I’m a polite person. It’s just who I am. I don’t cuss, I pay attention to etiquette, and I cringe when I hear people call others names.
One girl in my high school recognised this in my nature early on and gave me a nickname that I guess was intended to criticise. Actually I wore it like a badge of honour. “Sorry Woman”. Because I said sorry a lot.
I know that I was pretty unique in this regard. Teens push through the crowd to get to where they’re going; they don’t gesture to let others go first. Adolescents publicly humiliate and vilify one another to gain popularity; no-one gets “cool” points for giving shout outs to the nerds and geeks. Young people tell the world their every thought on social media, rarely considering what effect their words may have on others. They rarely (voluntarily) apologise.
In our opinion-based society, your choice to not interject every conversation with your own perspective on the matter at hand can be viewed as a weakness. https://ateacherislikeacandle.wordpress.com/2017/11/05/can-a-candle-be-too-soft/
Standing up against the status quo is what’s valued. Sticking it to the man, disagreeing with everything just because it’s cool to disagree.
In this environment, polite people are underestimated because their silence is mistaken for empty-headedness. For cowardice. For being boring. But is it actually the loudest at the party who have the most original or interesting things to say? Not in my experience. And besides, what do you learn by matter-of-factly stating to the world your status on this and that?
As a polite educator, I judge the success of my teaching based on a different set of standards to most. I don’t think the best teachers have the quietest rooms. Nor do I think that the class who has the two straightest lines when walking around the school is the best.
I congratulate myself for a job well done when my students use please and thank you. All the time. I consider it a success when my pupils give timely, well-measured responses. Being succinct is revered. Making eye contact when listening, providing feed-forward in positive language, noticing the plight of those around you and offering your support. That’s how I know I’ve rubbed off. When my kids know about bucket-fillers and bridge building and compromise.
I’m not sure I’m as much of a Sorry Woman any more, but I don’t think I’m any less polite. I think I’d categorise myself as more of a Thank You Woman now. I make sure to thank people for their kindness, to thank the Universe for living a life that’s good.
And yes, I teach my pupils how to read and write and speak. But mainly so they can learn from the wisdom of the greats, record their gratitude in gorgeous cursive, and contribute to the economy of opinion only with sugar and spice. Because God knows we already have enough fear and hate.
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