’s like my brain was hearing his name, got overconfident in its ability to remember it, and then didn’t work to remember it at all.
I know this is just a little dumb thing, but it seems to happen to me frequently nowadays. I’m starting to get a little irritated with myself. What’s disconcerting is that sometimes I’m too far into the course of the relationship to re-ask someone his or her name. I began to wonder how it’s possible for me to learn a hundred students’ names quickly at school, yet I can’t seem to remember this one dude’s name.
I realized that it’s because 1) I’m a visual learner, and I have the advantage of seeing a student’s name in print as I learn it. 2) my classroom management and relationship building depends on me learning my kiddos’ names.
But really. Seriously. Back to Mr. No-Name Neighbor–I feel like it says something about my lack of mindfulness. My subconscious decision to not live in the present. My overactive mind thinking so much about the fact that I didn’t remember his name, that I, in fact, wasn’t listening when THE VERY ANSWER I WANTED was given.
Sometimes I am so busy thinking about the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing that I forget THE VERY THING THAT I NEED TO DO AT THIS MOMENT.
I think about my students often, and how we, as teachers, sometimes get frustrated when they can’t remember something we have told them 1,000 times. Yet, I can completely relate to that feeling of frustration–frustration within myself when I do the exact same thing.
One of the most fascinating research I’ve read in recent years about language learning (I’m an ESL teacher) is that in order for students to learn a new language, a teacher must work to lower their affective filter. There’s this genius linguist, Steven Krashen, who has extensively researched and developed numerous hypotheses about learning a second language. In one of his hypotheses, he describes a person’s affective filter as this “emotional screen” that interacts with his or her brain as he or she is learning a language.
For those of you who have never been overseas or been in a situation where you were asked to produce an answer in a language other than your own, you may not know that language learning can be quite anxiety-producing–particularly speaking, which is our primary form of output and communication.
The way to go about reducing this anxiety is to find ways for students to feel successful–to scaffold the instruction while not watering down the content–and this–THIS is where you get into the genius of teaching. A teacher who shelters and scaffolds their instruction for all students–students whose first language is not English, students in poverty, students who are delayed in language, and just EVERY SINGLE KIDDO in their classroom–including the gifted ones–is on his or her way to mastering the art of educating and molding minds.
Molding minds is serious business. We can’t just let anyone into education because they think kids are cute. We can’t just give every nice, sweet person who wants into our children’s hearts and minds a “free pass.”
Because those are their MINDS. And this is my legacy as a teacher–to impact as many children in as positive way as I can.
So, in terms of the affective filter of my own mind….I may just need to give myself a break. And remember that the more anxious I am about forgetting something, the more likely it is that I will. Perhaps I could just remind myself every time I see my neighbor that it’s really “no big whup.” It will stick in time–at the precise moment when my brain is so relaxed that it doesn’t care.
And I wanted to post a recipe tonight, but I’m so tired that I’ll just post a picture of this log of summer sausage that I’m eating for dinner. Yep, that’s right. I’m eating a freaking log of sausage.