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Pondering... Stress


I took a required speech class in high school in which the teacher wanted to call attention to the poor speaking habits some people have when doing public speaking... things such as stuttering, long pauses, or stringing thoughts together with "and" or "but".  His idea of a good way to stress the disruption such mannerisms have on the listener, was to implement the use of a tin coffee can and a bag of marbles.  One person in the classroom audience would be appointed to drop a marble in the can each time the speaker hesitated or did anything else that interrupted the flow of what he or she was saying.

Needless to say, the sound of marbles clinking into a tin can was highly disruptive.  For those students who found public speaking a challenge to begin with, the effect of this technique was to stress them even more, making it yet more difficult for them to continue on with their presentation.  This created an uncomfortable situation for the entire class; we disliked this teacher's intimidating tactics and we hated his marble can! 

The situation reached the boiling point one day when a shy student, being badgered by clanking marbles while she attempted to speak, dissolved into tears.  Now days, parents would be paying a visit to administration over such harassment, but back then it wasn't done, you were expected to handle student/teacher conflict on your own.  So a few of us students took matters into our own hands and descended upon the classroom early the next morning prior to the teacher's arrival.  Retrieving the marbles from their can on the shelf,  we opened the small ventilation window and flung the marbles onto the grassy lawn three stories below. 

Needless to say, the missing marbles didn't go over well with the teacher, but he was unable to find anyone willing to tell him who was responsible for the crime.  Apparently he got the message though, as he never attempted to use this method to stress his point again.  Personally, I think he was lucky that they were thown out the window and not at him!

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I'm linking up with Brenda at Pondering With A Purpose
where this week's theme is "stress"

22 comments:

  1. I really thought you were going to say those marbles were used to harm him....
    Putting undo stress on someone is a form of abuse....

    Thanks for pondering with me!

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    1. No teachers were harmed during this event, though I'm not sure the same could be said for all the students. Watching some kids struggle and suffer while he smirked from his chair was almost more than I could bear. I'm sure his sense of self-confidence precluded the awareness that others might not deal with this intrusion as lightly. I feel that it was highly abusive and didn't see it have a constructive result in any student. Needless to say, he only taught there a couple years. He was not a favorite among students or staff.

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  2. Isn't it curious that in every school there is a sadistic teacher that is totally unfit to teach children. Many, many years ago I suffered shyness and was tormented by a teacher whose weapon was sarcasm. It was his weapon that he caned us with.

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    1. Sadly, I totally agree with you Old Egg. I got along ok in school, though I much preferred the primary years to the social pressures of the higher grades. However I could cite countless examples of teachers being cruel to students. I despised teachers like that, and my heart ached for the students who were belittled and abused. I think it's one reasons I stand up for underdogs today, and wish I had been even bolder in my protests back then. No one deserves to be treated inhumanely, ever. And to call that "education" is a crime!

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  3. Speech class nearly put me over the edge as it was, I cannot imagine having to endure that teacher. I get that he meant to make a point, but geez. I love the picture of the marbles, though. So pretty. :)

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    1. Yes, he definitely made his point Stacy, but not in a very productive manner. No one felt more focused or capable when speaking after this experience! I had a coworker who kept a large bowl of marbles on her desk that she'd collected thru the years... it was amazing how everyone just had to put their hands in that bowl of marbles. I think it brought us all good memories of childhood... and yes, they are pretty!

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  4. What a mean thing to do! I had a teacher who used to throw the soft chalk board eraser at you. So, not only did you get hit with something...you were left standing there gagging in a cloud of chalk dust. thanks ever so much.
    But over-coming the stressful fear of speaking in front of people, is probably one of my biggest accomplishments in life!! It took a lot of work....and a much more patient and understanding teacher.

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    1. Good for you for overcoming that fear! I'm a lot more comfortable with it than I once was, I do fine once I'm up there, but I sometimes stress beforehand. You are right that patience and understanding are far more effective teaching tools than harassment and intimidation. I remember a couple teachers that were eraser throwers too! I don't think that would wash with today's parents, at least I hope not!

