Friday, July 10, 2009

What would YOUR label say?

One of my teenage Facebook friends was experimenting recently with one of those random status generators. One day her status read something along the lines of: If I were to wear a packaging label, what would it say? My response was highly complimentary, just for the record.

I was thinking about that yesterday and it reminded me of a few incidents.

The first was many years ago, when I was in a hairdressing salon. A wealthy woman, of the sort who brings a tiny white dog to the salon with her, was having her hair washed. Suddenly, she leapt to her feet and stormed over to the manager. "I have been asking the shampoo girl to bring me another cup of tea, and she is just ignoring me! She is unspeakably rude! Don't you teach your staff about customer service?"

"Sorry about that, Mrs X, but she isn't rude, she's deaf. When she is standing behind you at the basin and can't see your mouth moving, she doesn't realise you're speaking to her. I'll arrange some more tea for you."

"Deaf? Well why didn't she tell me? She should wear a sign around her neck that says 'I'm deaf' so that people know!"

At this, the manager's client spoke coolly from her chair, without even turning her head, "Why? You don't wear one that says 'I'm a self-important bitch.'"

Of course, the woman stormed out of the salon in high dudgeon, with shampoo still in her hair.

Some years later, I had a deaf student in the IT college where I was working. Because of her disability, she had been unable to find a post working with early years children as she had qualified to do, and was packing shelves in the local supermarket. To my horror, I came across her one day, wearing a large badge proclaiming I AM DEAF.

It was my turn to storm to the manager and demand an explanation.

The manager said that they didn't want there to be complaints that Rachel (not her real name) was rude, so they thought it best to warn customers. Perhaps he was related to the hair salon woman! I said, "Two things. First - she wears a large, old-fashioned hearing aid, plainly visible because her hair is always tied up. There's your 'warning' to the customers. Second - perhaps that guy over there should wear a sign warning of his speech impediment that makes it difficult to follow what he's saying, and that one should wear one that says that he's not terribly bright, and the woman on your customer service counter should wear one that says that she's just plain rude. All these things are no less likely to affect the level of customer service they offer. I know! Perhaps everyone should wear a label. What would yours say?"

I didn't stick around long enough to find out what his would say. I was shaking with rage and indignation at the thought of the humiliation Rachel had been forced to endure, and I had to get out of there.

Yesterday, I demonstrated that I should probably wear a label that warns people that my fixation with resolution and the 'big pink bow' in every situation causes me to ride roughshod over people's feelings from time to time. I tend to assume that people want to know the answers, you see.

In response to a comment on one of my recent posts, I related an incident during my final year of school. We were being given a series of lessons on relationships (beyond just sex ed), and the teacher was explaining to us how, as women, we should just learn to let the man win in a dispute. That it would be better for the relationship in the long run. I asked, "Why not just take out the encyclopaedia (yes, it was that long ago!) and look it up?" She snapped back, "Yes, I also used to be a big mouth, and it cost me my first marriage!"

Well, I have been happily married for 21 years and I still prefer the option of 'looking it up'. I'm not talking about when you're arguing about matters of principle, which are dependent on subjective codes of morality, ethics, etc. I'm talking about when you and your husband can't agree whether there were more deaths in Germany or Russia during WWII, when you are sure that Aunty Beryl was wearing a wig at your wedding, but your Mom says not. Verifiable facts. Stuff that you can look up. Because when you have looked it up, you both know. You have certainty. You have resolution. You have your big pink bow. Sure, somebody no doubt 'won' the argument and somebody 'lost', but that's a side issue.

Perhaps I should go through life wearing a big pink bow.

What would your label say? What labels have you allocated -perhaps subconsciously - to your learners?


V Yonkers said...

My label would be "WHY?" In fact, that was what my mother used to call me, the "why" girl! It is not enough to know a fact. It is important to understand why. If I don't understand why, I can't let it go.

My own students I would categorize as "The know it all" (he or she must demonstrate that they know more than others and lord it over the rest of the class), the "kiss-up" (the person that comes up at the beginning of class and explains they have heard "such good things about you as a teacher" then proceed to sit back and do nothing in class), the worrier (the person who is afraid to make a mistake either in class or on their assignment; I spend most of my time scraping them off the ceiling), the questioner ( the person who asks a number of questions which really helps in my teaching--I love these students!), and the test taker (the person that comes in and just wants to know what's going to be on test--if it isn't on the test, then why am I not covering it--oh wait, there is NO TEST?!!! What an awful teacher).

The upsycho said...

@V_Yonkers I have a good friend who shares your label!

I had to laugh at your descriptions of your students. I recognise some of those 'types'. I wish my elder son had you for a teacher, since you love the questioner. His science teacher a few years back proudly told me how she had to say to him in one class, "Will you shut up asking questions and let me bloody teach?" She couldn't understand why I didn't laud her for taking such a clever approach. Sigh.

Jason Allen said...

My label would say "I don't know everything, I just know how to find everything out."
In practically every job I have had, people have referred to me at some point or another as someone who knows "everything." Quite an irritating title to be saddled with, because it raises some rather unrealistic expectations. I just happen to have a broad curiosity about almost everything, and an incredible memory for trivia!
When people started suggesting at my last job that I knew everything, I would quickly correct them with "no I don't, but I DO know how to find everything out." Really the only things of any value I learned in 5 years of University were a) how to research, b) how to construct and argument, and c) how to BS my professors so I could get away with murder. :0

The upsycho said...

@Jammasterjay I'm down with that! My kids use me like I use Google!