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Welcome to

The Standup Trainer Newsletter

December 2006

Brought to you by Ellen Dowling, PhD ("The Standup Trainer") and the fine folks of Dowling & Associates, Inc.



This newsletter is guaranteed certifiably useful as well as amusing. (If you are not completely satisfied, there are unsubscribe instructions at the end. But we're betting you'll change your mind by the time you get there.)

Welcome to all new and continuing subscribers!

In this issue:

1. More Advice on How to Deal With Rude Cell Phones
2. How to Win a Teaching Prize in China

Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Happy New Year (in Chinese)! I had hoped to be able to send this December newsletter sooner, but perhaps you may have heard about that pesky earthquake that hit Taiwan on Boxing Day (Dec. 26)? The one that knocked out internet connections all over eastern Asia? Well, I am IN eastern Asia and it’s been very difficult for me to send or receive email.

But now things are getting back to “normal” (a billion plus Chinese people can’t go without internet access for too long!) and I’m figuring, hey, it’s still 2006 in the US as I type this, so officially I’m still on time!

My best wishes to all my subscribers for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2007!

1. I Blow My Nose at Rude Cell Phones!

In last month’s newsletter, we discussed different ways to deal with those annoying cell phones that can disrupt the class and distract the audience at your presentation.

In response, Gregg Marshall, National Credit Union Association Regional Specialist (and Standup Trainer subscriber), offered this suggestion:

I have a cell phone introduction before every class. First thing, I ask everyone, “Please, everyone who has a cell phone, please take it out. Hold it in your hand. Now give it a nice smile, as you turn it to silence or vibrate.”

Next, I announce a “newly implemented course policy” that if a cell phone rings during the class, there is a $10 fine, and that all fines collected will then be donated to a local charity (which could be the local bar or lounge in the hotel where the course is being held). I add that all class participants are responsible to police each other on this policy and announce any fines that are issued.

This is a bit of a humorous approach and yet remarkably effective.

Aha, another presentation problem solved by a good sense of humor!

My brother Jonathan Dowling, the Mad Mathematical Physics Professor at Louisiana State University, sent me a similar solution:

When a student’s phone rings in my class, and worse yet when he or she ANSWERS THE PHONE, I put down my marker and sit down and yell loudly, "LET US ALL KNOW WHEN YOU ARE DONE SO WE CAN CONTINUE!" My students quickly get the idea that the only way to avoid mortal embarrassment is to silence their phones.

2. Crazy for Teaching Effectively

Once again I am in Beijing, China, teaching “executive communication” classes for the Beijing International MBA Program (BiMBA) at Peking University.

Because I am (as you can imagine) so interested in all things Chinese, I picked up a wonderful book called Oracle Bones, by Peter Hessler (The New Yorker magazine’s Beijing correspondent).

One of Hessler’s students from his early career as an English teacher in China was William Jefferson Foster (not his “real” name of course), who went on to become an English teacher himself. In his book, Hessler relates the following story, which I want to share with you all because it so reflects my own philosophy of what makes for an effective teaching style:

In the fall of 2000, Willy entered an English-teaching contest. All across the country, such events had become part of the craze for competition that had swept Chinese education. In Wenzhou, each competitor entered a room full of students, with judges seated in the back. The officials evaluated the lesson plan, as well as the student response.

Willy never became nervous in such situations. After everything else that he had experienced, it seemed easy: The rules were clear, and they were applied to all participants. The judging generally seemed to be fair, and regardless the students were independent. It was impossible to cheat the spontaneous reactions of children.

The Wenzhou competition began with five hundred instructors, and the field was quickly narrowed to sixteen. Willy made the cut. For the finals, everybody traveled to downtown Wenzhou. The other finalists arrived with laptop computers, projection screens, and lesson plans that had been prepared with professional teaching software. Willy was the only competitor who did not have a computer. His materials consisted of things that he had made by hand: a few pictures to illustrate a dialogue, and dozens of little red paper apples. He wrote the English word “poison” on a bottle of water.

“When I taught them the word ‘dangerous,’ I had the bottle of water that I said was poison, and I asked a student to drink it. They thought it was very funny. Then I had them study the dialogue, and I made them very competitive, because they were trying to get red apples. I asked questions, and they got an apple if they were correct. I stood on a chair and shouted the questions. I was just like a commander; they thought that was funny, too.”

It was a stroke of genius—creating a competition within the competition—and Willy walked away with the first prize. The tournament awarded him one thousand yuan, which was nearly half of a year’s salary; but he said that the money wasn’t important. His school was proud, and he believed that he had won because nobody else in the competition had cared so deeply about English. In Willy’s mind, he was victorious because of all the lists and transcriptions, the obscure words and the unusual phrases. “It was a good honor,” he said. “I think I won because of my crazy style.”

No computer. No PowerPoint. No lecturing. All you need is a “crazy style.”


That's it for this month! If you enjoyed this newsletter please do pass it on to your friends. (Or send them to www.standuptrainer.com to get their own subscription. Why should YOU have to do everything for them?)

If you have a suggestion for something we could do to make this newsletter even MORE useful as well as amusing, please contact us:

Dowling & Associates, Inc.
Ellen Dowling, President
(505) 307-1700