Cotton Candy Criticism
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.