It was a little cold and the rain was pouring down tonight; David lay in bed alone. It was going to be another sleepless night as David lay there thinking about the next day at school and how he would react to the shenanigans of one John “the troublemaker” Walker. David knew that John was a good kid … but for some reason John simply would not do the work required to advance in school. They were in the first 2 months of the 10 month school year and John had not shown much improvement from 7th grade to 8th grade and David wondered how he was able to pass 7th grade at all.
David Bradley, had been a teacher most of his life. The grades he loved to teach was middle school grades 6th, 7th and 8th. He really did not care which subject he was called on to teach, as long as he could teach the kids that were between being little children and being teenagers. He lovingly referred to them as the “Adolescent In Betweens” or AIB’s. These are the kids who thought they knew everything about something but actually knew nothing about anything. They were no longer being treated as the “little ones” at home and still not being treated like “young adults” anywhere … but they sure knew a lot more about life’s joys and pitfalls – they thought – than anyone else did.
David was mourning the death of his spouse (Sandy) who died in a car crash caused by a drunk driver only 6 months ago and he felt it important that he really bury himself in his work with his kids (those he taught) for the next several months to help with the mourning process. Fortunately, David and Sandy’s only child was a young adult herself, now in her final year of college, and Karen – like her father – wanted to be a teacher. However, she had already determined that she’d prefer to teach at the high school level and would really prefer to teach English or Literature. She hated math and was not much of a history buff.
Throughout his teaching tenure (and he was celebrating 20 years this year) David was able to teach kids on all subject matter from all walks of life. The tougher the kid, the more David seemed to thrive on the challenge of getting through to them. However, this kid, Mr. John Walker, was certainly different. For some reason, David did not feel as though he was getting through to this kid and that really upset him. Of all the kids in his 8th grade class this year, David thought John Walker was one of the brightest and had the most potential – yet he was scoring D’s and F’s on most of his work and was consistently late in getting homework, if done at all, turned in on time. In class, as well as on the playground, John was the clown and the troublemaker. He treated all the girls with the utmost disrespect and was a bully to all the boys. If he told a joke and you didn’t laugh he would hit you when you least expected it if you were a boy. If you were a girl he’d walk by and set a frog or some other creature on your desk just to get a scream and a laugh from everyone else.
One day he even brought a snake to school in his lunch box (a black racer which is not poisonous) and put it in Susan’s desk so that when she opened the top of her desk to get her book out the snake slithered out …down her lap and across the floor. Then John became the hero to capture the snake and take it outside. Of course, David could not prove that this was all a creation of John’s … but he knew it was.
Then at about 3:00 in the morning it hit him …
Social Styles and Neuro Linguistic Programming.
Prior to college to get certified to teach … and long before he met his wife, Sandy, John held a position as a Customer Service Representative at an automobile dealership (aka Car Salesman). As part of his training for this job he had to take some classes in Social Styles and a beginners course in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). David hated selling cars … but loved the training that came along with the job. However, it had been many years ago (over 20) and he would have to brush up on some of his skills. Then he thought, “You dummy, you should have been using these all along … they would have made you a better teacher.” The reason he didn’t is because they were never even referred to when he was in college four years to get is bachelor’s degree and teachers certification – so, he forgot all about them.
David woke up Monday morning more excited than tired due to lack of sleep. Ate a fast breakfast of 2 boiled eggs and a half cup of coffee and headed to school. He wanted to arrive a little early and hit the computer lab for some research on NLP and Social Styles.
When David got on the computer and searched for “Social Styles” this was the first image that came up …
All of a sudden it started to come back.
The Four Social Styles
- Analytical Style people are thinkers. They need a lot of information before making decisions, so they often ask a lot of questions. A closer look shows that they have the need to be right, and their biggest area for growth is making a point to speak their mind.
- Amiable Style people are focused on relationships. They openly show emotions and are often seen as friendly and warm. Amiable people need personal security, and struggle at initiating things.
- Driving Style people prefer to control their emotions and are often seen as efficient and assertive. Driving people need results, and they are quick to act but slow to listen.
