It has come to my attention that students are wondering why I wear a whistle on a lanyard around my neck. Excellent question! Most of my students are too young to remember, but I used to be the Varsity swimming coach at Sayre — a pretty good one. I executed those duties from 1991-1993, and again from 2000-2006. My “partner in crime” was Mr. Schrader. Like most coaches, we wore whistles around our necks on the pool deck in order to get the attention of our swimmers, whether it was the start of a set or to keep their heads down during lung busters.
Fast forward to 2015… it dawns on me that I am still a coach. I am a math coach, and my students are mathletes. The best swimmers were always those who were most coachable. You know, the ones who would sleep standing up if they thought it’d make ’em swim faster? Mathletics is no different. Occasionally, students are not engaged in the learning, and the whistle is an effective tool for redirecting focus. Sorry to those who are plugged in. I realize that this may jolt the central nervous system, but that’s the idea. Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) refers to such practices as pattern interrupts. Patterns are often useful, but when the pattern we’re following is not working, an interrupt is an excellent way of disrupting the old pattern. Have you ever entered a room for a specific purpose only to forget why you entered the room once you got there? You experienced a pattern interrupt along the way. (Google it if you think I’m making it up!)
Remember that society depends on teachers to educate all students — even the ones who may not always be paying attention.
I love teaching, and this is my world view: ALL STUDENTS CAN LEARN. While we all learn different subjects at different paces, we can all eventually learn almost anything with hard work — even algebra!
Let me know what you think about the whistle! Is it useful for keeping roving minds and disruptive behaviors in check?