I started at a new place this year, and things were generally going really well in the first few weeks. Except for one class, where there was some rockiness. I was trying some weird stuff, and the kids said that they wanted the normal math class experience.*
* When the kids are saying class isn't going well, they're almost always right, but almost always wrong about the reason why. (Credit to Neil Gaiman, who said something like this about readers.)
Anyway, I've got a lot more colleagues and administrators in this new school, and they wanted to know how my first few weeks of classes were going. I told them the truth. I mentioned how it felt like a lot of these kids felt unhappy, and when I just came out of a bum lesson I told people that it was a bum lesson.
The result: a lot of administrators visited my classroom.
Forgive me, but I'm fairly self-deprecating. Lately I've been thinking too much about how this way of carrying myself has affected my career.
When I see conventional success, I tend to find a certain kind of confidence, what my grandmother or rabbi might call chutzpah. Our writers of note are those with answers, so rarely those with questions. There's no room for doubt in a keynote address. Your most popular posts are those with opinions, clearly stated and forcefully held.*
* (OK, here's a strong opinion: David Foster Wallace is overrated partly because of his almost divine levels of chutzpah. He wrote a book about infinity riddled with mathematical errors, and nobody bothered to send it to a mathematician for an edit?)
I'm trying to carry myself with a bit more confidence. When I write, I try to write with a bit more magnitude and direction. (Like a vector!) When people around school ask me how things are going, I don't stutter as much. Things are going well, thanks for asking, though we're all working hard, amiright?
But I'll never really be able to shake who I am, I don't think. I'm always going to be giving myself and my work a hard time. And I've got a feeling that people like me end up in the second row of success, professionally speaking.