- Expressive Style people are creative and enjoy sharing their ideas and perspectives with others. Ultimately, they need personal approval, and thrive off of spontaneity.
David decided it was time to get to class … but made a commitment to himself to stop at Best Buy on the way home and purchase a laptop, Chromebook or Macbook to do some more research on the subject on his own time. This way he could take it a bit slower to make sure it all sank in properly.
Once he got home and grabbed a bite to eat (he rarely ate lunch) he broke open his new Laptop and began to do some research. His goal was to try to put John Walker into one category or another. This is not an easy task since everyone seems to have some of the traits in each category from time to time – but it would be possible to find out the most dominant category.
David studied and discovered that ANALYTICAL people are less assertive and less responsive to others. For a minute he thought he had John pegged. But then he continued to read … they tend to focus more on tasks than people and are less interested in leading, being happier to work by themselves. They could be prudent and systematic, making them good at analytic work. They may also pay excessive attention to detail in ways that could actually annoy others.
He found that some of the major characteristics of Analyticals are as follows:
- They focus on tasks more than people;
- They like to be right and will take time to ensure this;
- They are thoughtful, careful fact-oriented and precise;
- They are good at objective evaluation and problems solving;
- They like organization and structure;
- They avoid group work, preferring to work alone;
- They can be over-critical and unresponsive;
- They are cautious in decision making; and
- When stressed may become withdrawn or become headstrong.
It did not take long for David to figure out that John was definitely not an ANALYTIC person. While he was headstrong and seemed to not like working with people … he did not like going it alone and simply would not leave other people alone. He made some very poor decisions and if he liked organization and structure, David thought he would at least do his homework and turn it in on time. In addition, John really did not care if he was right … as long as he could convince others that he was.
David moved on down to the AMIABLE quadrant … and it did not take long to eliminate John out of this one either. The amiable person is a person with higher responsiveness than others and lower assertiveness. They do not have a need to lead and can be steady and reliable workers. They will also avoid any conflict and like to be rather passive.
Some of the main characteristics of Amiables would be …
- Friendly and relates well to others;
- Good at listening and teamwork;
- Wants to be respected, liked and approved of;
- Dislikes conflict and risk-taking;
- Seeks security and likes organized work places;
- Slow decision-making
- Prefers to be told what to do than to lead;
- Fears change and uncertainty; and
- When stressed will become indecisive and submissive.
Very few of these seemed to fit John. He was not friendly to others. He never listened. He seemed to love conflict and conflict seemed to follow him around. Since he would pick on the little guys and the big guys he was not afraid of risk taking. While he may not have been “slow” in decision making … he did make some terrible decisions. He hated authority figures and wanted to be in charge.
These thoughts moved David over to the Driver Quadrant. Some of these characteristics seemed to fit John at some times … but not all of them and certainly not the majority of them.
DRIVERS are people with high assertiveness and low emotional response to others. Drivers are not so worried by how others react and are hence more independent and candid. Since they concern themselves less about people they have a greater concern for results and are quite pragmatic. They can also be poor collaborators and upset others with inconsiderate words and actions.
Some characteristics of Drivers would be …
- They are competitive and need to win;
- They seek control and being in charge;
- They are fast-acting;
- They plan carefully;
- They are decisive;
- They are results-oriented;
- They are task focused;
- They dislike inefficiency and indecision;
- They can be impatient and insensitive; and
- When they are stressed they may grab control and become over-critical.
David set back with a smile on his face. Not because he had solved any problems … but because he remembered that when he took this course, he – like most – wanted to be classified as a driver. Most of the characteristics seemed to him to be positive. But he wasn’t classified as such.
When he took the course he had to have people fill out questionnaires about him and mail them to the school providing the course two weeks in advance of the course. Some of the people that had to complete a questionnaire on him was …
- David himself,
- His spouse or significant other at the time,
- A person he worked with,
- A person he worked for (Boss),
- A customer, client, or student he worked with on issues,
- A relative (parent or sibling or cousin), and
- A person he considered as a good friend.
The answers to the questions were then calculated and a quadrant (as well as sub-quadrant) was reflected as his Social Style in most situations.
