Sunday, November 30, 2014

Like Me, Please?

The final blog post of the November Blogging Challenge that I'll be doing asks us to think about what we would like to let go of.  I chose this one instead of an opportunity I didn't take--that I was glad I didn't take, 'cause pointing out my weaknesses and why I'd like to eliminate them is just so much easier :-)

I could easily turn this post into the opposite of a Thanksgiving list: what am I not grateful for about my personality and behavior? I could make quite a list: I am ungrateful for my super long second toe, I am unappreciative of my bacne, and I really wish I could toss my incessant need to be perceived as correct at all times into the ocean.

But the thing that has plagued me since I was a child was the need to be liked. 

I remember when I was in second grade. A girl named Dorian was the class bully and had set her sights on me. The best offense is a good defense, they say, and in my heart I believed that the way to get through elementary school was to be on neutral or friendly terms with all the kids at school. I wanted no trouble. The fact that someone outright didn't like me was very distressing. 

So, I set out to rectify the issue. 

She loved Pee Wee's Playhouse. (Who didn't? It was the 80s.) I was at the mall with my mom, and she had told me beforehand that I'd get to pick out a toy for some special reason that now eludes me. I saw a Pee Wee doll on a rack at K-B toys and knew what I had to do. I decidedly explained the plan to my mom and wondering why she had a perplexed look on her face. I don't think she said anything.

Dorian lit up when I gave her the doll. "Oh my God, it's PeeWee!" she shouted, the turquoise blue packaging radiating across her face. And that was that. She left me alone. I don't remember anything else about her except an awful story about her mom abusing the family cat. One day I saw her in the back of a Bikram yoga class as a late 20-something. She sweated miserably in what was clearly her first hot yoga experience. I would have felt somewhat appeased except that even to this day I don't see her as an enemy, just someone to keep at arm's length. 

Obviously, this quality of wanting to be liked doesn't jive 100% with teaching. It's helped me be who I am--someone who can have an engaging conversation with virtually anyone and who can win over a crowd, or at least a classroom. 

It's good to be thought of as a likable person, I suppose, but the distress that accompanies any perceived ill-will can be overwhelming. For the first few years of teaching I carried each and every student grudge--perceived or real, legitimate or not--against me around my chest like the albatross. I had dreams about Clara who complained that I graded way too harshly, Kevin who thought I didn't set up the assignments well. I checked RateMyProfessor often and soared with each positive review and plummeted with any negative ones. 

It's gotten better over the years, thank goodness, and I now no longer sweat it when I know a student won't be getting the grade she has her sights set on. Still, I struggle to let it go when a student has decided to believe something about me that I feel is untrue (she cares only about stupid stuff, she's racist, out to get me, too stupid to recognize my genius, etc).    

It would be such a relief to let the needing to be liked stuff go. 

1 comment:

Renee said...

Enjoyed. I think that's the only story I've ever read in which Pee-Wee Herman was the key to *ending* bullying!