Saturday, April 9, 2011

Are you dancing like someone's watching?

Kindergarten me--who looks a lot like seventh grade me. Unfortunately.

"I just didn't learn anything new."

Those were the words that leaped from between those lines sent on my Annual Evaluation Summary from the residents I'd worked with last year. A summary that said scores of other things that were beyond flattering. Most of those words affirming what the seventh grade me longed to hear: "I like you. I really like you."

But these words rose up, mighty with teeth gnashing. I like you, yes. But I just didn't learn anything new. So funny that despite being perfectly couched inside words like "amazing role model" and "the best attending I've ever had" how much those words stung. Even though I have not completely separated myself from seventh grade me, I like to think that I have evolved.

But have I?

I remember putting on what I was certain was my coolest mini-dress and leg warmers for an after school dance. I took a deep breath and inched my way into the idle chatter of curvaceous cool girls, hands on their spreading hips, and shirts boasting the outlines of brassieres that, unlike me, they actually needed. One minute into it, I was blending in. Me, who had missed the puberty bus that they'd all boarded the year before and who was about as buxom as a kindergartner, was blending in just fine.

Run DMC pumped out of a tired speaker in our middle school cafeteria as bold tweens did popular dances named for pop culture icons in gender-segregated clusters. This day it was "The Smurf."

"Do you know how to do The Smurf?" one girl asked me, her braces glistening.

"Who me?" I asked, both happy and sad that I'd been noticed.

"Duh! Yeah you," she replied as she nodded her head to the beat while Run DMC repeated over and over "It's like that! And that's the way it is!" The others looked on, arms folded over those developing breasts that I so envied waiting for me to speak.

"Not really. . . Well, kind of," I finally admitted.

"You do?" Cool girl gleefully squealed. "Do it! Do it!"

"Yeah!" chided another, "We don't know how to do it! Do it!"

This did surprise me considering they all seemed to be very much in tune with the music and seemed like the types that would indeed know all of the latest dance moves. Could this, perchance, be my entry to the "cool girl" realm? And so. Against my better judgment . . . . . I did it. I did "The Smurf." With zeal.

Even though I could have sworn that someone was snickering, I decided that I was fitting in, so decided to ignore it. They were all clapping and smiling and sparkling with their braces, so I went for it even more.

"Go Kiiim! Go Kiiiiim!" they chanted.  I was over the moon.

"Hey Kim?" the main brace-faced one finally said, placing her hand on my shoulder and interrupting my groove. "Do you see that speaker over there?" She pointed.

I stopped and looked, smiling and panting. "Yeah, I see it."

"Okay, well how 'bout you go over and stand by it?"

And before I knew it, she nudged me in that direction casting me off like some sort of C list sailboat. Those sounds that seemed like snickers before had become full on unmistakable cackles. I was officially an outsider. I stood next to the speaker all by myself. . .feeling blue, just like a Smurf.

"'Cause it's like that! What? And that's the way it is!"

Sure, I had real friends back then who liked me for me. But damn, I wish I could go back to that day and just keep dancing with all of my might next to that speaker. For me, not them.

See? Back then, I just wanted to be liked. But that was when I was twelve. I'm a grown woman now, so it's different now, right?

I'd like to think so.

"I just didn't learn anything new."

Wow. Nothing new? Not a single new thing? See? I shouldn't have been bothered so much by that. But I was. I so was. Now let me be clear--I'm not the self deprecating type. I think my self image is positive enough to know that I have some strengths as a teacher. I also take formative comments seriously and look for ways to self improve. But today I can't help but take pause at how much those particular words sliced me to the white meat.

So I guess this started me wondering. . . .

Am I still that seventh grader doing The Smurf next to a static-filled speaker? In some ways, aren't we all?

Hmmm. Just wondering. . . . . weigh in, why don't you?


Happy Saturday to you (and your inner seventh grader.)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. Someone recently reminded me, "As we age, we just add layers. We're still that same 5-year-old, that same 12-year-old, that same 20-year-old, etc., but we add layers of wisdom on top of those selves as we get older." I think about that when I feel like a whiney, self-centered teenager, or a spoiled child, or whatever. Sometimes it's ok to remember what it feels like to be an insecure young teenager, as long as you get back to being the wiser thirty-something adult that you are. :)

  2. Oh hell yes. Seventh grade. Which is why I never go anywhere where I might be asked to dance the Smurf. I'm sure the person who wrote that remark was...stupid.
    No. Kidding.
    But does it help if I say that?
    Also, does it help if I say (truthfully) that I learn something just coming over here and reading your blog? Every time?

