Thursday, June 19, 2014

Oops I Did It Again: Reflecting on My Own Sarcasm

I’m sarcastic by nature.  In my family, we call it the “Allen” gene.  It’s a sense of humor that has been passed down from generation to generation.  To be quite honest, I love it.  I love sitting around the living room and hearing quick witted jokes spat back and forth.  It’s the trade mark of my family.

When it comes to teaching, though, I try to keep my sarcasm to a minimum.  Try as I might, sometimes it slips out.  Remember in the movie Mean Girls when Cady had word vomit?  She would tell someone’s secrets before she even realized that they were coming out of her mouth?   That’s what it’s like for me sometimes.  There are occasions when I feel sarcasm bubbling inside of me and it escapes before I have the chance to think it through.

Today was one of those terrible occasions. 

Today, I accidentally made fun of a student.  Luckily the student took it like a pro.  In general, he is always cracking jokes and poking fun in class.  He let it roll off his back simply by making a “if you can dish it, you gotta take it” sort of a comment.

Even though it was completely accidental and the student let it roll off of his back (and we were being let out for the day), I felt horrible.  I couldn’t get the sting of my own comment out of my head.  I never want to make a student feel bad about themselves or be embarrassed in my class.  School should be an environment where the people around lift you up and encourage you.  It should be a safe place where you can feel comfortable to ask questions and grow into yourself.

I once read that sarcasm is a higher order thinking skill.  Who knows if that is actually true, but I prefer to think that it is.  If that’s the case, then it’s easy for me to place blame on others who just “don’t get it”.  In reality, though, it’s just mean.  Sarcasm is only something that works if the two people have a very close relationship or if they are both relatively confident in themselves.  As teachers, we know that these aren’t characteristics that define schools and their students.

As I was driving home from school, still obsessing over my sarcastic and rude comment, I realized something.  More likely than not, that student had probably already forgotten I said anything.  I highly doubt that he was sitting in his own car pining over the comment I made, why I made it, and how it hurt his feelings.  I was making this more about me.  I was letting my ego take over. 

So here’s the decision I’ve made.  I’ll go back to school tomorrow not mentioning it.  I’ll continue to act as I normally do, paying special attention to not say anything sarcastic.  I’ll be sure to be kind and assuring to the student that I was sarcastic toward the day before.  If the student is upset about it, which he probably isn’t, my behavior should set him at ease.  If he wants to talk about it, I’ll be more than happy to apologize for what I said.  The main thing is this: I don’t need to make it a big deal.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, calm down.  We all say things that get us in hot water.  It happens all of the time in our personal lives and in our work lives.  We need to be able to brush it off and move on.  If a conversation happens, own up to it and then let it go.  Relax.  Being a teacher is tough work.  Perhaps with all of the punches that roll our way, we shouldn’t be surprised when a little sarcasm bubbles up and out every once and a while.