I taught in the classroom for 40 years. No argument with the classic adages “when the student is ready the teacher will appear” and “there are teachable moments.” I would simply add a third: “teachers learn in much the same ways.”
It was the Fifties…it was still Norman Rockwell in much of America….I had to work summers selling …my assignment at Marshall Fields was their sheets & pillows department on the third floor. Don’t look for it now, because the New York retail octopus known as Macy’s has since devoured it. But what they couldn’t swallow up are the sweet memories from those summers elbow-deep in bedding options. Often being offered by this off-duty teacher to some of the very kids he had recently taught, who were now going off to college.
MY teachable moments had nothing to do with the Civil War or the Homestead Act. Rather, with the way my customers — kids, parent, dowagers, whatever — were able to relate to something so mundane. Just as in the classroom, history could become far more than simply names and dates, so here could sheets and pillows become far more than, well, sheets and pillows.
As those July and August days ticked off, I found myself selling not products. Possibilities! The possibility of falling asleep faster, better, more ready to sink your troubles into the yielding comfort of clean white percale. Why I even envisioned for them payoffs like gentler nights. As both Shakespeare and Spatafora said: “To sleep, to sleep, perchance to dream…”
I have to half-smile when I remember the manager suggesting I “hang up the teaching gig and stay here where you can make some real money.” Of course that wasn’t going to happen. But I did learn a lot about how to lift the mundane — be it history timelines or summer bedsheets — to new and higher heights of interest.
Good selling and good teaching have a lot to do with intuitively understanding the brain of your student or customer. It’s this “gift” which can help make the difference. Only now I understand some researchers at the University of California are developing a “mind-reading machine.” I kid you not. The idea is to track the different patterns of neurons in the person’s superior temporal gyrus, thereby deciphering what words they are hearing and decoding.
One of the researchers told the London Guardian, “This might sound spooky, but it could really help speechless patients.” God bless him, he’s probably right. About the “helping.” And also about the “spooky.”
Filed under: Uncategorized