Thursday, March 3, 2011


One of the most stale, almost meaningless words in language is surprisingly powerful in an educational setting: OK.

Students seek attention — desperately, at times.  Refusing to give them attention is sometimes necessary, but if doing so is a teacher's standard practice, leave leave an uncaring impression on students.  If a teacher responds to every tiny plea for attention with even a complete sentence, they commit a crime equivalent to feeding a pigeon; all others nearby will flock in search of spoils.  To properly balance this teetering scale, one must perfect the use of the goldilocks term: OK.  In the situations to which I am referring, "OK" is used to acknowledge a student without giving them anything to respond to.  This has the effect of stopping a student from continuing without making them feel ignored.  Some examples:

Student: Look, my arm is purple because I drew on it with a marker last period!
Me: OK.

S: Metal music is the best.
Me: OK.

S: I'm saving a couple of problems on this worksheet so that I'll have something to do at my Aunt's house tonight.
Me: OK.

Of course there's more to this balance than the borderline gratuitous use of "OK," but I felt like expressing my newfound recognition of the word's usefulness.

Disclaimer: To any future teachers out there, be aware that using a word that does nothing but acknowledge a student truly places communicative emphasis on tone and body language.  In the above examples, "OK" with a gruff tone will not help, whereas saying "OK" with a bit of a grin would work.

I also felt like informing readers that I do intend to put up one or two more significant posts soon.  I'm currently motivated to write about the phenomenon of sound isolation, but need to set aside the time to do so.  There is also some moderately interesting music research that I may choose to write about.  After complaining a while ago about the mess of signing up to substitute, I'm now an employee of numerous districts and have a job almost every day.  Between that, keeping up with research, and applying for full-time jobs, I'm busier than I was during my early January bonanza.

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