Mary Bowman-Kruhm
Writer/Speaker/Teacher

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I hope you will find the following articles interesting:

Are you an AM or FM listener?a conversation between "you" and "teacher"

What to say when you're in a Hot SpotYour mouth can get you in big trouble!

A way with wordsDo you hate to speak in front of the class?

If you're stopped by the policeWhat can you do if, rightly or wrongly, you are stopped?

What type kid are you?—Four types to consider...which is yours?




Are you an AM or FM listener?

Do you have trouble listening in school? To teachers, that is—not friends! If so, join this conversation between the two of us.

Does this ever happen to you?

Teacher: I told you we might have a pop quiz this week. This is it. Take out a clean sheet of paper, put your name at the top, and number from 1 to 10 in ink.

You: Oh, no! I hate pop quizzes.

Teacher: Is everyone ready?

You: No, not yet. Can I use a pencil? How high do we number?

Teacher: You weren't listening to me!

That's me lots of times!

It sounds as if you're listening on AM instead of FM.

What do you mean listening on AM instead of FM? I don't turn on a radio during class.

AM listening stands for Absent-Minded listening and FM stands for Focus-Minded listening. Just as FM radio is made up of radio waves that go in straight lines, FM listeners aim their minds straight at what they are hearing. AM listeners are absent-mindedly catching bits and pieces of what the speaker is saying.

Listening on FM instead of AM at school is important because over half your time in class is spent listening.

I try. I really do. But after a few minutes of listening to the teacher, I start thinking about something else.

You aren't the only one. Luckily, you can become a Focus-Minded listener if you want to. Here are some tricks that most students find helpful:

  • Turn on both ears and mind. If you have trouble hearing a teacher who has a soft voice or an accent, ask to sit closer to the front. But hearing words isn't enough. You have to try to make sense out of what you hear.
  • Turn off personal problems. Write your problem on a piece of paper. Jot down a time when you'll work on it. If your mind drifts back to your problem, make a check mark in a corner of your paper and then get back on track. If your problem is sitting next to you, ask for a seat change.
  • Tune out static. When you can't ignore teams practicing outside or kids in the hall, change things by closing the window or door.
  • Tune in to special words and phrases. Listen extra carefully when you hear phrases like "This will be on the test…," "The most important reason is…," and "Your project is due on…." If you can, write down what follows.
  • Pay attention to special signals. Notice what each teacher does when saying something that's especially important. Some jot notes on the board. Others stand with arms folded in a serious pose. Some speak very slowly. Watch and listen for each teacher's body language.

Some teachers are so boring I can't stand to listen to them even when it's important. Why can't they be more interesting?

If teachers were comedians, they'd make a lot more money on TV! FM listening to a dull teacher is hard, but it's the only way to get what you need. Don't let the way the teacher talks keep you from learning or getting the grade you want and deserve.

Can I do anything if I drift off?

Wait until a natural stopping point. Then hold up your hand and say, "Sorry, but I missed what you just said. Would you say it again please?" You can't do that every day, but most teachers don't mind it once in a while.

Worst of all is watching some movie in science that was made when my grandparents were in school. At first, we all laugh at the weird clothes and funny haircuts, but after that lots of people go to sleep.

Remember -- a movie of you and your friends today will look just as funny to kids ten years from now! As for feeling sleepy in the dark, do what you can to stay awake and focused. Sit straight in your chair. Jiggle your foot, swing your arms close to your side. Take notes, but jot down only a word or two so you won't miss seeing anything important. Don't be distracted by unimportant details such as how the actors are dressed or the old-fashioned equipment used. Turn on your FM ears and listen for the message of the movie.

You make me sound as if I've got to have an antenna sticking out of the top of my head!

No, your antenna is that special brain of yours that picks up signals from other people. It knows how and when to listen. If you pay attention to it, you'll soon be a cool FM listener. More power to you!

by Mary Bowman-Kruhm

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What to say when you're in a Hot Spot

Do you ever have times when you don't know what to say? Listen in while I talk a little with a student whose mouth causes trouble.

My mouth got me in trouble last week. Our whole class got in a food fight. The principal called me in to ask me what happened. I couldn't think of anything to say that didn't sound as if I was trying to get some of the kids in trouble so I yelled at him! That got me two days in study hall after school.

Most of the time when you talk it's okay to just open your mouth and let the words fall out. You don't have to stop and think which word to use or how to say something. But in a HOT-SPOT, your mouth can get you in big trouble.

