Popular is the one insult I have never suffered.
– Oscar Wilde
It was an off-the-cuff remark a few months ago. One student was giving me a hard time about something and I was giving it right back.
“Chase,” said he, “you think you’re so cool.”
“Oh, no,” said I, “I definitely know I’m not cool.”
The class laughed.
I wasn’t joking. I’m not cool.
That’s a thought that’ll stick with ya.
For a while in middle school, I thought I was cool.
I remember the day in eighth grade when I learned the truth.
We were still given recess right after lunch. As the heads of middle school, this usually meant the eighth graders milled about the track aimlessly – training for when we went to the mall.
It was a fall day. The kind of fall day when you could see your breath.
I got outside and found my group of friends huddled in a circle at the far end of the track. Reaching them, I realized they were smoking. About 9 kids, sharing one cigarette. I walked away.
Something big had happened. They’d powered up to the next level while I kept an eye out for a pick-up game of tag.
I’ve held my uncoolness since then.
This comes not from a place of shame or inferiority, but one of self-awareness.
I’m totally uncool, and it’s one of my greatest assets.
In class as a teacher, I can dance or use an accent or give a kid a hug without fear of losing cool points.
In class as a student, I get to be a student because I don’t have to worry about the balance of cool and nerd. A question pops into my mind and my hand hits the air – at times, yes, waving like I just don’t care. (See, that was even more uncool.)
And I know there are those out there who will argue learning is cool and nerds are cool and how dare I suggest you can’t have a healthy appetite for learning and be cool at the same time. But, there it is. That nerds are cool is a myth propogated by the uncool in an attempt to subvert the language. See, nerds got game like that.
I’m probably not supposed to leak that one, but I’ve been in the same room as Bill Gates. He’s not cool. Super smart. Wicked savvy. Not cool.
Gates is a welcome reminder the eighth grade smoking ring has its own incarnation in the adult world. He’s also an excellent example of the primary benefit of avoiding that ring.
While the cool people like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama must worry about staying cool, the uncool like Norman Borlaug, Amy Sedaris, Tina Fey, Joseph Priestley and Dorris Kearns Goodwin get to do cool stuff.
And that’s the virtue of being uncool in the classroom. I can try new ideas, new projects and lessons never raising any suspicions or risking losing and non-existent cred. Being uncool affords me the opportunity to have some pretty cool ideas.