Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bigmouthed Smiles

I tend to assume that people who don't smile at me, don't like me.

As 1,400 high school students flooded into school on Wednesday, I might as well have been one of them:
What do they think of me?
What if I don't fit in?
What if they don't like me?
Do I look like an idiot?
Maybe I shouldn't have worn these shoes.

The fact that I attended a small, private, high school with a grand total of 200 students spared me from much of the trials that affect a freshman here. And I'm grateful for it. I don't know that I could've survived high school here (at least not with my private school education up until that point).

This is a great school. A high-performing, academically-focused institution with excellent ethics and overall good behavior. A warning of a call home to the parents usually fixes any management issues. So it's not like there are gangs wreaking havoc and teachers having sex with students or anything.

I suppose then, it's the size. The enormity. The numerous clubs. The overwhelming feeling I get when I walk down the brick hallway swarmed and traffic-jammed by hormonal adolescents who don't even notice that I'm there, yet, I imagine they're thinking the worst.

Yup, welcome back to high school.

As I met the students I'll be teaching this year, class by class, I quickly picked out those who seemed "friendly" simply because, they smiled at me. I like them already. They put me at ease. But those who didn't, I assumed they didn't like me. A bit juvenile, I realize. It reminded me how quick I am to judge a person within the first 10 seconds and put up my defenses as necessary.

After one day of this, I intentionally stopped, took a deep breath before each class, and decided to assume (out loud), "There's a good chance that these kids like me." Because, really, they just might.

I can be fun.
I can smile.
I can laugh.
I can listen.
I can explain.
I can inspire.

Oprah "told" me (in her magazine) that:
"In a study published last year, researchers pored over an old issue of the Baseball Register, analyzing photos of 230 players. They found that on average, the guys with bright, bigmouthed beams lived 4.9 years longer than the players with partial smiles, and 7 years longer than the players who showed no grin at all. We can't credit wide smiles for long life plans, of course, but smiles reveal positive feelings, and positive feelings are linked to well-being."

That's reason enough for me.