Monday, May 11, 2015

Are you always this boring?

That's just one of the self-esteem boosting questions I've been asked by a student this year. He preceded that second question with this one: "Can I ask you an offensive question?" While I formulated my response ("Uh, how offensive?  I mean, we may have different standards of what counts as offensive, so maybe you could give me a hint..."), he plunged in, "Are you always this boring?"

My first reaction was defensive, to think of all the stuff I do that's not boring.  Oh, yeah? Would a boring person...well, wait. Garden? Read? Bird watch? Hike?  Errrr....guess my passions are sedate ones.  

We continued to chat and the student told me not to worry about it.  Not worry?  But that's WHAT I DO.  I will take your one question and break it down every which way and hold it to the light until I have seen all its shades and tones. You may as well tell me not to breathe.  Or not to read.

I continued to probe, and finally the student said, "Well, you never yell or curse or anything."  Oh.  That's boring?  I always thought that indicated stability. Sorry to disappoint. I guess I have come to think yelling makes you look weak, as if you can't even control your own emotions, plus it takes up too much energy and for what purpose.

Would Atticus Finch yell and curse?  (Yes, since I am re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird, I love to pepper my conversations with references to the characters and situations.  Atticus is one of my favorite literary characters of all time.  I both want to be him and am slightly in love with him. Would a boring person fall in love with a fictional character?  HA!)

Anywho, all this is not to say that I  never have yelled...and if someone were in danger in my classroom, I'd certainly yell, as in, "TAKE THE  SCISSORS OUT OF THE ELECTRICAL SOCKET." (Yes, that really happened.  The scissors just happened to "fall" right in the socket.  Uh-huh.)  But, much like Atticus, who didn't shoot till he absolutely had to, I prefer to save my yelling for the most extreme situations.  

And the student who asked the question?  I like to think I helped him think about precision of language. Yeah, baby! Another literary reference--this time to The Giver.

Would a boring person...?

Postscript: I worry that this post makes me sound self-congratulatory--as in, "Look at me, the Zen Master.  Ooooooooh."  I am not the Zen Master.  I struggle mightily to become more patient and less judgmental and find that I often fail.  I worry.  A lot.  It's just this one small thing (the not yelling) that I've (kind of) mastered. 

Postscript #2:  Anytime I feel kinda good about some aspect of my teaching life, someone will say something that dampens that a bit, as in today when the same student commented, "Oh.  You mean some people ACTUALLY like you?"  He was not joking.  


Taking a break during a hike at McKinney Falls

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