Monday, November 20, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Quote, Counterquote

Every day in the English class I coteach starts with a word of the day, and a quote of the day. I love quotes, but the quote on Thursday of last week really, really rubbed me the wrong way.

"You're never a loser until you quit trying." - Mike Ditka

Can you see why this quote is shitty? And not just for me, but for the many kids who have tried and failed things due to circumstances far out of their control?

I thought about just letting it go, and then I thought...SCREW IT and searched frantically on my phone while students copied down the word and quote from the board.

After the English teacher I work with explained the quote (it's important to always keep trying, never give up, blah blah blah), I said, "I have a COUNTERQUOTE!"

And I shared this gem, sent to me by a friend last year:

I said, "You see, there are times when trying over and over is NOT the best thing for you. Like for instance, when you are playing a sport and you are chronically injured but you keep playing even though IT IS HARMFUL FOR YOU TO CONTINUE TO DO SO."

He countered, "But I think the quote is more about motivation, like that mountain we talk about in the Wordsworth poem at the beginning of the year, that some people just want to be magically transported to the top of the mountain, but if you work hard and don't quit, you WILL get to the top! I don't think it's about playing football in a wheelchair."

And now the students were watching us like a ping pong match, because I had to keep going. I HAD TO.

"Except, sometimes you're climbing a mountain, and the conditions get really dangerous, and you are putting the rest of your life at risk by continuing stubbornly up that particular mountain, so maybe YOU JUST NEED TO FIND ANOTHER MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB."

He sort of went, "Hmmm" and then we continued on.

And when I came back for 8th period, the quote was different:

"Continuous effort -- not strength or intelligence -- is the key to unlocking our potential." - Winston Churchill

I just smiled, and it went without further discussion.

Later that night I told Bryce about it, and he said that maybe he changed it so he wouldn't have to deal with me being a pain in the ass. Which I took exception to, actually. I thought maybe he thought on it and changed it to something that didn't call people who move forward from something LOSERS.

The next day I did ask him. I said, "I noticed you changed the quote 8th period yesterday. Bryce thinks maybe you didn't want to deal with my soapbox two periods in a row, but I have another theory."

He said, "I felt SO HORRIBLE. I never thought of it that way, and clearly you have, and it really struck a chord with you and now I can see why."

Because I can't shut up, I continued on, "Oh, THANK YOU. Not just for me, but for all our kids who already know that life is not fair and don't have to wait to be infertile as adults to think on all this stuff. I think it's just SO important to let them know that sometimes you just don't get what you want, but you can readjust and find a new focus."

And he said, "Yeah. This new quote captures what I was trying to get at without the other stuff."

It was a bit of a bonding moment. He genuinely didn't think of how that quote could come across to people whose lives have taken unexpected turns despite all the trying in the world, and then he fixed it. I may have hipchecked him a bit and just said, "I so appreciate you."

I am so, so glad I spoke up. 

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays, maybe ones that play by the rules and are actually Micro? Go here and enjoy! 


  1. That is so cool that you spoke up and were able to see the "aha" moment where the light bulb goes on over the other person's head! I'm also glad for the kids you are teaching - there are so many messages that if you just persist, you'll get what you want. isn't like that. Sometimes changing course is the only way to move forward. It's brave of you to speak up and challenge those assumptions and wonderful that your co-teacher responded so well!

  2. Brava, Jess! This is brilliant. I am so proud of you, so glad that you could talk about this openly, and argue the case with him. So many people use quotes like this in a trite way, without thinking of the implications of the quote to people who, as you say, know already that the world isn't fair. It's just another way of saying, "you can achieve anything you want." And you know what I think of that.

    And brava to him too, for listening, for not reacting defensively, and for adjusting and learning. If Mel doesn't pick this up for the Roundup on Friday as one of the posts of the week, then I will definitely do it!

  3. I just scared an entire bus load of people because I’m cheering you on. Bravo Jess!!! You truly made a difference and demonstrated an important lesson both for your coworker and your students. First is that okay to disagree, as long as it’s done respectfully. But the second is that we need to be mindful of our words. “Quitting” is a big one (Ivanka Trump just released a book accusing everyone who doesn’t have her lifestyle of being quitters and, this, morally wrong). We’re overdue for countering it.

    Thank you for leading the charge.

  4. I love your counterquote! And go you for speaking up!

  5. Your response, and the way you handled this are completely AMAZEBALLS!

  6. Oh Jess, BRAVO!!! Yay you, for finding a better quote, and sticking to your guns & arguing your point, politely but firmly. :) And yay him for listening and making the connection to your situation, and learning. If only more people really thought about the implications of the platitudes we all find so easy & convenient to mouth...!

  7. That's amazing! And his second quote was so much better. I wonder if he'll start running his quotes by you before class-?

  8. What a great positive experience! And it’s grest you have such healthy communication with your colleague!

  9. Loved your counter good and I genuinely like your co-teacher who was open to the thought. The 8th period quote summed it up for you both.

    Sharing a post I wrote about giving up and you make like what happened here with me -

  10. Jess, this is FABULOUS! Both your advocacy and his openness to questioning a belief he held. You both truly did a service for the students who will, at one time or another, face a challenge that just can't be overcome. The Serenity Prayer includes courage, but it also is named after Serenity.

  11. Aw I love this story! That initial quote really bothers me too. It reminds me a bit of an article I read once saying that not everyone can be better than average and the idea of telling children that they can do anything they put their mind to could be making things worse because there are going to be things that they just aren't able to achieve for whatever reason. I like how you updated the mountain analogy!

  12. I love this post. I love that you spoke up and that you co teacher listened and responded.