Posts Tagged ‘politeness’
I cribbed the title from a worthwhile essay in a similar vein, so credit there where due.
It’s Picture Day, and you’re a teacher. Chances are, things aren’t going well. All those photographers, and Picture Day is half of an hour behind schedule. As tempting as it may be, don’t get peeved at the camera guy. He’s just doing his job, as best he can.
If his car broke on the way to your school, or his equipment at it, remember that he doesn’t like either any more than you do. To fix his car means that he might not be able to pay the rent this month, and to fix his equipment means 45 minutes of patient explanation to students, staff, faculty and your school’s highest hierarchy. If he had any control over the situation, there wouldn’t be a situation to worry about.
Once he gets there, it’s an even shot that all the plans he knows have been changed. He may or may not find out that Picture Day has been moved to another, smaller room, or that your Picture Day coordinator has some wild ideas she’d like to try out that he can’t at all implement. While his boss and yours play early morning phone tag, he may or may not discover that he has to clear a class set of chairs and tables before he can even start setting up.
Camera Guy makes no real decisions, though he is the face of the company. Camera Guy is merely in charge of the camera, and that is where his authority ends. If your Picture Day is running slower than expected, it more-often-than-not isn’t going to be the fault of Camera Guy.
Just know that if you must complain to his superiors about his efficiency or the clogged lines at his camera, have the courtesy to first inquire with him politely. He’ll be very receptive. For Camera Guy, politeness can be such a novelty.
After a few months of student teaching, my master teacher took a sharp turn. While at first she was appropriately demanding and critical, by April, she became complimentary.
I liked how you presented this excerpt, and had them look for different things in the Second Treatise. That was good.
The compliments were never frequent, but by April, they were all I got. There’s no way to put me off like a steady diet of nothing but compliments.
Compliments seem like the sweet thing to do — who likes pessimists, anyway? — but they have to be tempered with some fiber, some meaningful substance. Compliments bolster the ego, but after that cotton candy feeling wears off, I’m left with nothing but the memory of warmth.
Not that compliments aren’t intoxicating. I misinterpreted my master teacher’s rationale for all the compliments, thinking: Gee, maybe I’m getting really good at this.
That wasn’t it at all. After confronting her about it, we talked our way to this:
It’s just that every time I tell you something, you try to explain yourself. You never listen to me. You even argue with me about every little thing. I just got tired of it, and I gave up trying.
Then I argued with her about every little thing she said.
My family relishes spirited argument, so I was hardly writing you off. If I argue about it, that means I am listening to what you say. If I argue about it, that means I care about what you say. I requested to have you as my master teacher because I knew you were tough on your student teachers — I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Without your criticism, I laid back. I got lazy. I became laissez-faire attitude toward my student teaching, come what may.
Student teaching was never quite the same, in that light. That’s what cotton candy compliments will do to you, so think about that next time you have the urge to put politeness over honesty.
Cotton candy compliments are why a trainwreck show like American Idol can exist — we get so caught up in all the nice things others say about us that we go off and embarrass ourselves, sometimes on national television. We need the unpleasant fiber, the “Really, Steve. Don’t go to that audition. You suck.”
Even worse, sometimes we’re so hopped up on compliments that we ignore the that lone, deflating voice of dissent, saying, “What do they know? Everyone else says I’m just like Freddie Mercury.”
We shouldn’t substitute cotton candy for fiber, however unpleasant it is. If we do, pretty soon we’ll end up like Red, here: full of crap.
How this relates to students, teachers, coworkers, friends and relatives is left as an exercise to the reader.