Archive for the 'reputation' Category


June 27, 2012

I started realizing how different my own experience of someone with a sterling reputation can be from the apparent norm, when my older son’s elementary school teacher, who had such a reputation (including for warmth and kindness, intelligence and creativity, dedication to teaching and interest in her students beyond the usual), insisted that he too begin his autobiography at birth and include information about all his “firsts” (words, steps, smile, teeth, etc.) and name and describe those around him during his infancy.  My son, whom we adopted as a toddler, had no idea what to write, since we don’t have that information (we don’t even know when he was born) and much of that time he spent ill and without parents in a hospital and then in an orphanage.

I went to speak to the teacher after school.  We were on friendly terms, she liked Jonas, I expected we would work something out together.  I explained the matter.  She said he should make up the information.  I was puzzled.  Couldn’t he just start the autobiography at whatever point he first had information?  Just include what he and we knew?  Maybe even just start the account at a slightly later point in his life than his birth?

No, he had to include all the information listed in the worksheet and make up what he didn’t know.

I was truly amazed at what she was asking Jonas to do — both asking him to relive something he might not be ready to think about and think about without some sort of support, and also at what I considered dubious ethics of making up something that purports to be fact in an autobiographical account.

Since that episode I have heard worse stories about other teachers and family situations, but for me this one sticks out now not as much for its content as for its lesson about what may lie behind a reputation.