Compliments are a funny thing, you know? People tell us we’ve done something well, or look nice or whatever, and we’re not really sure what to say or do (or maybe it’s just me). “Thank you” seems like an ok response, but if you say anything beyond that, you’re headed into funny territory where you’re worried the complimenter is going to think you’re arrogant. That you’re conceited or full of yourself or maybe just weird and don’t have any social skills.
I was reminded of this very thing the other day when I told my daughter that she looked nice. She had chosen an outfit for a field trip to the theater the next day and was twirling around in the mirror with a big smile on her face. I gave her my compliment and her response was “I know, right?” We had the cursory conversation about how she should probably just say thank you. She said sorry, and told me thank you instead. In fact, I’ve been teaching her this since she was 3YO and did the same thing when people told her she had pretty eyes. Her 3YO response was a very honest “I know. :)”
Now I”m rethinking it and I’m not so sure that’s the right thing to do. Ok, look, I’m not saying that being appreciative of the kind words isn’t appropriate, but I’m not sure that you shouldn’t also be able to say “I know!” In my kiddo’s case, she had specifically chosen a dress that she liked, and matched the right shoes and sweater with it, and worked hard to tame her curly hair (which really just means she brushed it–LOL). She was proud of what she had created, and her response to my kind words was honestly just appreciation, right? She felt validated that she had done a good job. She is happy in her skin (ok, in her maxi dress), and she wanted me to know she agreed with me. I am so glad she has such great ideas about herself! She has confidence in her abilities (yes, I know in this case it was in dressing herself), she feels good about herself and she has positive self-esteem. If you ask her, she can tell you other things she does well, and I’m ok with that. I mean we want to have confident daughters, right?
The hard part is that really thin line you have to walk so that you don’t fall into arrogant territory. Even at 8 it’s a thing, but it seems to me that it is even harder to balance in adulthood. And especially in education. (Ok, probably in other jobs, too, but education is the one I know best. 🙂 ).
I started thinking about this the other day when we were hearing the announcement of the Teacher of the Year (YAY, Shannon! You are an inspiration to us all!). While I didn’t win, I do know that at least one person nominated me, because I was given the words that had been written about me on the form. I love this, by the way, because it’s good to know that even if you didn’t win that someone saw something great in what you do. It’s “an-honor-to-be-nominated” kind of thing, I guess here, huh?
But then that took me to the whole idea for this post in the first place. The words that my friend wrote about me made me feel all kinds of things–so many things that I wanted to share them. Partly so that other people would read them about me, but also because I think it says loads about my friend that she says such kind things. But can I do that? What does it say about me that I post words that someone said about me and what I do well on a public blog for all to read? Am I a show off? Am I trying to toot my own horn or make people notice me?
Maybe I’m just proud. And I want for you to be proud of me, too. Maybe I just like that other people notice that I work really hard to do whatever I can to help my students be their best and learn all they can. Maybe I appreciate that even though it’s hard, I try and try and try and sometimes things work out well (and of course, sometimes they don’t so I try again). I try to be an effective teacher, a kind friend, a supportive teammate, a life-long learner, a voracious reader, a thoughtful writer, an encourager….and probably lots of other things I can’t even mention. I say it’s just natural to smile and say “I know,” after your “thank you.” Maybe the appropriate response is a little tweak of that, and it’s “I agree.” Maybe that’s the way we can balance the appreciation of the compliment and the pride you feel when you attempt to achieve a goal or do something well and someone notices.
What do you think? How do you respond when someone gives you a compliment or a kind word? Do you say “Thank you” but really want to say “I know?” Maybe you have a suggestion for something else to say, instead of “I agree.” I’d love to hear your thinking. Leave a comment below, will you? A kind and positive one, though, please–even if you disagree. 🙂
And, since the original point of this post was to share the amazingly kind words my friends wrote about me, I’m posting them down below this. Maybe they’re just for me to read and reread, but they’re there for you, too, if you’re so inclined. 🙂
“Jennifer is a very passionate teacher. She makes special connections with her students and colleagues. Her love of learning is obvious as soon as you enter her classroom and hear her talking to her students.”
“Jen is an in-house expert on how students learn. She has spent her career and most of her life studying, reading, experiencing and tirelessly absorbing information in order to support every type of reader, writer and mathematician. Jen is magical to watch as she marvels at literature, ponders over mathematical development and beautifully demonstrates that any type of instruction is an art and a science. Every student in Jen’s classroom receives a teacher who cards for their whole self, she perseveres to understand what might be puzzling or challenging and expects the most out of them educationally, socially, and emotionally. Jen, not only represents Robinson, but represents the elite group of outstanding teachers.”
“Mrs. Bearden exemplifies what it means to be a dedicated teacher. She meets each student on their level and works diligently to build relationships with her students. Her love and extensive knowledge of literature allows her to connect many topics across subjects, tying different content areas together and making great connections. She never loses her patience and always shows her students kindness. She gives students opportunities to be their best selves, and takes the time needed to develop social skills. Being in her classroom has taught me a lot about the type of teacher I hope to be and what it truly means to love what you do.”