I have great respect for those netizens out there who act courteously and generously when encountering ignorance, bias, and even belligerence in those they interact with.
The internet serves as the world’s forum, and we encounter people who we might not otherwise have chosen to interact with there. More often than not we don’t see eye-to-eye, and that’s the beauty of it; we have the opportunity to learn from, exchange with, and teach each other.
It’s very obvious to me when someone I’m interacting with over the internet is a middle or high schooler: It reminds me of how I feel at work in the classroom…
Inevitably that means I will be correcting misunderstandings and explaining difficult concepts several times in succession, rewording and simplifying as I realize their level of naivette or ignorance on the matter. I have new eyes for my own adolescence… and new respect for the teachers that put up with aggravating questions day after day. And I also find myself proud to have the opportunity to be a good teacher and role model.
In the classroom I adore the opportunity to teach one-on-one, as it’s rare and at the same time the most powerful and influential way to get the target information from my head to theirs. Until now I didn’t feel the same way about interactions on the net, the anonymity perhaps soured those relationships. It can be much like how our sense of others’ humanity is lost behind the wheel, because we can’t see through the heavy metal shells of others’ cars to the people driving them. They become sources of aggravation and frustration instead of opportunities to learn, exchange, or teach.
From today I’m going to reverse that trend in myself, the tendency to treat others as the cause of my irritation, and instead to see them the way I see students in my classroom. Sometimes I get to teach them what I know, but just as often, I get to learn from them what I need to change in myself.