Sunday, April 29, 2012

NO Soliciting! And I Especially Mean Your Advice!

The world would be a much better place if more people could understand that unsolicited advice is usually just a cover for hurtful criticism. A recent conversation has left this thought spinning around in my head like an out-of-control top as it hits on all the tender places in my heart. (There aren't many tender places in my heart, so it really isn't good to damage the few that I have...)

Really, let's examine this concept for a moment or two. How often is the unsolicited advice about something like how to rid one's home of ant invaders in the spring time or how to properly wash a cast iron pan after burning dinner into all those little cast iron pores? More often the advice is about how to deal with the problem (that one didn't know one had) with one's favorite aunt (whom the critic doesn't like) who is coming to visit in the spring, and really all one wants to do is whack the critic with said unwashed cast iron pan. Anyone have any advice about how to refrain from such violence when confronted with such a situation? Just to be clear--I am now soliciting!

Criticism is received with so much more grace when the door has been gently opened, by either the critic or the receiver. When the advice isn't wanted it often doesn't fall on the proverbial deaf ears. Instead the advice falls with all the grace of a bowling ball onto a land mine. I don't even want to contemplate the end result, but if one is over about the age of twelve, one can probably fill in with a vivid enough mental picture. Of course, if we were all living in a P.G. Wodehouse novel, great hilarity would ensue, but unfortunately most of us live in the darker section of human nature that more closely resembles a Shakespearean tragedy where we are left brooding like a Danish prince.

It's human nature to want to fix things, but why is it so much easier to fix other people's things than our own? And it seems to be especially true of things that we have no experience of in our own lives. "I know I've never been in your situation, but if I had been this is what I would do..." While the book of Proverbs in the Bible does tell us in many, many, many (did I tell you how many?) places to listen to advice and accept instruction, there is another place in the book that tells us to pull the plank out of our own eye before fiddling with the speck of dust in someone else's. True advice isn't veiled criticism.

The world would be a better place if more people could learn to tell the difference. That's all.

Tune in next week, when I discuss the true importance of people's opinions...

(This blog is getting classier; we've upgraded to color cartoons! Of course it is Sunday.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Random Teacher Moments

1. Playing with the layout a little tonight. Not sure what to think, but I don't really have much time to spend thinking about it, so perhaps it's a moot point. Really, I'm just procrastinating a bit. I should be writing about William the Conqueror or grading exercises on simple, compound, or complex sentences. (That last one would be a simple sentence with a compound verb. Wait, was that an unclear antecedent? Wait, what was that? No, What's on second. Oh yeah...)

2. Strangely enough I do not dream in grammar or history. Tonight I might have strange dreams, though: one of my students showed me how he could pick his nose with his tongue. This moment came after another boy wanted me to touch his knee to feel the strange spot on it that he can make pop. I declined. Recently a third grader offered to let me check him to really see if he had a cold. I assured him I would take his word for it. Older students have their own kind of weirdness, but I can't really think of any right now.

3. I finally tried a cakester today. My daughter (who is my student) called me a traitor, while her friend called me a cake-sniffer (inside joke for you Lemony Snicket fans). Last year our little school divided into factions over the cakesters and actually made signs that they carried around that said things like, "Down with cakesters!" I have to confess that I now side with that faction.

4. Today's art class had it's own moments of weirdness, nose conversations aside. What began as finishing a pop art assignment ended as an impromptu lesson on Jackson Pollock and a lot of noise. Some days I prefer the lessons that involve slides and quiet, but it's always fun to watch the students jump into the spirit of an assignment and discover something they enjoy (did you catch that subordinate connector that sets up contrast? We learned about that in writing lab today). I was especially pleased when one student told me he had planned his harmonious color scheme. Yes, they do listen through the noise!

5. I guess William is waiting for me. I'm almost done writing out the notes, and I like history, so there really is no good reason to not dive in. My brain is just tired. I never realized how much work has to be done outside the classroom until I became a teacher. The work just never ends.

6. Oh yeah, William...


Saturday, April 07, 2012

Why Can't We All Get Along, or R-E-S-P-E-C-T

It never ceases to amaze me how on the internet people seem to think it's perfectly acceptable to criticize and condemn and to do so with such vitriol, bile, and foulness. Does it really make you a better person to be so cruel because you don't like something? Does it make our society a better place to exist?

Most often I see this happen with posts of a political or religious nature, but today I see that people are already sniping about Thomas Kinkade's death. If someone didn't like his art, is it really necessary to tell the world in such nasty terms? Does it make them morally superior to do so? I'm not saying people can't or shouldn't have opinions or different tastes. What is frustrating is that people today don't seem to know how or when to share those things in a respectful, considerate way.

Deep sigh.