"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say nothing at all."
I don't think I'll ever get sick of quoting Thumper's father because I feel his advice pretty sound. It's normally one of the first things I tell one of my own students if I find that they're being less than friendly to a their peers, and is often something I try to reiterate to myself when I feel like I'm about to say something less than pleasant.
For years I have been sitting on this story because I am often told to just let it go. From friends to family to my therapist, the answer to "should I ever bring this up again?" is always a resounding no. Nevertheless, an old wound was ripped open today and I think it'll make me feel better to finally tell the story of the day my confidence was shot so dearly, I don't think I ever made a full recovery.
Once upon a time, myself and a peer decided to work together on a Winter Ball for our fellow students. This event tied in with our final IB diplomas as our major CAS project. We were taken to Laos on a school trip where we would meet the students of a local school we were supporting. Myself and my partner decided that we wanted to keep raising money for this Laotian school so they could continue building resources such as dormitories and bathrooms. Our supervising teacher, thought this would be a great idea and a fun way for us to gain some leadership and teamwork skills, etc.
After months of planning, organising, and decoration making, it came down to finalising the event itself. Before one of our final meetings it was made clear to me that a handful of our target audience for our big charity event were going to be away on another school trip. I suggested we move the event forward by a day so we could get more people there and therefore raise more money for our cause.
Before the meeting, I brought this up with my partner who said it was unlikely we would get the event moved but if I was set on moving it, I could bring it up myself. Cool, okay so that's what I was going to do. When the meeting with our supervisor rolled around, she said something to me that I will never forget. I proposed moving our event by one day to maximise profits and ensure that we could get as many students there as possible. Now, I will give her the benefit of the doubt and say that it was probably the worst pitch she had ever heard, but let's also keep in mind that I was 17 and she was well into her 30s.
After a couple of no's followed by me asking her to explain why, she looked at me and said:
"Get off your high horse. The whole world does not revolve around you, and it is incredibly selfish of you to assume that. I am not free tomorrow to supervise because I have yoga, so we will not be moving this event. End of discussion."
Our meeting ended and our event stayed on the day we had originally planned. Sure, maybe I pushed her a little too far. Maybe I caught her on a really bad day in her personal or professional life. Maybe I really was a selfish teenager who didn't understand the weight of the situation. What I do know though, is that I'll never forget that sentence. Whether or not that was offhand or intentional, it's something that has stuck with me ever since that day.
What I personally learned to do that day was keep my mouth shut around this teacher and the rest of the staff at my high school. I've never really figured out what the takeaway from this story is as a student. As a teacher, however, I vowed to never personally attack a student in this way regardless of how much they deserve it. No young person deserves to have someone they admire or look up to shoot them down in such a hurtful way, when there are plenty of other ways to explain and solve a difference of opinion.