Mistaking Silence for a Snore

I’ve been working pretty hard this year to get out of my classroom and talk to other adults.

In all honesty, there are exactly two staff members (teachers, admin., classified staff) at my site who truly know me. By design, my work persona is pleasant and aloof. There are quite a few benefits to this persona. For one, I’m never in competition with the many egos in the world of education. I’m pretty universally liked, and I can often get others to take up causes for me, because they believe I can’t/won’t fight for myself.

If, however, I intend to really do this – education – I feel like I need to give a bit more. Maybe I’m going to teach for the rest of my life. Maybe it’s more than just a job. Maybe I’m okay committing a bit more of myself.

I’ve started stopping into others’ classrooms during my planning period in a first step towards maybe trying for real. I’m playing D & D with a couple of dudes from work, with whom I’d otherwise never hang out. I’m attending association meetings…

in trying I’ve discovered an interesting obstacle in my path.

People think I’m pleasant, but plain, simple, boring, and possibly unintelligent.

I think maybe this assumption people make about me is rather telling about the sort of society we’ve created.

Quiet = unintelligent?

Quiet = boring?

That makes no sense to my brain.

I remember as a teenager thinking a ton about this whole talking about self thing. It was pretty relevant in my life because I was an athlete who received a fair amount of attention. Now, granted, I wasn’t Jennie Finch, but I was in the paper enough times that folks would be like, “Hey – I saw you threw a no-hitter!”

My pitching coach started talking to me about dealing with this sort of attention before I really understood why it mattered, and his advice was that I ignore my stats, the media, and just generally what anyone thought about me. That was probably my natural inclination anyways, and I got very good at redirecting attention.

The thing was, the athletes who talked the most about themselves were always the ones who you didn’t really have to fear on the field. I wanted to be legit rather than well-known, so I pretty much refused to talk about myself. If a reporter asked me about a particular game, I credited my catcher for calling a great game, and I went home and did my homework.

Nowadays, I’m realizing how much no one does that.

Of course, I didn’t do it for the right reasons as a kid. I had a sense of duty and righteousness that allowed me to feel superior for not talking about myself. However, now that I just genuinely do it out of habit (and evidently to my own detriment), I’m beginning to wonder how the hell adults are so bewitched by those who talk about themselves. How are the politics of a workplace so dictated by the belief that folks who talk are the only ones who have thoughts in their brains?

Talking about myself feels pretty unnatural to me, but I think I need to start doing it at work a bit more. I came to this conclusion when a colleague started telling me about this plan he has for me to help him lead something, and he said something to the effect of, “You’ll get leadership experience and become a better human being.”

I smiled and said something about how leadership and being a better human being aren’t always linked.

Then, I thought about it later and realized that he thinks I’m afraid to lead.

In his brain, I’m a very nice girl who has a lot of potential, but needs to be brought along so that I can become an activist fighting for public education.

I don’t see myself that way. Maybe I don’t see myself clearly, but I think I’ve led a fair number of things in my life, and I’m actually pretty comfortable with my ability to lead well. I don’t generally enjoy leading, but that has more to do with understanding the game and thinking there’s better out there than being admired/respected/followed. I also think I live up to my potential pretty well… I just don’t direct much energy into work.

So… I’ve got to figure out what to do here. Am I committed enough to this job that I ought to let folks know me for real?

We’ll see.


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