In the case of John being a driver … while he did have a NEED TO WIN and LOVED BEING IN CHARGE … the rest of the characteristics just did not seem to fit as well as they should.
This led David to look next to the EXPRESSIVE quadrant.
He learned (or re-learned) that Expressive people have a higher assertiveness and greater responsiveness to others. Since they have less concern with what others think, they are typically articulate, quick and visionary. However, on the down side, their assertiveness may make them poor listeners and with a tendency to distract. This can also lead them to be impractical and impatient.
Some of the Expressive Characteristics are:
- They are intuitive;
- They are creative;
- They are outgoing and enthusiastic;
- They are spontaneous and fun loving;
- They interact well with others at work;
- They are good at persuading and motivating;
- They fear being ignored or rejected;
- They like to be acknowledged;
- They dislike routine and complexity;
- They have a tendency to generalize and exaggerate; and
- When stressed may get sarcastic and unkind.
“Man,” David set back and relaxed and thought, “for the most part … this seemed to fit John much better than the glove in the O. J. Simpson Trial fit O. J.” Most of these characteristics (not all) could certainly be used to explain some of the actions of this young man … John Walker.
He seemed to be creative, outgoing and enthusiastic as well as spontaneous and fun-loving (at least some of his shenanigans were fun-loving for him and got a laugh from others). He did not interact well with others at school … especially if they did not interact well with him. He was pretty good at persuading and motivating, even if he did it by force from time to time. As he thought about it more David came to the conclusion that John, in fact, liked to be acknowledged and recognized to the point that he probably … deep down inside … feared being ignored or rejected. This could explain why he may be a bully and pest in most people eyes. He could certainly exaggerate when trying to get his point across and when he was stressed he became very unkind and sarcastic (such as the snake in the desk of Susan — even though it could not have hurt her physically).
“Yes,” thought David, “John Walker was certainly an expressive.” But what kind of an expressive.
Before answering that question … David made a note about the four social styles as follows:
“This makes it pretty simple, really,” thought David. “John is not an “asker” … he is certainly a “teller.” He does not “control emotions” but rather “displays his emotions.” That alone lands him in the expressive quadrant. But then, there is a substyle,” David remembered, as shown below:
If John was an Expressive … would he be an Expressive Analytic, and Expressive Amiable, an Expressive Driver or and Expressive Expressive (David remembered that he was determined several years ago to be an expressive expressive).
David surmised that because John had a need to win, a need to be in control and was a fast acting person, and because he was both a non-listener and very impulsive (weaknesses of the Driver and Expressive) … he could potentially be in the quadrant of Expressive Driver. At least this is the way David was going to play it until he learned more.
Now that he pretty well figured out to his satisfaction what social style young John Walker was … the only other key to unlocking the door to help John be the better John he was created to be … was to find out the best way for John to learn.
David remembered one of his early mentors in the teaching profession, Mr. Robert Brown (who has been retired for about 10 years now) telling him that if a student cannot learn from a teacher it is likely the teacher does not understand the best way to teach the student. Not all students learn the same. Robert Brown believed that when a teacher pointed a finger at the student, blaming the student, that the teacher should realize there are three fingers pointing back at him or her …
“But, Bob,” shouted David, “When you have a classroom of 30 or so kids how can one be expected to teach 30 different ways?”
“You don’t have to teach 30 different ways,” Replied Bob. “You only have to teach 3 ways.”
As David thought about this conversation, his days as a car salesman started once again to come back to him. How do people learn? Then it hit him. They covered this in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).
According to NLP there are three basic learning styles. All of us use all these styles in our daily lives … but one style is more dominant for each of us than the others. This is the one the teacher/leader needs to find and use if they want to bring out the most in the student or employee. These three basic styles are:
- Auditory and
Also referred to at times as VAK styles. In his research David learned …
Learners use all three modalities to receive and learn new information and experiences. However, one or two of these receiving styles is normally dominant. This dominant style defines the best way for a person to learn new information by filtering what is to be learned. This style may not always to be the same for some tasks. The learner may prefer one style of learning for one task, and a combination of others for a different task.
