This post has been a long time coming, and is probably going to be painful to write. But I need to try to write my way through it, so here goes.
I’ve been noticing a shift in my tone lately, from my usual kind and questioning self to someone a bit angrier and less willing to inquire. Specifically, twice in the last two weeks, I’ve found myself slinging a bit more dislike than I’m comfortable slinging, as I’ve used Twitter to make remarks that I believe have been misconstrued. ((I’m thinking Twitter isn’t so handy for thoughtful critique sometimes.))
The first case was a series of tweets about a presentation that I was very disappointed in, but that others found “amazing.” ((The amazingness of everything really bugs me. Overusing praise is a problem – both in classrooms and in collegial spaces. Dialogue isn’t terribly useful if it’s not actually a give and take, but actually just a give. More on that in a minute.)) The second was my response to the release of a new publication that doesn’t make much sense to me.
As I’ve named and discussed this issue with Steven before, I’ll tell you that it was his session at the Reform Symposium (Elluminate link) that I found objectionable. I don’t particularly want to rehash that now, except as an example of my behavior. I don’t think it was wrong to challenge the content of his presentation, but it wasn’t right of me to begin that challenge via some ventish tweets, either. ((If you want to read the tweets, they’re available here (as a picture) or here (with links – do a search for @web20classroom to sort).))
I think it’s important to be in conversation with people with whom we disagree. I think there’s much to learn from such interactions. We can be thoughtful and I think people are special, whatever their opinions, and deserve some basic respect. The only problem is, I’m not sure that I’ve been giving that lately.
I think that one is too often seen as confrontational and rude when disagreement or challenge enters a conversation. And I don’t think that’s the way that it should be. But I know that treading lightly leads to opportunities to learn. Loud bellows, while attention getting, don’t seem to lead to change and understanding.
So I’m doing a gut check right now, weighing my words extra carefully, in an attempt to make sure that I’m acting on the issues, and my principles, and not on the personalities. I’m also making sure that I’m being kind and thoughtful with my words. That’s important.
But being kind doesn’t mean agreeing with bad practice, or with poor thinking, or going along with whatever the other person is saying. Doing right by each other means holding each other accountable for what we say and what we do. If I’m not making sense, I sure hope there somebody listening who’s going to tell me, in a kind and compassionate way, that I’m mistaken. ((And I sure hope that you’ll understand if I ask you for clarification, or tell you that I just don’t understand you or your point. It’s not rude. Honest.))
And I’m going to try to do that as I keep moving forward. It’s the right thing to do.
Some of my actions lately weren’t, perhaps. And I apologize for those.
What’s vital is that you have people in your professional and personal circles who can help you to think through these things, or to help you remember to think through them when you need to. Michelle has been kindly reminding me of my responsibilities with language and tone and kindness this week, and I’m appreciative. She and I both believe that good questions are always better than sharp barbs. ((I forgot for a bit, though, maybe.))
How do you work to make sure that you stay kind, but avoid a case of the “yeah, yeahs” whenever disagreement arises? Who’s helping you to be thoughtful in word and deed while keeping you kind?
It’s tricky business, but it’s worth walking in the space between the curmudgeons and the yeah, yeahs.