20 February 2013

Getting our wires crossed

The adage 'to assume makes an ass out of you and me' is one that I have been thinking about a lot lately, and is even more pertinent as we discuss communication in my Flat Classroom Certification course. The readings, discussion and research focus around the need for open channels, boundaries and accepted standards of effective communication at all levels, with everyone.
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In today's world, there are many channels and tools available for communication - at every conceivable level. Technology means that we communicate constantly, easily, excessively. All these channels mean that wires can easily get crossed. My desire to share and communicate my findings about learning and teaching has been misinterpreted as my being a 'know-all' or as 'aloof' and 'superior', which is so far from the truth it's not even the same language. If I knew everything, why would I be doing all these courses to learn how to be better? What hurts most about this assumption is that it is just that - an assumption by people who do not know me at all - but assume they do.

Lack of communication can lead to assumptions that are way beyond the reality and that can be very dangerous when they become to be accepted as truth. I have blogged in the past about my utter dread and fear of speaking publicly, even to a small room of my peers. I have also blogged about my quest to face these fears in my attempt to contribute or give back to the teaching community who have so supported me. Part of this fear-facing is being addressed through the FCT course - along with how to communicate more effectively and globally. But only once has a colleague talked to me about my experience presenting at the Hands on Literacy Conference 2012. They congratulated me on my achievement. My gratitude for their kind words was quickly followed by an explanation of how scared I was and how hard I find it to talk to my peers. Their utter shock and disbelief at this has only recently really clarified in my mind. They said they were shocked as they assumed I was OK with speaking publicly - simply because I had presented. A lovely conversation followed about how challenging yet rewarding I had found it and how it is something I am really trying to work on professionally - which was something my colleague had not realised about me.

The realisation that the perception of me by some is far removed from the truth was summed up in this conversation and it reminded me of something a Muslim learner taught me years ago. There is a teaching from the Quran about how humans are only capable of judging others by their own standards and ways of thinking; we think and behave in a certain way, and therefore judge others as if they are the same as us. I suffer from this too - I am trusting, loyal and thirsty for knowledge; I believe learning, sharing and striving to be better is important - and assume that all educators share my beliefs. I have not yet learned this is not the case; everyone's priorities and outlooks are different - and this wire really trips me up.
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We make too many assumptions.  It was assumed that I am confident simply because I did something many do not think of doing. Yet it was only because a good friend pushed me (and I am very grateful that she did) that I did it; it was only because I can do something about this fear that I did it; it was only because I can try and I can put myself out there in the hope that each time it will be easier. I can learn to conquer and control my fear, however there is less I can do about people who assume they know me and make judgements about me that are false. I cannot change people's assumptions if they don't get to know me but assume they do. I try to show how much I care by sharing - my wire is extended out there - yet if this is misinterpreted, I am not sure how to handle those who twist my intentions. It hurts. It causes trouble. It sparks beliefs that are false and harmful. To assume without proof is dangerous. To assume without any real evidence makes and ass out of you and me. And right now, I don't know how to uncross those wires.