Everybody Won't Like What You Do and Sometimes They'll Even Tell You

This one might not make you feel good. The post, I mean. And if as you read it, you find yourself not particularly liking it, read to the end and leave me a comment saying so, ok?

Working with the lil chirruns, I see lots of things. Some of them make me happy that I work with kids, some make me really uncomfortable, lots of it makes me want to take parents by the ear and lead them around and some of it concerns me.

One of the things that concerns me is how poorly kids these days seem to handle criticism. There's a lot of reasons why our grading systems in our educational systems don't actually work, but for the purpose of actually staying on topic, I won't go into all of them. Let's just agree on the following: we grade our kids based far more on how much we like them than on how well they know material.

In and of themselves, grades are supposed to be critiques on students. Mostly on how much material they know of what they've been taught. In other words, when a student gets a 76 in science, we should be able to fairly assume that this student knows 76% of all the material taught.

Unfortunately, that's not actually how this stuff works out. Instead, a 76 seems to more accurately express that the teacher only likes the student 76% of the time. Or maybe the child showed up 76% of the time. Or perhaps somebody in the class had to make a C so it was this student. My point is, grades just aren't the useful critiques they used to be and increasingly its because we don't teach our kids how to handle criticism.

We're not teaching our kids how to handle criticism because WE can't handle it. I see grown men and women spazz out because somebody told them they didn't like them. Out here in the internetland we have catchy phrases like "the unfollow button exists for a reason" and "if you don't like what I write on my blog, then you can go on somewhere..."

And those are factual statements. It really is true that if you follow me on twitter and don't like what I'm saying you can just unfollow me. I've done it plenty of times myself and found it such a freeing thing. But say I chose, instead, to push back on some of the things I saw tweeted. Am I really wrong for that? I mean if I disagree with what someone put out on a public forum -- and I do mean just disagree with what was said, not with the person's existence as a whole, a topic for a whole other post -- am I really wrong because I choose to express that?

We post up blogs, well bloggers do, I'm not sure I consider myself a blogger, to be read and commented on and isn't "critique" inherent in commenting?

We all want to be liked. There is nothing in the world wrong with it. But I posit that maybe we should also seek to be critiqued sometimes. We can all always be better and nobody ever died because someone said "hey, I think what you just said was a bunch of stupid" or "the way you write stuff just ain't awesome..." The criticism might be off base, it might even be unwarranted but nobody has ever died. In fact, more often than not, criticism can lead us to be better than we are.

Maybe the real problem is we don't like to be blindsided by criticism, which I can understand. But just like a person can hit that unfollow button or just not comment/read what you write (or whatever else) we can ignore criticism we didn't ask for or that we disagree with. I certainly don't want to imply that all criticism can be easily ignored -- my mother critiques me all the time and it makes me wanna punch bunnies, but I think that's because it's my mother and I seek, to a certain degree, her approval. But when criticism from a stranger makes you that uncomfortable or upset... maybe you gotta take a second and critique yourself.

Just the other day a friend of mine and I were having a chat and she laid out a scenario for me that she implied she wanted my feedback (a euphemism for critique, it's ok) on. I gave it and then she said, "hm. I'll take that under consideration..." I thought that was a great response, because at the end of it all, all you can do is take it under consideration. All you can do is think about it, compare it with what you already know and make a decision from there.

Ultimately, what I'm trying to say is that we'll be able to teach the youngins how to handle the criticism they will ultimately face in this world a lot better if we ourselves know how to take it. If we first understand that all criticism isn't bad, even if it's unwarranted; if we first understand that some criticism, even that given to us in a spirit of "less than awesome" can be awesome; if we ourselves can understand that even if a person does critique our work as a way to critique our person, it's all in how we choose to absorb it.

We all have thoughts and opinions and we want to put them out there. We should all also be ready to hear that what we put out there isn't well received and then "take it under consideration."

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