Monday, August 22, 2011

Meg Ryan

Today, I arrived to Ken's classroom and we got to talking about the week past and week to come. I told him that last week I felt I learned two things:

#1. It would be in my (and others) best interest to assume that these students like me, instead of assuming they don't. They just might like me. Plus, if they don't, I'm not the one in high school anymore. So if I'm doing my best and respecting every student, I don't need to lose sleep over it.

Ken kinda chuckled to himself (as 25-year teachers do) when I told him this. Then he said, "I really don't think you have to worry about the students not liking you. First of all, they're teenagers. They're finicky. They might explode at you because of the shirt you have on, when really, it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with how a girl looked at them in the hallway before class." He continued, "Second, you kinda have this Meg Ryan-thing going on, so you'll probably win them over simply because you're charming."

That was a new one. And frankly, I was surprised. Ken isn't the type to flatter unnecessarily or comment on outward things.
Charming? Sweet.
I'll take what I can get (as I have before).

The second thing I learned last week:
#2. If I "act" like I know what I'm doing, but I don't, I'm the only one who's going to suffer. I need to ask for help. I need not be perfect.

So I said, "Ken, you are an incredibly intelligent person who has a huge vocabulary and 20+ years of teaching experience. I do not." I assured him that I am an assertive and fairly confident person, yet, when he and I are talking, I feel myself cowering. He has so much experience and worldly knowledge. He quotes philosophers. He rattles on in conversations, "Well, as Kohlberg've of course read him, right?" He uses big words, like "sycophant." I admitted this to him and we both laughed as he told me the meaning of the word "sycophant" is essentially someone who alters who they are (even appearing submissive) in order to gain other people's acceptance.

He assured me that I need not pretend that I know John Locke personally or know everything about the "globalization and capitalist enterprises at work in the modern Western world" (yes, this is how he speaks. Constantly).

This brought me relief. Ahh, sweet deep breaths.

What continues to absolutely shock me is how hugely liberating honesty can be.
It shocks me when people I've never met feel safe enough to strike up a conversation with me about the pain in their lives.
It shocks me when I risk being vulnerable and I'm regularly rewarded for it with equal transparency on the other end.

It shocks me how easily I forget that honesty heals.
And liberates.
And strengthens.