Classically, our learning style is forced upon us through life like this:
- In grades kindergarten to third, new information is presented to us kinesthetically; We learn by doing.
- grades 4 to 8 are visually presented; We learn by seeing.
- while grades 9 to college and on into the business environment, information is presented to us mostly through auditory means, such as lectures; We learn by hearing.
According to the VAK theorists, we need to present information using all three styles. This allows all learners the opportunity to become involved, no matter what their preferred style may be. David realized that he was really only teaching in one style … Visual. He was allowing his students, all of them, to attempt to learn by watching him without realizing some would learn better by simply listening to a lecture from him on tape while others would learn better by doing, perhaps doing some of the teaching.
You can tell who is an auditory learner by the following characteristics:
- They often talk to themselves;
- They may move their lips and read out loud;
- They may have difficulty with reading and writing assignments; and
- They often do better talking with a friend in the class or taking a tape recording so that they can hear again what is said.
Visual learners on the other hand learn as follows:
- There are two types … Visual-linguistic and Visual-spatial.
- The Visual-Linguistic like to learn through written language, such as reading and writing assignments;
- They remember what has been written down even if they only read it once;
- They like to write down directions and notes and pay better attention to lectures if they get a chance to watch the lecturer.
- Many of them, especially the visual-spatial, do much better with charts, demonstrations, videos and other visual materials rather than just written language.
Kinesthetic learners do best if they can touch and move what they are learning. Again there are two sub-channels. Kinesthetic (Movement) and Tactile (Touch).
- These people will lose concentration if there is little or no external stimulation or movement.
- When listening to lectures they want to take notes for the sake of moving their hands.
- When reading they like to scan the material first, and then focus on the details. In other words they want the “Big Picture” first.
- They will typically use color highlighters and take notes by drawing pictures, diagrams, or doodling.
Again, since David realized that some students could learn in multiple ways, he surmised that there were different kinds of Auditory, Visual and Kinesthetic learning styles as shown below:
So, how could he determine what the dominant style was? He found a test on line that he could issue and decided to issue it to all students in his class. The quiz was full of Open ended questions that required the student to think. The idea was to ask this series of questions (and he realized he could actually write his own questions) and when the student is thinking about the answer to watch their eye movement. So, this would have to be a verbal one-on-one test so that David could watch the eyes. The eyes are the window to the soul according to most psychologists today. It is also stated in like terms in the bible and artists (Leonardo Da Vinci) and philosophers (Cicero) and writers and poets (William Shakespeare) have also said it.
The eyes can tell you almost anything you want to know about a person if you look deeply at them. Here’s a drawing David found on line to refresh his memory so that when he gave his oral tests to the students he could watch the eyes.
When asking the questions (and these are open ended questions that require thought on the person answering them) if the eyes move from side to side … you likely have an auditory person in front of you, David remembered, they are looking into their ears to hear the answer.
If the eyes move upper left or right then you are likely taking to a visual person, they are looking into their minds to see an answer. And if the eyes look to the lower right then you have a kinesthetic person in front of you, who is looking into his own soul to try to feel an answer. It was all starting to come back to David now.
The basic learning styles again were …
So, the combination of learning styles might look as follows:
It has been said that law enforcement personnel have been trained in this course in the past and some with the FBI have become very proficient with it. As David studied more, he could not get over just how much the eyes could tell one.
If the eyes are going right (to the right side of the brain) the person could be creating a picture of something never seen (Visual) or making up a tune never heard (Auditory) or Imagining an emotion (Kinesthetic) – or all three could be simply thinking about a lie to tell.
If the eyes go to the left for an Auditory or Visual Person then they are actually recalling an event or something that actually did happen. They are looking at or remembering the truth that did occur. If when talking to the Auditory person the eyes go down left … chances are they are listening to the inner voice or talking to themselves.
As David set back and got his notes in order … he remembered something else. Mirroring a Person. Mirroring is the behaviour in which one person subconsciously imitates the gesture, speech pattern, or attitude of another. Mirroring often occurs in social situations, particularly in the company of close friends or family.
