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Shake It OffNCHS Superintendent’s Notes – Sept. 21, 2016

By Ernie Fowler – Nashville CHSD #99

In last week’s column I provided some thoughts about the coolness of uncoolness. Unfortunately, in the school setting, students can be rather hurtful in their comments to classmates that they see as different or “outside” their established parameters of acceptability. From my experience, some of the harshest words come from elementary students who we might chalk up their jabs as them not knowing any better. Often, however, the harsh words and actions escalate once they become middle school students if the habit is not squashed early on. I can remember an incident from my time as a middle school principal when a little 7th grade girl was crying in my office because her “friends” wouldn’t let her sit with them at lunch. For some reason, the little snobs had cut the girl out from the herd due to some “wrong” the girl had done in conforming to their click. I decided to try my hand at a creative solution to this dilemma. I found the most popular girl in the 8th grade & asked her to do me a favor and take this shunned 7th grade girl under her wing for a period of time. I was satisfied to see the mean girl’s jaws drop when the snobs saw this poor outcast young lady sitting with the most popular girl in 8th grade! A few days later, the 7th grade girl was back at the lunch table with her so-called friends and all was well with the world.

High school students can hurt each other’s feelings as well. At some point though many high schoolers make a decision to either not care what is being said or they simply ignore the rudeness. Maybe they have adopted my “uncool is cool” attitude. Maybe they accept the guidance of that great philosopher Taylor Swift and just “shake it off”. Maybe as adults we too need to accept Taylor’s advice. How many times do we allow the criticism or comments of someone who sees themselves as superior stir us up? How many times are we criticized in our jobs by someone who assumes they can do the job better than we can? An advantage of being an old-timer is that I’ve become immune to the threats of “I’ll sue you” or “I’ll get you fired”. As a young administrator, I would quake at those words. The grayer my hair gets, the less I let the words of bullies cause me grief. Maybe I’m now a “Swiftie” and I just shake it off.

Life is too short and filled with too many opportunities to allow the words of others to rob us of our moments. I would encourage our high school students to use their four years to prepare for the future. Minutes spent on worrying about harsh words from folks who really will have no long-term impact on our life wastes the most valuable asset we have……time.

Shake It Off