What do you mean by a HOT-SPOT?

A HOT-SPOT is what I call those times when you or the person you are talking to is upset. Either of you may be mad, sad, worried, hurt, scared or some other strong feeling. People in hot-spots don't think straight. The more upset people are, the more likely they'll say the wrong things.

Then what should I do in a hot-spot?

If you want to be a smart talker, you learn to talk COOL. Not cool as in "alll riiight" but cool as in "just the facts." Cool words take away some hot-spot heat by talking about facts in a calming way. Cool words don't insult the other person and make that person feel trapped.

Here are some hot words and some cool words you could use instead. Think about how a person hearing each might feel.

Hot Words
Cool Words

You're lying!

I didn't see it that way.

You're so stupid! Let's try again.
I hate that teacher! I've got a problem.
Shut up! Can I tell you my idea?
That #$%& teacher hates me! She doesn't return work.
Don't blame me! I was at my desk.
So I didn't do my homework! I don't care. Is it ok if I turn my work in tomorrow?

The cool words sound nicer, but I don't think I'd be likely to say them if I was real upset.

Using cool words gets easier with practice. Here's what you do in a hot-spot: STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN. When you find people are getting upset, STOP talking. Calm yourself by taking three deep breaths very slowly. LOOK at the other person(s) to figure out what they're feeling. The look on their face will tell you the most. Tune in to them and LISTEN to what they're saying. Are their words cool or hot? The hotter their words or actions are, the cooler yours need to be.

Could I have used that when a substitute teacher started crying when we wouldn't clean up a mess in the science room? Next day we all had detention.

Sure. You should have first STOPPED to size up the situation. Next, you should have LOOKED at her. What was she doing and what do you think she was feeling?

She sat down at her desk and put her head in her hands. I guess she was feeling pretty bad.

From LISTENING to her, why do you think she was feeling that way?

I guess she felt bad because she couldn't get us to clean up the mess.

That sounds right. If you had spoken up and said, "Gee, we're sorry Ms. X" and then said, "C'mon, everybody. Let's clean this mess up before the bell rings," I bet she would have stopped crying and not reported the class. By saying "sorry" you would have let her know that someone knew she was feeling really bad. By starting to clean up the mess, you'd have sent a cool message to the rest of the class that cleaning up was a smart thing to do. Smart talking also means keeping hot-spots from getting started. You'd be surprised how often people will follow you, even if you aren't a usual class leader.

If I were one of the class leaders I know I would have been more likely to yell, "Okay, you %@&&$'s—Pick this mess up!"

If you want to become a smart talker, you'll get in the habit of not using hot words even for good causes. Save hot words for times when you are by yourself or with a friend who understands you are just blowing off steam about somebody else. Hot words almost always get you in trouble.

My best friend and I yell mean stuff at each other all the time. And we get along okay.

You can call your best friend most anything when the two of you trade insults. But don't call the new kid at school that. And DON'T, above all, say that to a kid who's likely to start a fight.

Everybody knows not to do that.

Everyone may know not to do that, but do you always remember not to do it? A person who uses cool words in hot spots is usually the person who controls what happens next. Cool words put power in YOUR mouth. Try it and see.

by Mary Bowman-Kruhm

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A way with words

Many students hate to speak in front of the class, whether it's to give a book report or act as reporter for a group discussion. If you're like that, listen in on this conversation between me and a student who doesn't like the sound of her own voice.

Have you ever listened to yourself talking on an audio or videotape?

I sure have. I hate the way I sound!

We all feel that way. The bones and tissues of our head change the way we hear our own voices when we talk, so the tape doesn't sound the way we think it should. But the tape gives an idea how other people hear you. What would you like to change about your voice?

I thought I sounded too high and squeaky, but my friend thought her voice was too low. What can we do if we want to change how we sound?

You can change some things about your voice. Other things are pretty much what you are born with. As someone goes though their teens their voice may change a little or a lot. Boys' voices, as you know, change more than girls' voices. If your voice hasn't settled down yet, stick with working on using correct sounds, good English, and being expressive. Later you can work more on pitch (high or low). If you have serious problems, ask the speech pathologist who comes to your school how you can get some help.

My friend has kind of an accent. Can a teacher help her?

Speech pathologists can definitely help change accents.

What did you mean about being expressive?

