How big of a risk are you willing to take?

by on January 23, 2016

Teaching math at the high school level, in the public schools, often seems like it is fate to have one student who will constantly annoy me.

Here’s the scene (while editting out a lot of extra teaching). I present some information. I ask a question about the information. Insert your normal dialogue (for better or worse). I ask a question, wait for a response and walk around the room. I stop by Ray’s table. I ask another question, and walk around the room, while giving time for students to think. I ask another question. I walk up to Ray and say quietly, “Ray, I get distracted when others are talking while I’m talking.” And walk away.

This works for a few minutes at a time, maybe 4-6 at the most. A few days go by like this. Then one time I decide to quietly ask Ray this: “Have I been polite when I’ve reminded you about what distracts me?” His immediate answer as I walk away: “Yes.” I walk away as he says, “Yes”. Are there anymore little annoying behaviors while I’m teaching? Nope.  Is the problem fixed forever? Probably not. But hey, at least I got a good relationship with the kid, right?

Is it that easy? Just ask a kid a few simple questions and problems will be (temporarily) solved? Nah, it’s never that easy. I have to be prepared to accept any possible reaction from my question. Ray may not be ready to hear or answer such a pointed question from me today. Maybe he truly thinks I’m not being polite. Who knows.

What if he didn’t say “yes”?  I need to be ready to say “really?” and buy some time. I don’t need all the answers right now. Though it is tempting to think I should, what with Google’s search algorithms there are not many questions we can’t get answered in 2.3 seconds. But in relationships, if I want to make sure I get everyone on-board, then I better be ready to invest the most important commodity of all: time. And I better know myself so well that I won’t be bothered by a person’s reactions.

How does a person come to love themselves so much they are willing to take a huge risk? Perhaps even ask someone a question when they won’t be guaranteed the response? That’s a question to ponder, because if I want to ask someone to do something the other person doesn’t have to do, then I better think about what my reactions might be if the other person says “no.”