As I reflect on my holidays, and think of the new year upon us, a conversation I overheard stands out.
I was standing in line at a grocery store in San Francisco. Two people (obviously tourists to San Francisco) were standing behind me and one said to the other quite curtly,
“Yah, people in San Francisco sure aren’t very nice. They are all so unfriendly!”
First of all, I love San Francisco. I have never had anyone act in a rude manner toward me or my children in San Francisco. I could not just let this go without saying something. So, I said,
“That’s really too bad you’ve had that experience, but I am also a tourist and I have nothing but great things to say about the people here . . .”
Then, I went on to list a few specific instances during the past two days where people who lived in San Francisco had been nothing but helpful, gracious, and friendly to me and my family.
The words got me thinking about the words people use. Some words should be considered carefully before their use, especially words that talk in absolutes (always, everyone, everybody, everything, all, none, never, etc…).
It is not often these words need to be, or often it is appropriate for these words to be spoken, especially in education.
Just as we cannot say that everyone from a certain city are unfriendly, we cannot say,
“All children learn the same way.”
“Everyone from a particular socio-economic background are destined to continue in that background.”
“Everyone who has been abused will become an abuser.”
“All teachers nearing retirement won’t change their practise.”
“Students who don’t do homework are lazy.”
“You can’t teach old dogs new tricks.”
“All boys are like that.”
“He’s just like his brother when his brother was in Grade 5.”
There are not many absolutes in education, or in life, for that matter.
Some absolutes I am comfortable hearing and saying include:
“None of us knows everything” (Pg 50, The Connected Educator).
“Always try your best.”
And, as I often say, “Never say never.”
We need to try to remember that our words impact others and think about that before speaking. Our words can set people off in ways we may not anticipate or in ways we may not want.
I believe strongly in believing in people, believing that people are doing their best with what they have. I believe people are good.
What are some absolutes you are uncomfortable with?
What are some absolutes you welcome?