  3. Deborah, that's good advice. And I love you for calling me a "thirty-something." :)

    Ms. Moon, no one keeps it realer than you. So yes, coming from you, my dear, it TOTALLY helps to know you learn when you stop by.

  4. I may be a professional, a mom, a wife, a home owner, someone responsible and capable, but I'm still the little tom boy who the others girls didn't get. I'm the tween who developed before everyone else and stood out for it. I'm the scared freshman trying to find my way on a campus and a first year law student from humble means trying to fit in with trust fund babies. The difference is that now, I am old enough to know where those insecurities come from and have overcome them before, so I know I can do it again and I have more tools to choose from. From the short time I have been reading your posts, it seems like you also have a lot more tools to work with when your seventh grade self comes to the forefront. I know I have learned from you as well.

  5. Love this....kind of fits with the (less reflective and more in your faceish) tone of my recent post. Even though I'm a pretty self confident person, I still struggle to not let others define me. It's easy some days. Harder others. Just a quick flip of perspective for you-- don't you think the comment says more about that resident than you? As in-- is it *really* possible that she didn't learn *anything* new? Reaaally? I think not. So I'm guessing the comment relates much more to her ability to reflect upon her own learning experience than it does your ability to teach others.

    Oops, late to get J to a bday party. Hope this made sense! :)

  6. Part of the reason why it matters so much and cuts so deeply may have nothing to do with your own insecurities, seventh-grade or current. Perhaps it has more to do with the fact that you hold yourself to a high standard and demand excellence from yourself. Finding yourself in any way lacking, even if it is based on one small comment, can be distressing. The fact that you care that much is a great thing. It means you will continue to hold yourself to a high standard of excellence, you will continue to be an even greater person tomorrow than you were today, an even more outstanding teacher this year than you were last year.

    Also, let us not forget that people's personal biases, personality traits and faults often color their perceptions and opinions. Students and doctors who are not as comfortable with the care part of "medical care" may convince themselves that they are not learning enough new "medical" stuff even though you have been guiding them on how to deliver the highest quality "medical care", and teaching them more than enough of both "medical" and "care".

    If I am ever in your shoes, which is years away and I can only hope to be a fraction as good as you are, I would like to think that I would take this sort of thing as an opportunity to inventory my teaching repertoire, but without beating myself up or trying to please everyone.

    I am confident that you are a fantastic doctor, and I am absolutely certain that you are a wonderful human being, and it is quite obvious that you are a talented and caring teacher.

  7. P.S. The kindergarten you is really cute.

  8. Anush, I like the "inventory" suggestion. Thanks, y'all. Real talk.

  9. Oh, I've been in classes with people like that. They don't learn anything new because they already know everything. Or so they think.

  10. I'd rather not think about seventh grade, please --

    As for the comment -- well -- it's been my experience as a mother of a child with special healthcare needs that residents, in particular, those young 'uns aren't the brightest, and actually writing down that you haven't learned anything proves that you're perhaps more than dumb; you're incurious.

    I hope you feel that in your bones -- I've been to your blog only a few times, but I've learned something each time. And it sounds like you're always learning -- from what you do, who you treat -- humble and learning from your patients. As someone who's talked to a lot of doctors, I can imagine you're the exact type that most people would want -- and most people would want to learn from as well.

  11. Didn't learn anything???? Wow. Personally, I'd be embarassed to admit that. There is nothing more dangerous, especially in health care than a doctor or nurse who already knows everything. You learn from every patient you care for. I am shaking my head in amazement at that comment. I learn from you at every post!

  12. I just want to say that, in every single post you write, I learn from you. I think it's unwise for a person to say that they didn't learn anything from an experience as I think that we learn from everything we experience - whether in a formal teaching environment or not.

    As for 'Am I still that seventh grader doing The Smurf next to a static-filled speaker? In some ways, aren't we all?' I'd have to say, in a way I think it's true.

    Have a beautiful day! :)

  13. Oh y'all. Seventh grade me thanks you so. But seriously, it is probably a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Like Lucy and others said, I learn from everything because of how I see things. I do take pride in making certain that my residents are learning, so perhaps that was such a stab to hear that someone's perception was that they learned nothing new. But we are always learning, aren't we? I will keep taking that inventory and will emerge an even better teacher from this.

  14. Just like you can't make someone angry, happy, can teach but you can't make someone learn. Truly their loss, because from what I've read here, you are learning from everyone you meet. I that person had only picked up that trait from you, that would probably have been the most valuable thing they had learned so far. x0 N2

  15. I've learned more than you know from you.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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