“Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving.” – Shakespeare
My school is enormous. It has five floors and several annexes on the campus. I actually do not know all of my colleagues. Of course, the more years I’m there, the more colleagues I interact with and the smaller the school becomes.
Because I don’t know everyone personally, I have developed my impression of some through word of mouth or what I witness in snapshots or from afar. Unfair, but true.
In four years, I have been in four different rooms. This means I have had the opportunity to work alongside some of the people I had originally judged, sometimes in a good light, sometimes in a harsh one. Sometimes, what I thought originally turned out to be true, but many times my original impression – shock of all shocks – turned out to be false.
I’ve arrogantly felt with each move I’ve made, my reputation has preceded me, and not always for the better. After all, “Oh, we’ve heard all about you” is a bit of an unclear statement. I have heard that line from more than one person and I never know what it means.
The other day, a colleague and I discussed our preconceived notions of each other and the evolution of those thoughts. I asked her what she had heard about me and she said, “All I knew was that Matt Ray cared about his kids.” Oh, had I been so open-minded about my colleague. We did not start off on the best foot when we met each other. Through our conversation, though, it became clearer that my assumptions and judgments were based only partly in reality. To be blunt, I was badly mistaken – as I’ve been many times before.
I guess the whole point of this is what we already know. We can’t write people off just because we may start off poorly. Also, gossip in a school can be very injurious if we allow it to be. Does it serve a purpose to badmouth our own colleagues? It isn’t reasonable to expect to get along with everyone, but at least give that person the chance to mold others’ impressions before we sully them without their input. Don’t we owe them the benefit of the doubt until we can form our own impressions? I am learning that we do.