Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"I don't mean to..."

My sister Becki is a middle school teacher, and she is very good at what she does, partially because she doesn't put up with any games. Her students respect her; they learn from her; and many of them even really like her. If all of our teachers were like her the U.S. would have the best education system in the world.

When one of her students starts a sentence by saying, "I don't mean to offend you, but..." or "I'm not trying to be mean, but...", Becki's response is, "Then don't." She knows those phrases are nearly always followed by something offensive, and a "pre-apology" doesn't make it okay. I had one of those "I don't mean to..." type of conversations yesterday.

We bought a "new" used vehicle a few weeks ago and needed to sell my beloved Honda. I listed it on Craigslist yesterday morning, and we sold it for full price last night. (Nice!)

After listing it, I e-mailed a local chat group to ask advice, since it's the first time we've sold a car to a private party in this state. I got great tips about taking cash only, forms we'd need, etc.

And one person e-mailed me privately, apart from the group-wide discussion, with some advice on who I should sell the car to. After advising me not to sell to a dealer, she added, "Hate to be prejudice, but no foreigners."

If that had been a student talking to Becki, and the student had said, "Hate to be prejudiced, but--" the sentence would have stopped there, interrupted with a very good piece of teacherly advice.

"Then don't."


~hon~ said...

Oh I admire that phrase! That's a good one! I very much agree. I'll use that when the right time comes. Thank you, Becki. Thank you, Beth.

I am a foreigner to you so I agree very much! hahaha!

And I probably don't know what does foreigner mean there since there are lots of races in the US.

Shannon said...

I'm loving Becki's phrase. Since I have gone from teaching Kindergarten up to the "big kids" in middle school, I will make sure I add that phrase to my repetoire. Ugh to that email you got. Just ugh.

beckiwithani said...

Aww, thanks, Beth! I just read this after I put you as one of my most influential people in today's One Minute Writer.

And just to clarify, I do put up with games ... but just Jeopardy!, which we play when it's test review time. ;)

beckiwithani said...

P.S. I don't mean to EMBARRASS you, but ....

There's a typo in your post.


Lyndsay said...

I HAVE to add that phrase into my vocabulary. It's priceless!

Eternal Lizdom said...

Depending on my mood... I may well have e-mailed that person back, quoting the first part "Hate to be prejudiced..." and writing only "Then DON'T."

Call Me Cate said...

Good for Becki. Teach them young that pre-apologizing for rudeness doesn't cut it.

And congrats again on selling the car so quickly!

Anonymous said...

Great advice by your sister!

Claudia said...

That's great advice, Beth. I love it!

Danni said...

I do like that response and I know just who to use it on.

TesoriTrovati said...

I agree with your sister! I used to be a middle school teacher myself. Another similar phrase is when people make a joke and say "just kidding"...I always say, "no, you're not!" because there is an element of truth to every joke (and poking fun at ourselves is why we laugh!). I am looking forward to the Art exchange! Erin, TesoriTrovati

Mike said...

Interesting anecdote!

It reminds of another story about "foreigners"! I was the only visible minority at a swimming lesson. We played a "Name Game" - everyone shared their name and a tidbit about themselves. We soon got to talking...and I was the only visible minority. We soon found out...I was the only one born in Canada also! The others immigrated from Germany, Switzerland, and Great Britain!

So who's the foreigner? In an increasingly globalized world, the terms "alien", "immigrant", and "foreigner" are really hard to define!

(By the way, my word verification was "china!" -- honestly!)


Cathy said...

I noticed no one else commented on your Ode to your Honda. I asked your dad if he'd seen it and he didn't know what I was talking about. I bet lots of others didn't realize it was there either. I'm just curious to wonder why "beloved Honda" in your post was highlighted and so I clicked on it. I LOVE IT! I don't know how you can make a poem about just anything, but it was very cute! Maybe you ought to put it into the text of your post tomorrow - too cute to not have people see it!-Mom

Jenny said...

What a GREAT lesson! I hear people say that all the time, and I just cringe. I think I may start using her phrase more!

C. Beth said...

Okay, I had just responded to 12 of the 14 comments, and my browser froze up, and I lost it all. AARGH! Here we go again.

hon--I'm guessing it was not a race thing--maybe she was suggesting I not work with someone who wasn't born in the US or isn't a citizen? I guess it doesn't matter since I was not going to take the advice!

Mama to a diva--You and my sister would have a lot of stories to share! And I agree--ugh.

Becki--Thank you for the nice comment on TOMW! And I'm totally blaming the weird typo on the kids. (Both of whom were probably in bed when I wrote this.)

Lyndsay--I agree--it's a great phrase for the arsenal!

Liz--Definitely a witty response! I am not naturally confrontational with people I don't know well. My response to that portion of her e-mail was, "I don't know where he is from. It's okay with me if he's from another country."

Call Me Cate--Thank you; it was definitely a relief to sell it so quickly. The Engineer is taking the proceeds to the credit union to pay off his car tomorrow!

Tabby--I agree, great advice!

Claudia--I love her advice too!

Danni--Oh, come back and report on how it goes!

TesoriTrovati--That's true; it's so easy to use "joking" as an "acceptable" way to make a REAL criticism. I'm glad you called your students on that tactic!

Mike--Very fascinating experience you had! That's pretty cool. I agree, those terms--"alien," "immigrant," "foreigner"--are no longer definable. Hopefully the attitudes associated with them are becoming unacceptable too.

Mom--I checked back on that poem post. (That's when Firefox froze up on me! Aargh!) :) Anyway, I posted twice on the day I did the Honda poem, and it kinda got buried. I'm glad you saw it since you missed it the first time! :)

Jenny--I think (if I can get the guts for it) I would like to start using that phrase too!

Lora said...

We have the saying at work that when you use "but" in a phrase it negates everything you you just said.

Chris said...

Congrats on getting full price for the beloved!

Simplicity said...

I live in a multi-cultural area and work for a large company where this stuff flies around like candy! I will be sure to use that phrase...thanks!!