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Tough Crowd

Today I went to a reading. I happened to be in my daughter’s second grade class and watched as the teacher called on them one-by-one to read aloud to the class a story they had written on a theme supplied by the teacher.

This morning’s theme was “Outer Space.” Most stories were some sort of re-imagining of the “Star Wars” movie and followed a generally common story line depending on testosterone level.

The boys’ stories leaned toward traveling to outer space in the Millennium Falcon and invariably blowing up aliens to kingdom come. The girls’ remembered their manners and politely asked the antenna-waving aliens the way back home.

Not only did each of them read their story, but then everyone else got to indicate by a hand signal whether he or she enjoyed the reader’s story or not. Thumbs up meant, “Hey, I liked it.” Thumbs down meant, “I didn’t get it …” And thumb straight out, horizontal, meant it’s OK, but really, (insert exasperated sigh here) you could’ve done better.

Besides judging the stories on content, interest, and detail, the following factors also affected the critiques:

1) If the person reading is your friend (or as in my kid’s case, her mother is watching) then he or she automatically got a thumbs up.

2) If the person had pissed you off that morning, say by cutting in front of you in line, then of course, he or she got a thumbs down.

3) And if you missed the reading because you were whispering to the kid next to you or coloring, well, the best the reader could hope for was a thumb in the middle position.

It was a tough room. Nobody overly impressed the crowd. Everyone got a mixed review. No one was shy about reading their work and a few self-critical souls even gave their own stories a thumbs down.

When my daughter returned home I brought up the reading. Wow, I said hesitantly, that was “interesting,” (the generic term for—what the f%@k was that all about?). I complimented her classmates and her on sharing their work and taking their punches wherever they may fall.

“Mom,” she said, looking at me straight in the eye, “All you really need is a ‘can-do’ attitude.”

Thanks Yoda—from YOU many lessons to learn have I.

By Tania Malik

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