Have you ever had a teacher who talked on and on and his or her voice never went up very much or down very much or changed how fast or slow they talked?

I sure have. I had a math teacher who talked that way. I nearly went to sleep every time he started to talk.

That's what we mean by being expressive. Most people are expressive when they are excited or are talking to friends. But, when they read aloud in school or give an oral report, they just mouth the words. They don't sound interested in or excited by what they are saying, so people quit listening to them.

How can I learn to be more expressive?

One of the best ways we know is to join an acting class or work with the group that puts on the school plays. They can help you learn how to use your voice. Play groups are fun groups. You'll work hard, but you'll make some really great friends.

I don't know. The last time I tried to give a speech I really messed up. I was talking about my models and I meant to say that I used a ship kit, but you can guess what I said! Everybody howled. So I laughed too. The teacher thought I did it on purpose and gave me points off. Not fair.

Everybody makes mistakes like that sooner or later. One time Jamie Bragg, a long-time radio announcer on station WTOP in Washington D.C., was asked what he does when he goofs. Here's what he said:

"I've said a couple of really bad things on the air. But I've learned to just keep right on talking like I never said it. If I don't laugh or stop and correct it, people will wonder if they really heard what they thought. After I leave the air, I can laugh about it."

I don't know if I could do that, but I'm glad to know that even guys like that mess up. Nobody ever seems to mess up on TV though.

Before TV shows were taped you used to see blunders all the time. Now they throw them out before they get on the air.

I told my English teacher I'd like to be on TV some day, but she said I'd have to get rid of my whine. I guess I do sound kind of whiny, but I don't know why I do it.

Most people have one or more bad speech habits. Speaking with a whine is just that. Get your tape recorder out again and use your "whine" voice. You can feel the difference inside your mouth and head when you whine. Any time you feel that feeling inside your mouth and head, change back to your friendly voice. That's all you need to do. You may want to ask a friend to remind you when they hear you doing it for the next week or two.

Before long when you get up to speak in front of the class, you'll have a real way with words.

A way with words! I'd rather the teacher say "away with words" and let me sit down.

Not likely. Power with words means power to do well—in school or out of school.

by Mary Bowman-Kruhm

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If you're stopped by the police

John Darrell dutifully brought his car to a stop when the police signaled him to pull over. He had barely turned off the ignition when the officer ordered him out of the car, braced him, and in spite of John's honest protests, insisted that the car was stolen.

In frustration, John shouted an oath and shook his fist at the officer. Instantly the officer snapped handcuffs on him and shoved John in the squad car. Only later, at the station, did the police discover a computer mistake had wrongly identified the car.

"Many teens do not comprehend the power of the police or the realistic fear among police that any young person may be armed. Rude, angry behavior or even normal emotional behavior by the suspect can sometimes turn a routine stop into an arrest, or in the worst case, escalate an arrest into someone getting hurt or killed," says R.R. Raffensberger, retired Chief of Police, Frederick, Maryland.

As Claudine Wirths and I said in our book, Coping with Confrontations and Encounters with the Police:

"The procedures associated with arrest, search and seizure, questioning, treatment at the station, and so forth have grown out of many years of experiences in law enforcement and the rulings of the courts.

"These experiences and rulings are taught to officers at the police academy. They are required to follow arrest procedures. They are not going through a process just to annoy you or anger you."

So, what can you do if, rightly or wrongly, you are stopped for even a minor offense? Here are five possibly life-saving tips:

  • Understand the reality of police power. When you are stopped, defer to the officer's power. Think of it this way: If an eighteen-wheeler were coming at you at ninety miles an hour, would you hold up your hand and say you have the right-of-way? Of course not. You'd jump out of the way. In the same sense, jump out of the officer's way by not fighting back. If you get physical with the officer, he or she can, by law, use even more force.
  • Never attempt to outrun the police, either by car or on foot. NEVER!
  • Realize the police will assume you may have a weapon. Over 150 officers get killed in the line of duty each year. The officer who stops you has no desire to be a statistic.
  • If physically touched or braced, cooperate and stay polite. Again, this is not the time to defend yourself. Your time will come later.
  • If arrested, answer only questions of identity, be polite, keep cool and get adult aid. For lots more information, see Coping with Confrontations and Encounters with the Police.

by Mary Bowman-Kruhm

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What type kid are you?

