This afternoon, my principal took me aside towards the end of after school to tell me something serious. We stepped out of the room while my students worked on practice SHSAT problems, and she broke some bad news to me. I can't write all the details here, not to protect myself but because I've learned over the years that certain topics should not be written about on the internet. Suffice to say, I am not getting something that I really want, not just for me personally but for our school.
Of course, I asked her why. Her face contorted in the way that one's face contorts when one is trying to decide whether to say something that is going to be hard for the other person to hear.
"I want to know, even if it is hard to hear," I told her.
"It will be hard to hear," she said, "but I was just thinking about how to tell you."
Basically, someone who met me only briefly told her that I came across as "condescending and insulting," and as a result, I and my school are losing out.
It kind of floored me. I think I took it well, though. I asked my principal if the person had given any details, because I didn't want to replay our brief interaction over and over again in my head trying to figure it out. Thinking back, I could think of one or two things that might not have been perfect about our interaction, though I had only the best of intentions, but I could not think of any way in which I had been condescending or insulting to this person. My principal wasn't able to give me too many concrete details, which is really frustrating.
The hardest form of feedback, both to give and to receive, is that which is negative and unexpected. The only thing that can make it harder is when it comes without any concrete ideas for improving the situation.
This whole thing makes me wonder how many people out there are nice or civil to my face, but behind my back, think I'm a condescending b*tch. I know that I can be a snob about certain things, which stems directly from the fact that I hold myself to exceptionally high standards and hold those around me to very high standards as well. I also know that at times I wear my feelings on my sleeve, usually when I am under a lot of stress or really upset about something. But in this case, I wasn't stressed out or upset, I was actually happy and excited to meet the person. So it bothers me that my own perception of my attitude could be so different from another person's perception of it.
Anyway, my principal and I discussed it briefly, until I had to get back to my class, and we'll probably talk about it more tomorrow when the AP, who was present for most of the interaction, is there. She may have impressions to share that could shed some light on the problem.
I went back to teaching, and wrapped up afterschool, and it was as I was walking the kids downstairs that it really hit me and I felt like crying. I want to be a good and like-able person, I try the best I can to balance speaking up for what I think is right with being kind and professional, and it really hurts to hear something like this. I've been feeling kind of -- I guess the word for it is vulnerable, though sad comes to mind -- lately, and this is like being kicked while you're down.
*Just in case you need evidence that I'm a snob, here it is, right at the top of this very post. I'm going to go crawl under a rock now.