I’ve always found the duck to be a most peculiar creature. It’s by definition a bird. However, it’s a bird that prefers not to fly, but to swim… a bird that prefers the wet and soggy to the dry and airy. They seem to live the life of ease. I mean… why else would they fly in “V” formation? Is it not to minimize wind resistance so as to expend the least amount of energy possible? When they finally arrive at their destination do they not squat over the water as if lounging on a flotation device? Quack Quack must translate to “Take it easy”.

I once heard an interesting fact regarding the duck’s feathers. It’s said that the duck’s feathers are coated with an oil that is naturally water resistant. When a duck splashes in a pond, beads of water immediately roll off the back of the duck seamlessly. Yes, the duck even manages to dry off with the greatest of ease. Man can they keep it simple! I wonder if we as educators, leaders, and corporate workers could learn something from this peculiar creature.

What if other people’s negativity rolled off our backs in much the same way the beads of water quickly roll off the duck? As a high school math teacher, I had the privilege of dealing with a particularly difficult student who was covered head to toe in tattoos. She was determined to let me know what she thought about our school in addition to what she was and was not willing to do in my class. She wore her feelings on her sleeve and directed them at me like a well-skilled marksman. In this moment, I thought of the duck and decided to approach her differently.

“So you like tattoos I see”, I said. The girl had just finished mouthing off at me and was prepared for a fight. I could tell my response took her off guard. “Umm… yeah”, she responded hesitantly. “I’m going to open up my own tattoo shop which is why I don’t need this class or school”. She then went on to tell me how she was also a single mother and was angry about a lot of issues in her life. The short conversation only lasted 5 minutes but it completely changed the tone of her attitude for the rest of class. She was actually a pretty good algebra student. She didn’t fight, talk disrespectfully, or give me a hard time ever again. Not only was this experience an enlightening moment for myself, but it has guided my approach with people ever since.

Most people who treat us disrespectfully are doing so for reasons that have nothing to do with us at all. We get so flustered and upset over another’s initial interaction with us that we miss out on so many genuine connections with those around us. Let others’ words roll off your shoulder and don’t let them stick. Make the conversation about the other person and their entire countenance toward you will change. I promise you’ll barely remember what “so called” mean thing they said at all and who knows, perhaps a healthy relationship may form.

If you are a teacher or educator, I invite you to email us at morrisseyawards@gmail.com.

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