A couple months back (almost exactly 2 at this point) I flew to a military base in North Carolina to visit my significant other who is in the Navy before he was schedule to be stationed in Italy for the next several years. I chose President's Day weekend because I'm a teacher and we all know how fun it is to try to take legitimate personal days as a teacher. Unfortunately, President's Day weekend was also Valentine's Day weekend. How I didn't realize the ramifications is beyond me, but I ended up on an entire airplane full of giddy military girlfriends (many of whom were EIGHT years younger than me...when did that happen?!) who it would definitely damage my ego to compare myself with. Now don't get me wrong, they were adorable and sweet, but sitting there on that plane made me feel like a huge ridiculous stereotype. Instead of being proud to be among the people who support men whose job is difficult in a way that I will never truly understand, I was actually embarrassed.
I know you're wondering why you care about this little anecdote...but don't worry I'm getting there.
I have a student who has pretty much average (bordering on sub-par) grades across the board. The one exception? Social Studies. I've never seen anything like it. When we start to talk about historical events he is absolutely full of questions and even went so far as to get into a heated debate with another student about slavery/equal rights a little while back. This student is definitely in the category of popular in his social scene (bordering on ladies man...no lie). For him, I'm pretty sure this entails fitting into certain expected categorical norms, hence some of his grades. While his capability is high when he really works hard, his focus does not lie within the realm of the academic. The other day, as we conferenced about his progress, I questioned him about why he had let everything fall through the cracks except for his social studies. He looked at me beaming and explained a little loudly, "social studies is always SO cool and interesting!" Upon realizing what he'd done, he immediately blushed, looked around to see who had noticed, and then looked down in clear shame for his admission.
The connection? He and I have something in common. We hold ourselves to a certain set of standards and can't possibly imagine being proud of a facet of ourselves that does not fit into this preconceived mold. Does that mean it's ok? Absolutely not! It is as dumb as the middle school cliques from which we have all hoped to evolve from (we haven't, but we hope). What I realize, and have realized time and time again, is that one of my goals (especially as a teacher in such a transitional grade) is to model the social skills and self-image that I wish for my students to carry on into adulthood. In order to do that, I'm going to have to start by sharing and being overtly proud of all of the dynamics of myself that make me me and encourage it doubly as I continue to learn the intricate nature of those that I strive to educate.