Details and Generalizations to Stay Alert in the Classroom

Details and Generalizations to Stay Alert in the Classroom

Speaking in soundbites and slogans is easy rhetoric and offered on a daily basis as various governmental representatives attempt action based on little more than generalized concepts. Irritating but in today’s health pandemic, this is potentially life threatening as every person draws their own meaning; interpretations based on individual values, beliefs and experiences.

 

“Stay Alert,” for instance, can be translated as remaining ready but, ready for and to do what? How do I maintain this state of alertness? What happens if I am alert yet I (think I) know somebody else isn’t? What if their ‘alert’ means something different to mine? So, now feeling alert, what do I do next? Am I using ‘alert’ as a noun, verb or adjective? As a noun, the dictionary definition warns of vigilance before an impending or expected military attack yet my country is not at war…

 

“Stay Alert” does have meaning but please be sure that details are sufficiently specific for the herds to follow. Remember rules of successful communication is where feedback is accepted as the responsibility of the emitter and not the receiver.

Yes, playing with words and feigning meaning yet this is also the appeal of generalized speech – reaching to a large audience where each person feels individually addressed as the brain fills detail to add meaning; the perceived meaning of the recipients as opposed to clear messages from the emitter. This doubles as danger.

 

I regularly find myself using generalized speech in the classroom. Generalizations such as instructions for neatness, properly clearing away and working at a reasonable noise level and thankfully, these are probably Pavlovian routines and will be carried out as expected with and little altercation. However, when focus is quality of work, verbal and non-verbal reasoning,  detailed vocabulary leads and guides students to an outcome by removing the need to mindread, at guessing what teacher wants. Time and place, where a comparison is using closed questioning with just one answer; useful for recall and denies breadth. What is the objective?

 

Mindful choice of language alleviates confusion, finds relevance and supports creativity; sample the combination sandwich:

  • Generalized overview: setting the scene
  • Detailed expectations: what’s, why’s and how’s
  • Generalized scaffolding and innovative thinking: reflective thinking and ideas forward around past experience, available tools and the rewards of finding new resources

 

Like following a recipe, students find context and relevance and understand precise expectations. Boundaries are recognized, action has purpose, forging healthy pathways for innovative learning.

 

“Stay Alert” does have meaning but please be sure that details are sufficiently specific for the herds to follow. Remember rules of successful communication is where feedback is accepted as the responsibility of the emitter and not the receiver.



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