In other words, they will subconsciously mirror each other. When people say that the vibes are right around a particular person, they refer to mirroring and synchronous behavior that they are not consciously aware of. When people see you mirroring them, they get a message that you feel what they feel, see what they see or hear as they hear. That together you have a good chemistry or bond.
Along with physical bodily mirroring, if he crosses his legs you will cross your legs or if she leans forward when speaking you will lean forward speaking … David remembered that he must also use the right words.
He should always ask a Kinesthetic person how they “feel” about something; or a Visual person how something “looks” to them; or perhaps the Auditory person how something “sounds” to them. If he asked the Kinesthetic how something sounds … he may get nothing in return. Or if he asked the Visual person how something feels to him … again nothing in return that is worth anything.
So, to understand his students more; to be able to assist them in learning better, David became committed to finding out more about their social style and their learning behaviors. He would have to do it one at a time until he got as good as it as he used to be when he sold cars … but he believed it would happen. He also committed to starting with John Walker first, but would eventually test all his kids so that he could become a better teacher to them all.
The next day David asked John Walker to have lunch with him … and yes, David who never ate lunch provided it from McDonalds. They met under a shade tree at lunch time on the play area of the school and David begin to talk to John. He learned rather quickly that John was an Expressive Driver (his first thought the night before). He eventually learned that John’s dominant learning style was Kinesthetic. He learned by doing more than any other way (much like the kids in grades Kindergarten through 3rd).
However, David learned a whole lot more about John. He learned that he was abandoned by his biological mother as an infant and was in the foster home system for much of his younger life. He was finally adopted by loving parents when he was 6 years old and starting to school … but when he was 8 his dad died in the military and his mom was left to raise him alone. She was struggling to make ends meet and now that he was 12 she was working two jobs so was seldom home when he was awake.
Armed with this additional knowledge about John, David developed a plan to discuss with John. He wanted John to commit to spending some time with him after school for the next several months to catch up and be able to graduate. In return for this … David would commit to spending time with John on Saturday’s doing whatever John wanted to do for entertainment and adventure from bicycling to hiking to movies and sports; after all David had no one at home to spend time with since his wife was deceased and his daughter was away at school. He also wanted to allow John, when he was ready, to be David’s assistant in class in teaching some subjects that really seemed to interest John, like History and Social Studies.
He met with John the next day and reviewed his plan with him. Once done he simply said, “John how do you feel about this plan?”
“Mr. Bradley,” asked John while folding his arms in front of him, “Why do you care what happens to me? I am here today and gone tomorrow. Once I am out of this school you will forget all about me, my real mom did. My current mom has, and my father went and got himself killed rather than getting out of the army when he should have. You should spend your time on those kids that do better than I do. I’m used to being left alone.”
“John,” explained David while folding his arms in front of John, “I am really sorry that you feel that way. My intent was not to just help you get through my class and leave you high and dry and feeling alone. The high school you will attend is just down the street and I would fully expect us to remain close all through school then as well. I would fully expect you to come back to class and assist me with some of the younger students that could use your wisdom and insight. After all, they will pay more attention to someone closer to their age than they will an old man. I am doing this John because I sense a lot of potential in you and really want to help you get everything out of life that is yours to get so that you truly understand the sensation of being the best you can be. I don’t have to do it to keep my job … but I want to. What do you say we work together for a few weeks to see how it goes. How does that grab you?”
David’s response was full of Kinesthetic words and he was mirroring the body language of John.
John’s eyes drifted down and to the right and he said, “Okay Mr. Bradley, I am willing to try it for awhile. Can we get more Micky D’s tomorrow for lunch.”
David laughed and said, “Don’t push your luck kid … I’ve got to meet with another one of your classmates tomorrow.”
The rest of the school year went as David had expected it would. John was not only improving his grades, he was also becoming one of the more favored among the class and was less of a pest and trouble maker. However, some days the old John would show up … but these were becoming less and less noticeables because of the “emotional bank account” he was starting to build with some of his classmates.
