Saturday, September 24, 2011

They Like Me. They Really Like Me.

Early Friday morning, I received a text from a friend on Facebook saying, "Congratulations on Teacher of the Week."

I had no idea what she was talking about.

I was in a hotel room in Normal, Illinois, attending the Illinois Speech and Theatre Association annual conference. I didn't have a way to easily find out what was going on. I assumed she was mistaken. Another teacher from my school had received the Teacher of the Week recognition from the local radio station, so I just kind of figured she had misheard. As the day went on, I didn't think much about it as I moved from workshop to meetings to receptions. During an evening reception, as I sipped a glass of wine, I pulled out my cell phone for the first time since that morning and hopped onto Facebook. There was a status update from the local radio station congratulating me for being named Teacher of the Week.


For someone who occasionally considers herself a performer, I have to admit that I struggle with praise of any sort, and I am not really sure why. I don't have a huge self esteem problem, at least no worse than any other woman in this country. I don't know that I'm an exceptionally humble person. So why does accepting praise make me so uncomfortable? Why is it when I read about my recognition did I think, "Thank goodness I wasn't at school today so there wouldn't be a special faculty meeting to announce it like there was when Brianna won it"? It's not that the honor is meaningless to me. I had to fight tears when I saw the post from the radio station, and there was a slight perma-grin on my face for the rest of the night, and yet the idea of actually receiving the honor made me blanch. I've even gone back and forth about posting this blog entry for fear of sounding arrogant when I mention this honor.

I see this sort of thing all the time -- and shockingly, not just with girls. Yes, I know that women and girls struggle with accepting compliments and that there is this sort of programming we appear to be born with to deflect any praise. I made a resolution years ago to accept compliments with a "gracious thank you," but even though my mouth is saying "Thank you," inside, I'm shirking in embarrassment at the recognition. When I compliment my male students, they seem to be going through the same struggle that my female students endure -- fidgeting, eyes looking down, pink cheeks of embarrassment. And the funny thing is that, as uncomfortable as I am with compliments, I'm also really free with giving them. I feel like a huge portion of my day is spent telling people I like their shoes or how funny they were when they said a certain line. I guess I'm a hypocrite once again -- a complimenter who hates compliments.

Is there a solution to this problem? Not one easily reached in a little-read vanity blog like this. It would take a dramatic cultural shift to re-train ourselves that there is nothing wrong with being good at something, that there's no shame in being smart or talented or good at what you do. As a society, we need to raise people up more, and then, when we do raise them up, we need to recognize the worth of that honor rather than turn right around and tear that person down for being arrogant or secretly not being as cool as we think. We need to actually LIKE our number one songs and value our leaders and honor our intelligence rather than hiding behind cool or cynicism or ignorance. As Martha Stewart (a person who is often mocked for her skill and seeming perfection) would say, "Being good at something? It's a good thing."

And so, I'm going to step out of my comfort zone a little and say that I was named Teacher of the Week....and I'm really flippin' psyched about it. Huh....that wasn't as hard as I thought it would be......or was it?

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