Monday, February 7, 2011

Gossip girl

One thing I find grows in truth the more I contemplate it is, a teacher is what he teaches. No, I am not special because I teach special education. (Well, okay, that's up for debate.) It is not content, but grade level to which I am referring.

Elementary school teachers are prone to wearing pastel sweaters with animals and snowmen, get way too excited about art projects, and talk in cutesy, high pitched voices. High school teachers are sarcastic, apathetic, and prone to complain about the load of work their weekends hold--the result of the load they dropped on their students in the form of a five page paper assignment.

Middle school teachers are loud, silly, often bullying, clique-y, and booooy do they love to talk about each other behind each other's back. I am a middle school teacher.

I am a gossip.

To help support my thesis, I investigated the varying definitions of the word "gossip" on the web. And, gosh darn it, if Wikipedia didn't have the best, all-encompassing, description I could find. (And I go on and on to my students about how unreliable a source it is. What a hypocrite I am!)

"Gossip is idle talk..." One of the things that irks me most in life is idleness. In the rare moments I find myself idle, I immediately begin mapping out an action plan. When my students are idle, I do everything in my power to keep them preoccupied, even if it means burying them under a pile of meaningless busy-work as a last resort. Where there is idleness, trouble inevitably follows. It is when we lose purpose, direction, and boundaries that our weak minds succumb to our inherently nasty natures, and ugliness surfaces. Degrading talk is a venom we spew in such moments.

"...or rumor." He said, she said. Sometimes life appears so unfascinating, sometimes our personal circumstances are so messy, sometimes we yearn so much to loathe others, that we are willing to receive, believer, or even manufacture information potentially detrimental to the reputation of another. We crave anecdotes--damning ones, in particular--about others to entertain ourselves, or bolster our own self regard. Self-talk like, "Man, I'm so glad I'm not her" or "I would never do what he did" convinces us we exist on some plane above typical human error and mishap. We are creatures who feed on the miseries of others.

"It is one of the oldest and most common means of sharing facts and views, but also has a reptuation for the introduction of errors and variations." It is sort of terrifying how much of our knowledge these days comes from highly unreliable resources: celeb magazines, radio talk shows, and social networks. Even the nightly news is severely swayed by the need to entice viewers before relaying the facts. If Brian Williams can't even give it to me straight, what are the chances that I'm getting the full story on my fellow man from my personal resources? In the Information Age (more aptly titled the Stalker Age), being up in everyone's business without even consulting him or her for the truth seems like a God-given right. It also means that the chances for misconception are extremely high. I find myself, every now and then, slipping into slimy conjecture with others about the attributes, and faults, and MO's of people that I have hardly every carried on a conversation with. Often we get so full of ourselves, that what we think and feel towards the person becomes gospel. The next thing I know, I've arrived at a conclusion about this person that determines the way I speak to the person, look at the person, act around the person, and generally regard the person. It's that simple. And assuming I share this glib propensity with other humans, I have to wonder what misguided conclusions have been made about me. Sometimes I'm just that prideful that I carry on gossiping in the assumption that not a single soul could possibly find reason to gossip about me.

I don't really need a multi-paragraph comprehensive study of the word "gossip" from the world's favorite semi-reliable source to remind of the black nature of gossip, nor do I need it to convict me of my responsibility for perpetuating it in the workplace. The good news is that, unlike actual middle schoolers, there is a very grown up part inside of me which has developed only with time and experience and divine , that churns inside of me every time I hear or partake in gossip. Sometimes the churning makes me feel so sick, rotten, and exhausted inside I find that I can't bear another moment of it.

And I aim to act on those feelings. To stop the long, snaking journey of the malicious rumor in its path by turning a cold shoulder on the conversations of others, even if it makes me unpopular at times. To clench my tongue when it threatens to pour out of me. To disallow unfounded and unkind conjecture to become truth in my heart and mind.

I may live the life of a middle schooler, but I'm ready start playing college graduate.

Your homework for the day:

Aim to be a gossip killer for one day. Be on alert for idle talk, rumor, and harmful conjecture about others. Summon the courage to walk away from it, or even stop the conversation in its tracks. Examine the state of your heart after a day of only intentional and sincere interactions. You just may find it weighs a bit less.

Class Dismissed.

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