John finally did graduate the 8th grade – on time – and though he was far from valedictorian of the class … he did manage a 2.5 GPA (about a C+ average). David, on the other hand, was walking on “Cloud 9.” For the teacher who felt he couldn’t teach a few months ago, he became the one who felt he could teach anyone put in front of him today.
David and John continued to meet from time to time while John attended high school. John would drop by David’s class when he had time and talk to the younger students and David would pick John up occasionally on Saturday for a dinner, a football game or simply to “hang out” and discuss the ways of the world. Their friendship and respect for each other continued to grow.
Four years later David set in attendance at the graduation of Small Town High and listened to Valedictorian Mr. John Walker provide the following commentary:
Respected Principal, Teachers and My Dear Friends!
First of all, I would like to welcome you all to this graduation and our farewell day. I have been given this opportunity to give this talk today. Well, this is a very emotional moment for all of us as we are getting promoted to a new life on the one hand; whereas on the other hand we are also leaving behind our most favorite place; our school where we spent the most significant growing years of our lives. Some of us will be going to institutions of higher learning while others will be going into the real world in jobs for real learning.
I would like to utilise this moment to thank all our teachers who prepared us for the world outside. Our teachers have been an epitome of strength and a great pillar of support to all of us. They have been as strict as father and as loving as mother, equally caring like a friend, a strict disciplinarian and yet always so approachable. Our teachers are wonderful human beings because they have accepted all of us with all the weaknesses and have worked upon us to overcome those weaknesses. I would especially like to thank my 8th grade teacher and dear friend – Mr. David Bradley. Without Mr. Bradley I don’t think I would be here today. He not only helped me with my weaknesses and all the other things I mentioned … he also helped me to believe in my strengths and in myself. Since I only had a father for two years of my life … he is like the father I never had.
I still remember, when I first met Mr. Bradley, when I used to be everyone’s pain in the derriere. I faced difficulties in speaking or acting right in school and today, I am standing here to deliver the farewell speech. This is all because of the great and loving teacher, Mr. Bradley. He never left any stone unturned to change my personality and attitude. Needless to say, he has worked on me even more to prepare me for the outside world. I’ve always believed and felt a teacher is essentially a mentor and a role model for the student. The student believes in the teachers and every word they say. They are noble and selfless people because they accept each of their students wholeheartedly without any bias and favoritism. Mr. Bradley did more. He not only taught me Monday through Friday … but he was there on Saturday as well.
My mom always said, that school period is the golden period in everyone’s life and I realize it now when I stand amidst all my favorite teachers and fellow friends to bid goodbye for a newer world.
As for me, I have been accepted to Stanford University and am looking forward to the new challenges and opportunities that I will be facing. Before leaving this stage this evening I thank all the teachers, Principal and all other staff on behalf of the fellow students and myself.
I’d also like to shout out a special “Thank you” to Mr. Bradley of Small Town Elementary for being an indispensable part of my life! You will never be forgotten and I will always be in touch. You are truly a student and a teacher’s teacher.
Jerry Nix, FreeWaveMaker, LLC
2 thoughts on “The Teacher who Couldn’t Teach”
WOW 😮!!! What a GREAT story! Here I sit at work on the 6th night of my last 7-night nightshift, as I will be losing my job in 10 days, and you’ve almost brought me to tears 😭! Teachers are indeed the unsung heroes in our lives. I have had many good teachers throughout my education; THANK YOU for sharing this story so that others may reflect on all the teachers 👩🏫 👨🏫 who have influenced their lives as well!
Mary what a great comment. I am so glad you got something out of this story. While it was totally fictitious … I did have a teacher very much like David Bradley when I was in 8th grade … but we did not have a John Walker in our class. That teacher was fired after two years because he refused to use textbooks. He would bring a bunch of newspapers, one for each student, and that would serve as our English book, our History Book, our Current Events Book, our Social Studies Book and the financial section was our Math Book. He was a great teacher and I will never ever forget how he could take something happening in the news and relate it to something that happened 100+ years ago. I am also sorry to hear that you are being “forced” out of your job early. However, I know you are not going to let it get you down. You and Dennis simply have too much living to do. Please do stay in touch. When the weather warms up I may ride my bike over to see y’all. Jerry Nix