What type young person are you? I don't mean the type who wakes up grumpy in the morning. I'm talking about the word type the way the word is used by folks who study and research how people behave. Many of them believe that people behave, or act, based on one of four ways, or types.

Do you finish your homework most of the time? Or do you wait until the last minute? Do you like to work for a grade? Or do you like to learn just to find out? How you feel about school is one clue to the type person you are. How you act when a problem comes up, what you value and care about, how you feel about moving to a new town—all sorts of ways you act give clues that can help you know what type you are and understand yourself better.

What are the four types? Although people who study the way we act give each type a special name, I've given them names that will help you remember them.

Type #1: People-Person. If you are a People-Person, you look for the best in others and want to get along with everyone. You often put what others would like ahead of your own wants. You think long and hard before you make a choice.

Type #2: Sane-and-Sensible. If you are a Sane-and-Sensible, you usually do what you should, with the hope that life will go along smoothly. You like to join clubs and be part of all sorts of groups.

Type #3: Free-and-Fearless. If you are a Free-and-Fearless, you like to take risks. You want action and you want it now!

Type #4: Considering-and-Careful. If you are a Considering-and-Careful, you are thoughtful and like to figure out the best way to do things. You like to learn because you truly want to know, not because good grades matter.

An additional thing to remember is that everyone is also introverted or extraverted. If you are introverted, you need time alone. You may enjoy going to a party, but when it's over you're ready to go home. On the other hand, being around people energizes extraverts. When a party is over, they almost have to be told to leave and may want to take the party somewhere else rather than have it end.

Knowing about type can help you understand other people (maybe even your teachers and parents?). You can also understand yourself better. Remember, however, that type is not an excuse for bad behavior. Remember too that no type is better than another. Different—but not better!

Once you decide what type person you are, use the chart that follows to help you study better and smarter. I tell more about type in the books Are You My Type? Or Why Aren't You More Like Me? and I Need to Get Along with Other People. If you're older and have a job, the last one is the book for you. If you want some ideas about managing money based on your type, read Money: Save It, Manage It, Spend It.

Once you decide what type person you are, use the following chart to help you study better and smarter.

NF
"People-Person"

  • In making reports, thoroughly research the topic and be prepared with facts and figures that support ideas you present.
  • Choose a study-buddy who is smart in a topic that causes you trouble; if an extravert be careful not to spend study time socializing.
  • Ask a super-organized friend for help in developing an organization system that works for you; then follow it.
  • Especially if introverted, study alone, but set deadlines that will help you finish work of minimal interest.
  • Don't take a bad grade personally but ask how to make it better; look for motives and goodness in teachers who aren't warm and friendly.
  • If you don't get approval for work well done, accept that some people don't realize how much commendations mean to NF types.

SJ
"Sane-and-Sensible"

  • Try to have teachers who give facts and are clear what they want students to learn, when work is due, how it should be done, etc.
  • Understand that every failure is not the end of the world; work on "rolling with the punches."
  • If introverted, find a quiet place to do homework where you won't be disturbed; if extraverted, work with another extraverted SJ.
  • If extraverted, be tolerant of failure of others; if introverted, realize that body language telegraphs intolerance as much as words do.
  • Apply and adapt solutions that worked before to solve new problems.
  • Use the public and school libraries, including information retrieval systems; maximize use of audiovisual equipment and computers.

NT
"Considering-and-Careful"

  • Try to get teachers who understand you, especially your need to delve into subjects of high interest to you.
  • Be patient with yourself; if you mess up a math problem, relax and carefully, slowly check each step until you find the error.
  • If you are unhappy while working with a group, talk with them or with the teacher about the problem you are having and why.
  • When feeling overwhelmed, break big jobs down into doable little ones.
  • Consider developing a mentoring relationship with a teacher, especially if you are an extravert.
  • Try to be patient and understand you have to do some tasks in life that you don't want to do and that may not even make sense to you.

SP
"Free-and-Fearless"

  • Try to have teachers who have a record of being interesting and exciting and who clearly state goals and expectations.
  • Choose topics for papers and reports that are unusual, different, and interesting.
  • If extraverted, ask to present papers orally; if introverted, ask to use a creative way of presenting (video, poster, bulletin board, etc.).
  • Have a parent or friend check homework for details; use checklists to keep track of self.
  • Do hardest, most unliked homework first—to be sure it gets done.
  • Participate in hands-on activities like band, drama, sports, and art.

by Mary Bowman-Kruhm

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