I know that someday you'll find better things.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Conversation Conservation

The scuttlebutt around campus was that we'd be receiving a teacher from another school within our district because staffing allocations had been shifted for the upcoming school year. The transferred teacher would be working in my department as well as my grade-level, so I'd be interacting with her daily.

At the time this information was shared, I was working on a curriculum project with a warm and gregarious teacher from the newcomer's campus. Because I was very curious about my soon-to-be-colleague, I simply had to ask about her.

"What's she like?" I asked Fatima.

"You'll see," she replied pleasantly.

I tried again.

"Is she nice?"

"You'll see," she said, and nothing more.

I hadn't expected the conversation to fizzle in this manner. Normally Fatima was an enthusiastic conversationalist who kept us giggling even as we worked. Never was there a shortage of things to talk about with that girl.

Unsure of how to proceed, I decided to drop the subject entirely.


The school year began, and I met my new colleague. By the end of the first week, I felt deeply betrayed by Fatima. There were all kinds of things that would have been very helpful to know in advance. Like that our new teammate Wednesday was uncooperative. And sullen. And seemed to hate teaching, and possibly children, too. She did enjoy complaining, though, and embraced unprofessionalism in ways I'd never seen before. 

It would have been almost comical were it not the cause of non-stop problems and additional work for the rest of us.

Why hadn't Fatima warned me? I thought we were friends. Did she not trust me? I've got many flaws, but gossiping is not one of them-- I've been known to keep my mouth shut even when it would have been much better to speak up about things. Was it possible that Wednesday's negativity was a recent development? No way. Not on your life.

I stewed about this for the better portion of the fall semester, and right after Thanksgiving, I came to understand and appreciate why Fatima had chosen to remain mum.

If she had shared anything with me about Wednesday--good, bad, or indifferent-- it would have compromised my ability to form my own opinion and potentially poisoned our professional interactions before we'd even officially met.

Also, it would have taken away Wednesday's right to grow and change. If Wednesday had suddenly decided to turn over a new leaf, she deserved a fresh start.

By the spring semester, I'd realized something else. Fatima had given me a bit of a clue, but I had been too wrapped up in myself to notice it in that moment. 

Fatima, never short on words, was a fountain of positivity. But on the topic of Wednesday, she had nothing to say. If I had been a more mindful listener, I could have gleaned a tremendous amount of insight from Fatima's silence.


Well, we all survived the school year and Wednesday moved on again, as Wednesdays tend to do. I knew there'd be more Wednesdays in my future, so I decided to adopt Fatima's communication style as my own. From that point forward, I worked to establish myself as a pillar of positivity during conversations and positively gush as often as possible.

That way, when confronted with a question which required honesty--even ugly truths-- all I would have to do is remain quiet, and my silence could convey caution without me needing to utter a single ugly word.

Thank you, Fatima, for teaching me the power of conversation conservation.

1 comment:

  1. Very good. On all counts. We all have to deal with our own Wednesdays (and I like what you did there) from time to time.
    Thanks for sharing <3