Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Confessions of a Phone Phobic

I have always been uncomfortable using the phone. Just ask people who know me well. It is definitely not my strength in communicating. I much prefer text and face-to-face communication. With text, I have an easily retrievable record, and with face-to-face I can read body language and context, and respond appropriately. I suspect it is a control issue. But perhaps also a deficit in the auditory discrimination modality.

A second confession: I get very annoyed with phone calls in which others are trying to sell me something or asking me to answer questions in a survey. Major irritation.

Last night for 3 hours, on my 6oth year on this planet, I decided to start to face this fear in a marathon session in which I did to others what I disliked having done to myself. (Definitely a sin of commission and obvious breaking of the golden rule). Because of my strong support for a Presidential candidate, I found myself immersed in an activity in which I was extremely uncomfortable. I was stressed. Heck, I would have been more comfortable doing a major speech naked in a full stadium, which is a scary image for many reasons.

My volunteer job was to take a list of local voters that contained party affiliation and phone numbers . . . and to make calls to take a short survey, discuss issues, encourage involvement and early voting in the local effort.

I made 62 cold calls, and in the end, after getting many answering machines and rejections from people like me who get upset with such calls, I talked with a dozen people (which I was told at the beginning was the norm). As the evening went on, I found myself listening to how other callers in the background were approaching phone skills and then incorporating them into my own script. I started finding ways to be the most effective, what worked and what didn't. Total immersion . . . constructivism at its best. I left exhausted, still uneasy, but with a better understanding of others - both the callers and the called.

As a baby-boomer, maybe it is time to buy that Jitterbug! :)

What is your favorite form of communication? How do you feel about being called to discuss issues?

How Do You Cure Phone Phobia

Phone Phobia

Confessions of a Phone Phobic

Telephone Etiquette Guide

Phone Etiquette

Photo Credit: Eldon Hathaway at the Bryant Pond Phone Company. Eldon owed the last crank phone company in the country (1983) just up the road from where I live . . . and was a great drummer as well! The switchboard was in his home and was staffed by the family. For more info, see here.

Audio Version of "Confessions of a Phone Phobic"

Monday, September 8, 2008


by Ed Latham

I was talking to some students last week during some of the "down time" that often pops up towards the end of many classroom experiences. The talk was very casual, I was an outsider, and this was the first time I had met these students. I simply asked "What are you good at?" and sat back and listened. You may want to try that with a group of kids you know, it can be fascinating to watch what happens and the discussion that comes out.

The short story is that many students, even the academically successful students, did not feel they were good at much other than getting in trouble or irritating adults or peers. After a few minutes of listening, I asked those that did not feel much worth why they felt that way. Every single one of them was able to share a quick story of adults and peers that have judged the student's value to be unsatisfactory, of poor quality, or just wrong. School is a place many come to learn about themselves and how they fit in. Unfortunately, a good sized chunk of the population find out more about what they are not good at rather than the positive.

Sir Ken Robinson has a 20 min talk at TED concerning these issues. His talk is more of an awareness that the problem exists. I did not come away from the video with a "Here is what we can do as a system to help address this valid concern." Instead, I saw the video as a challenge to each individual out there working with kids to at least keep these thoughts in the back of their mind as they go through the daily chaos we call our school day.

Our schools were designed to get young students from point A to B and over time we have had many adaptations in the systems to try to allow for changes that are required. When you take something that works and keep adding on and adding on and modifying it over a hundred years, does it necessarily get better? Will it even accomplish it's original function as efficiently as it did "back in the day"?

With the pressures, tests, learning results and all of the other demons we face in our school lives, how are teachers finding opportunities to help students explore their creativity to find out what they are really good at. Trust me, when a student finds something he or she is good at, they will not need to hear it from you or even from a peer to know "I love this! I really like doing this!" Can people please share different ways Teachers/Schools/People are opening doors, rather than shutting out so many possibilities. Many adults and students can point to a time when he or she felt really good doing something only to be totally deflated by a simple careless or insensitive statement from a peer, a respected person or loved one. How are we helping people find those desires and helping to kindle those often tenuous fires that can one day burn so bright on their own, but for now, need nurturing to reach their potential?

Looking for Maine Classroom Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, Sites, Etc.

We're looking for Maine Classroom Blogs, Wikis, Sites, etc. to showcase. Any to recommend? It is time to widen the network. Any leads you can offer would be very helpful.