The Teacher Face

I read a really fantastic article just this morning, In The Sky Above Melbourne… You should take a look at it if you can. But it’s an article describing a tense flight and a teenage boy with Downs Syndrome feeling sick and not returning to his seat for landing. The Pilot called for a special needs teacher instead of a doctor, and the teacher was able to coax the boy to his seat. It’s really fascinating and got me thinking about a kind of teacher face.

I was told a few times this year that I have that “Teacher Face”. I didn’t really know what it meant until I started interacting with different people. The article addresses how the teacher got on the same level with the boy and learned about him before trying to get him to move. I realized I did just about the same thing. I was on a river ride at Six Flags weekend and I decided to sit next to a little boy no more than 4.

His mom was fine with me sitting next to and talking to him, so I asked him, what his name was, and where he was from. He told me, and then kept talking about how much fun he was having in California. When the ride started, we went over the first bump and he lost hold of his mom’s hand and quickly latched onto mine. He didn’t let got the entire ride despite all the water that soaked us both. At the end of the ride we were getting ready to exit so I tried to let go of his hand, but he just held on tighter, for some reason he trusted me. It was probably the cutest thing I’ve experienced in a long time.

When I was looking back on a couple other experiences I found the same tactic in getting people to trust me.I wrote about a little girl at the Chicago O’Hare Airport in August, you can find it here. The middle section is really what I’m aiming for. Here, I’ll just paste it:

…20 minutes before boarding my next flight, a small family sat down next to me in the waiting area. They were minding their business and I, mine. Until the little girl laid down over the seats and he arm was intruding my space. So I looked at her, and when she looked at me, I told her, “I like your nail polish”.

She went off! She told me all about her trip to he nail salon and why she picked purple. She only stopped for about a minute to listen to me talk about why I wasn’t in Ohio where they were. She told me her parents lived in separate places and they were both seeing other people. She told me about her snake that she had won at some corn festival and why she was going home. She didn’t know where Chandler or Tempe was, but once I tried to explain it, she tried to understand.

I think maybe the most rewarding moment of the whole day was when her dad offered her a  bag of jolly ranchers and she desperately searched for a red cherry one. She pulled out a pink one and asked me to read it to her, and when I asked her why, she told me she couldn’t read the whole word.

So I pointed to the first letter of the word and said, “Do you know what letter this is?”

Of course she knew it was a “w”, and I Asked her, “What sound does a ‘W’ make?”


“Does Cherry start with a wuh sound?”

The light that went off in her eyes was wonderful. The moment she realized she didn’t need to be able to read the whole word, she just needed to use clues to figure it out, she lite up and even offered me a blue one.

That small compliment of “I like your nail polish” gave her a gate way to trust me because we had similar taste in nail polish obviously. You’ve got to get on the same level with people in order to get them to trust you. (And the fact that she asked me for help with figuring out a Jolly Rancher name instead of asking either of her supervisors who were sitting by not busy just finalized my idea of having a teacher face haha)

Maddism #23: You can make lots of friends by having similar taste in nail polish.

There’s a number of other one’s but these two popped into my mind. It’s really interesting what you can learn about people when you start from their perspective and where they are. I think that’s one thing teacher’s get really good at because they need to have their students trust them in order to teacher them.


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