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  5. That sounds like torture. When I was at school I was really shy and quiet, I would have been in tears too. That is just horrible. I definitely would have voted for throwing them at him!
    If he did it to me now I probably would have just made sarcastic comments about his stupid marbles.

    I had a teacher that would make you stand on your chair, put your hands behind your head and sing 'Old Macdonald' if you didn't do the work properly. That was humiliating in a class full of your peers. Luckily I never had to do it!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Have a fab weekend. :D

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    1. Nothing is more painful for someone shy than to be singled out in front of the class, and especially to be made fun of. Memories of teachers who used these techniques makes my blood run cold and I really hope that karma teaches them humility!

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  6. Bravo for throwing those marbles out the window!

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    1. Indeed! It was a minor act of rebellion, but it felt wonderfully right, and at least the point was made that the class had had enough of marbles, and the teacher who had obviously lost his!

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  7. What a horrible teaching technique! Some people just shouldn't be teachers.

    Good for you for getting rid of those marbles. :)

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    1. I agree, Dana, teachers must have a good understanding of all types of students, and compassion for those who struggle. The marble can just made those kids feel all the more conspicuous and inferior, and that's not what we need them to learn! I suspect there were yet more marbles rattling around in the teacher's head!

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  8. I would have purposefully stutteted the entire time. I don't mind speaking in front of a group, I'd have faked it just to be an ass.

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    1. I can envision you doing that Monkey, and it would have been the perfect response, would have brought down the house for sure! :-)

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  9. His system of teaching public speaking was based on a true story, more than 2000 years old from the ancient country of Greece. Unfortunately, the students in your class seemed to think that he was the student and they were the teachers. I wonder how well those students succeeded later in life. In any case, I don’t believe that such a thing is abuse.

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    1. Although I have not gone on to do great things, I feel that I have been successful in my life, Shimon. I agree, however, that there is always more than one way to look at an issue, and I'm sure the teacher felt that his method fit the lesson. Personally, I choose to never support something that embarrasses or humiliates people who are trying their hardest to do something correctly. I believe that positive reinforcement is much more effective in the long run.

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  10. I have a speech/communication story from college I could share. I might just do that.

    This story is both horrendous in the teacher's actions and funny about the marbles getting flung out the window. Loved that! Good for all of you!!!

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    1. I'd love to read your story, Carrie. :-) I agree with you that the teacher's actions were horrendous, when I think about it now it still makes me angry. If you make someone cry you aren't helping them learn to feel more comfortable in front of people! I felt not one bit of guilt about disposing of the marbles, it felt very right, and I still think it was. We need to stand up for people who are being treated poorly, always!

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  11. I think that those of us who are older just developed tougher skins or ended up horribly scarred. I remember several nuns who seemed to almost HATE boys. I remember one nun making a boy sit in a trash can one day since he was "a piece of trash." He was a cut up and thwarted her punishment by popping up and down like a jack in the box. But...it had to hurt him.

    Most of my ego damage was done by nuns since I went to Catholic school for the first 12 years of my education. I remember one nun putting her arm around me and telling me that I was lovely, was "blooming beautifully." I think she meant well, but all the boys decided that this was a comment about my breasts and spent the next month tormenting me about my "blooming mammary glands."

    Now, I think that we are more sensitive to bullying, by children or teachers. At least I hope so. My daughter went to a Montessori school for her first six years of school and she swears that not one teacher ever said anything negative about her work ever and that it stunned her when she went to parochial school in 7th grade and a teacher pointed out a mistake she made in her grammar.

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    1. Although I didn't attend a parochial school, I have heard so many horror stories from people who did. Were the nuns really that frustrated or overwhelmed in their attempts to control a classroom full of unruly children with so little experience in child behavior themselves? "Spare the rod" was certainly taken to excess, though at times it was in public schools as well. Children thrive under situations that are encouraging, education and guidance can be provided within this format. I can only imagine Liv's surprise to be singled out for negative feedback after six years of being treated with respect. I can also imagine your horror at having the nun's comment be replayed over and over for the entertainment purposes of young boys. At that age it would have been so distressing! Kindness... it's a word that we need to begin teaching and preaching in the beginning, and we need to model it in our lives!

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