News Digest at Dinner

Back to the magic word pertinent. A large chunk of the childhood education workshop I attended Saturday dealt with managing the nonstop talkers, questioners, and interrupters in the classroom. None of the techniques presented were as powerful as the concept of pertinence.

Once my younger siblings had joined me at Eastridge Elementary School, our family dinner conversations became the time for reporting the highlights of our days. We each got a turn to talk as long as we wanted, with very few interruptions or additions from anyone. This could be a very lengthy experience on any given evening, particularly if one of our teachers was reading a Mrs. Piggle Wiggle book to the class. [When my sons were in elementary school I prayed I would not have to relive the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle stories! The guys had other favorites, I'm glad to say.]

We could only comment on a sibling's evening news report if our comment was "pertinent". Once the rule of pertinence was explained, it was used to self-manage the dinner conversation. It did not take our family of five long to decide by consensus if any interjection was "pertinent", or if it had to be stricken from the supper record. It was better to mentally apply the pertinence evaluation to a thought before it was spoken than to have it judged not germane by the rest of the family. Not that there was any sibling rivalry in our family, but it was the pits to have my brother or sister judge my interjection irrelevant. Maybe this sounds harsh, but it was a strong civilizing force. No fun was harmed in these mealtime experiments. I will never forget my sister's imitations of a group of baby goslings roaming around her classroom and tripping over the desks.

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