Sunday, September 7, 2014

Courtesy and Being a Peer

This one's a bit rambling but is something I'm contemplating.

Courtesy tends to be a double edged sword. We seek it as a laudable quality but the practitioners of it who value it the most are sometimes then caught by it as we try to maintain it around those are acting discourteously.

I have a pretty strong stance on addressing issues of rudeness or discourteous behavior. I am strongly in the camp of "if it's not addressed it will continue to happen" but I struggle with how best to do this, both as a person and as a peer.  There is, in the end, no one right answer I suppose which is why its something we always struggle with.

 I have realized I don't like the internet for these purposes - FB and email and other electronic forums lack the force of having a face to back an opinion and make it easy for arguments to spiral out of control with name calling and commentary, often from parties who have nothing to do with the original problem.  On the other hand, discourtesy is rampant online for that same factor and so I remain torn between calling it out and taking it off thread or in-person because that's more personally effective and provides a calmer scenario and image to everyone at large.

Similarly, not everyone sees the "behind the wall" conversations where rudeness is addressed and so many people think those conversations don't happen - even when they do.  I have no idea how to address this save that I wouldn't call out one of my students in the middle of class either, so I would be discourteous to address an adult in that manner as well, even though that is often my preferred method of telling someone they've been stomping on feelings.

In the end, there's a few important things to remember as we continue to work on this as people who come from a modern world that are trying to live up to an ideal of courtesy that has always been an ideal.

* Our job as peers - and populace - is to try and *always* be courteous, be that online or in person. When we slip - which we will - it behooves us to address those moments and make the necessary apologies and alterations to our actions.

*You should expect the best from people. People tend to live up to expectations and generally, if we set out the expectation of courtesy, it will rise to a more prominent position.

*Our job as peers, in particular, is to help address those who are not behaving well in a manner that is effective.  As noted above, I don't think this is always the same method or that all methods are equal. If I ever am brilliant enough to find a good answer to this, I will tell everyone.  At this time, all I have is that this is an intensely uncomfortable but necessary job but it does not need to be done cruelly or with embarrassment in mind, nor does it always need to be public.  Remember my epiphany of "help people be better"?

*Our job as peers and populace is to make things better, not tear things down. When we belittle ideas and efforts, when we tell people that their efforts are not enough, we don't help them be better - we pull the carpet out from under their feet and make them feel useless.  A person's efforts may not be enough to resolve or fix a situation - but they can be a start.  I'll use my students as an example here. We started a forty book reading challenge this year and for some of my students novels are a true challenge. They are starting with smaller books and that's fine and someday their confidence and ability - along with sound advice and teaching - will help them read longer things.  Everyone starts somewhere. Sometimes we *restart* somewhere and need a reminder to try to be better than we are. But each of those steps is vitally important and should not be belittled.

And lastly, my constant reminder to myself.

My job is to help people be better. In whatever way that better is aimed or that their happiness leads them.

In short, I wish I had more solid answers on all of this but I will continue to wrangle them in my life. 

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