You Don’t Say

Following is a gentle guide to help you determine when it is appropriate to make a comment and when it might be better to keep your thoughts to yourself.

1) "Teachers should be compensated based on the test scores of their students."

You get to remark about compensation for teachers only if you have taught in an overcrowded classroom of recent immigrants with limited English proficiency. If you put in 180 days with 35 children in a classroom built for 22; if you were able to help those students overcome the fact that there are no books in their homes nor quiet places to study; if you have dealt with children with un-diagnosed learning differences in the same class with children with attentional issues; if you facilitated high test scores for these children yourself, then you get to comment.

If, on the other hand, the closest you have come to a school is remembering what it was like to go to one some years ago, then you get to hush.

2) "People should speak English."

You get to say this if you speak another language fluently, a language that you learned as an adult, a language that you learned while working 40 hours a week, a language that you learned without instruction.

3) "People should get jobs."

You get to say this if you yourself, as a recently downsized adult worker, found a job in a difficult economy.

4) "He should have caught that."

You get to say this if you yourself, as a professional athlete playing the sport at the same level, have made that catch.

5) "People should get off drugs."

You get to say this if you yourself have overcome chemical dependency, if you know first hand the craving that comes with addiction, if you yourself have gotten through a day wanting nothing more than to use drugs or alcohol.

6) "Children with learning differences should do well in school."

You get to say this if you yourself have compensated for learning differences and been successful as a student.

Otherwise, you get to hush up.

Interestingly enough, those who HAVE taught in difficult circumstances and been successful; those who HAVE learned a foreign language as adults; those who HAVE found jobs in a difficult economy; those who HAVE made that tough catch; those who HAVE kicked addictions; those who HAVE achieved despite learning differences...

...are the last to insist that others should be able to do the same. Indeed, the best teachers are those who know how hard it is for some students to learn some subjects. My colleagues in the field of addiction who are themselves in recovery are the most understanding of those who lapse.

As in so many things, a little graciousness goes a long way. Going forward, I am going to endeavor to be less judgmental and a little more understanding. I hope you'll join me.

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