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TO: EVOC 501 Course Instructor
FROM: Phil Fournier
DATE: 10/3/2004
RE: 501-FA4-Fournier

My Two Quotes from “Verbal Judo; the gentle art of Persuasion” by George J. Thompson, Ph.D.


1.  Page 60: “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our hearts.” 

This powerful quote uses a very old, once very common, “parents” saying and rephrases it to reflect something far more accurate.  While words do not cause the same physical suffering as the sticks and stones, they are capable of causing great emotional pain and suffering.  This principle is seen also in the Bible, James chapter 3:7-8 “For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:  But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”  A teacher is in a special position to use words either constructively or very negatively.


As a teacher, I have tried to apply the principle in the classroom of respect towards all students, no matter how far out in left field, and how obnoxious they may be.  Handling stupid questions is one great test of how an instructor is going to use words to either help or devastate his students.  As a student, I watch closely to see how an instructor deals with off-the-wall questions and overly talkative students.  I have found this to be a pretty accurate reflection of the instructor’s teaching abilities.


2.  Page 115: “Listening is not a natural act.  It is highly artificial and artistic.  In fact, listening is not the opposite of talking…. In our culture, the opposite of talking is more like waiting to interrupt.”  This quote hits home, because by nature I am a terrible listener.  I used to be a habitual interrupter and I realize now it is a very arrogant way to act.  My mind goes a thousand miles an hour, and I get impatient with people who speak slowly, because they are taking time to gather their thoughts.  I would interrupt and fill in the blanks for them, because I supposed I was three steps ahead of them.  I still have to watch myself to not repeat that behavior.  My wife will attest that I tend to tune out what others are saying because my thoughts are elsewhere, rather than really listening.  As a teacher, really listening to the students can do a great deal to enhance the learning experience, but the teacher also needs to know how to control the student who doesn’t know how to listen either.


My Two Quotes from “The One Minute Manager” by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson


1.  Page 83 : “We call it the ‘leave-alone, zap style’.  You leave a person alone, expecting good performance from them, and when you don’t get it, you zap them.”  This quote reminds me of a situation I am currently in, working as a contract instructor for a large company.  I have been trying for better than a month to get some performance objectives out of the management, insisting that I need them in order to do a good job for them.  I am trying to circumvent the above style of management.  Who wants to work in an environment where expectations are unspoken, unwritten, and therefore unknowable?  Obviously, this ties into education very well, because students also need clear objectives from their instructors.  The “zap” may be a poor grade, but it may be the instructor who really should get the zapping for failing to clearly outline objectives and expectations.


2.  Page 95: “When you touch, don’t take.  Touch the people you manage only when you are giving them something-reassurance, support, encouragement, whatever.”  I like this idea and have used it myself, though perhaps unconsciously.  In spite of the current culture in the US, which I consider to be deviant, of never touching anyone for fear of sexual harassment lawsuits, I have found that people respond well to touch when administered in a true sense of caring.  I have rarely used it with students, out of fear of the consequences, but routinely use it in managing my business and personal life. 


ONE BOOK from the Recommended Reading list I believe would be most worthwhile for me to read is “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey.  Actually, this book was recommended to me more than ten years ago in a management class I attended.  I went so far as to purchase the book and began reading it but at the time my attention was insufficiently engaged and I never got very far into the book.  I think the book would be helpful to me in life and in teaching because I consider myself to be an effective person, but well know that I have habits that are not always positive and could learn to improve.


ONE BOOK I have read that is not on the Recommended Reading list is “Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times” by Donald T. Phillips.  This great little book looks at a large number of axioms that Lincoln lived by and used in brilliant management style during his time in the White House, in the troubled times of the Civil War.  There are solid lessons that could be applied to life, teaching, and management in this excellent little book.