Say What?

Davis and his teacher Nick Linscott use the Can-O-Phone in Physical Science Class

Davis and his teacher Nick Linscott use the Can-O-Phone in Physical Science Class

Cherokee Creek Boys School Science teacher Nick and student Davis rigged up two #10 tin cans with a long cord. They stretched it from one balcony to the other – far enough that they couldn’t hear each other in a conversational tone, pulled the cord tight, and started talking.

Having grown up in a time when phones don’t use wires, our students were stunned by how well this worked – and of course it naturally led to his science lesson for the day!

Some interesting limitations of can and string technology are that only one person can talk at a time, and the call quality is poor, so you really have to pay attention to hear what is being said. Sometimes you even have to ask the other end to repeat what they said. Also the string has to be taut in order for the “Can-O-Phone” to work.

There are at least three mini lessons in these limitations that can help us be better communicators…
1. In any conversation, the only way for understanding to take place is for one person to talk and the other person to listen. It is not possible to listen and talk at the same time. Our brains simply don’t work that way, even if our smartphones do.
2. Check for understanding. Carla Shorts, one of our therapists says the only way to be absolutely sure you know what is being expressed is to ask. She says use a phrase like, “What I’m hearing you say is…or …Do I have that right?”
3. You can only pay attention to one thing at a time. When I asked Mitchell, one of our students how he knew he was being heard in a conversation, he said, “When the person is looking at me and paying attention to me. If they’re checking their phone, I know they aren’t listening to me at all.”

The lessons of the “Can-O-Phone” serve as a challenge for all of us today as we tighten the bond between us when we talk and listen with each other!

Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for boys ages 11-15. Located at the foothills of the blue ridge mountains in South Carolina, the school has been serving boys and their families since 2003.

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