As a teacher of 40 years and now a tutor, I have seen so many people marginalized who don’t fit into the boxes with all the convenient labels we want to put on them. I have seen people judged for being different and the harm the judgment causes. Many dismiss someone who doesn’t meet their standards as not worthy, but if they looked a little closer, and showed some kindness they might be amazed at what they find.
I learned many years ago there is usually greatness where there initially does not seem to be. I have heard comments to students that were meant to be funny like, “It’s a good thing you are pretty.” A substitute teacher once asked my student if she was stupid. Imagine how comments like that can hurt someone. I can tell so many stories of students who were judged as not being good enough, but who went on to college and did extraordinary things even though many of the adults in their lives had put limits on them.
Before you judge someone dig below the surface and get to know her. Many people who don’t fit the normal mode will be at one extreme or another. They are either very quiet and introverted, or gregarious with the possibility of some behavior issues. Get to know the person. You can do this by listening because most people want someone to listen to them. I have a student who says what is on her mind before she runs it through a filter, she is high energy, and funny, but she is also struggling with how others perceive her, and how hard she has to work to achieve with traditional testing when her brain processes things differently. A colleague saw me talking with her, and as she passed the girl she turned to me and rolled her eyes as if to say, “You poor thing that you have to work with her.” I don’t think a reaction like that is ever o.k., but I also think that the teacher has not taken the time to know this student because I think she is glorious.
Everyone needs someone in life that sees your potential and all your positives. This person is your cheerleader. There was a picture on social media of Jamie Lee Curtis going crazy cheering for another woman who had won an award. Everyone needs a Jamie in life.
So today, get to know a little better that person that is too quiet, or too loud, or doesn’t quite fit in, and give her a second chance. While you are spreading some kindness, be someone’s Jamie.