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How to Speak “Classic Adult”

(ROCKWALL, TX — July 26, 2017) Dad straightened my tie and inspected my shirttail and we headed to the capitol building. He was “dressed to the nines”—tight Windsor knot, starched shirt, fresh dry-cleaned suit.

Nervous, I’d be serving as an honorary page that day in the Tennessee House of Representatives. He reminded me, “Remember, when I introduce you to people. Look them in the eye, and when they offer to shake your hand, you shake it. You say ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir’ understand?”

I was used to that part and answered accordingly. Having a legislator for a father afforded me crazy amounts of time in the capitol building for exploration and adventure and on that day I was going to use my knowledge to fetch coffee and files for lawmakers as they worked.

Being exposed to this environment gave me an advantage as a kid: I learned to speak “classic adult” early, and those lessons have benefitted me ever since. Now, after working with kids for 25 years and teaching public school for the last 10, I can attest there are some simple language lessons we can give “junior” as he heads back to school to converse with teachers like me, so here goes:

1) Traditional politeness resonates. The news spotlights kids mouthing at teachers, “standing up for their rights”, and I’ve even begun to have students make demands of me…demands… they are 13, I’m 45, and in my upbringing, “that dog ain’t gonna hunt.” A handshake, a please, a thank you, a “yes sir” and “no sir” impresses me, and I’ll bend over backwards for a kid who speaks that way.

2) Character is more important than grades and athletic prowess. I’ll take B’s and C’s earned honestly and losing seasons with improving players over cheating anytime. Winning is fun, but not when I know it was achieved cheaply.

3) Respecting sacred traditions speaks volumes. There are popular folks now who sit for the National Anthem, but the “cooler” guys stand—and the “coolest” give their lives for it. Say the pledges proudly. Be silent in the “moment of silence.” Stand at attention in the “Star Spangled Banner.” Learn it and sing it, its melody beats protesting.

4) No matter the career choice, reading, writing, and math are essential. During Marine Corps basic training my son had written tests every week based upon his reading and notes. He had to calculate wind speeds versus bullet weight and trajectory. He found that he used all the basic “stupid skills” taught in school and found they weren’t so stupid. Study hard!

5) Finally, tenacity trumps talent. I look for kids who try to work as hard as I do and I frankly don’t care if awards plaster their wall. Talent and ability are great things, but laziness sours greatness.

That day Representatives summoned and I answered speaking “classic adult.” They tipped generously; I’m not saying it was the language lessons, but I’m sure it didn’t hurt.

By Scott Gill of Rockwall, teacher, coach and author of Goliath Catfish. Follow Scott’s blog at puptentpapa.blogspot.com and read his “Front Porch Ramblings” at BlueRibbonNews.com.