Poker Face

Can’t Read My Poker Face (I Ain’t Got To Love Nobody)

Jose 3 Comments

Poker Face

Poker Face

When I first started teaching, the most common complaint people had about me was that I didn’t smile or laugh. I think people caught subtle motions of my face throughout the first couple of months, but I let a little of that go in the classroom. I didn’t appreciate my kids calling me a robot. With the rest of my fellow faculty members and staff, I still have this weird perception about me … and I like it. Here’s why:

The problem with showing your hand in any card game is that, eventually you’re going to get all your cards taken away or everyone’s going to make sure you get as little of the pot as possible. Some people try to force your hand down while others try to seduce you with a couple of chips, and others still try to ask the guy / chick next to you if they caught a glimpse of anything. Meanwhile, you’re just trying to play a good, clean game with no need to pull those aces out of your sleeves. I didn’t deal the cards nor did I make the rules of the game, but I’m going to play, then I’m playing to win. I just have my own set of guidelines that lets me win every time.

I’ve offered plenty of opportunities for people to be “personal” with me (that’s in quotations because even then I have to keep certain parts of my life to myself). I’ll go to social functions, maybe hang out at the teachers’ lounge, make a small joke here and there. Otherwise, there’s really no reason to talk. It’s a professional setting, and people getting sensitive about how I roll irks me a bit.

Here’s something else to think about: in my mind, I already know who I like and don’t like, and I never have to let anyone know who’s who. That’s really up to me, and it doesn’t have to interfere with whether or not I’m going to bust my rear. I don’t have to agree with people in order for me to get the work I need to get done settled. As long as the work I’m doing has a intentionally positive effect on my clients (in this case, my kids), I could care less about anyone’s personal characteristics.

I’m mostly saying this for the new teachers reading (and a few of the more veteran teachers as well). Professionalism is imperative in all cases, and if you can’t be professional in certain settings, then step out. Conversely, don’t let people be unprofessional with you. When a aura of unprofessionalism pervades an environment, it becomes toxic, spiteful, and often viral. And you’ll get the majority of people who can’t quite put their finger on it or don’t have the words, but they’ll say, “There’s something that just ain’t right.”

Then, you’ll realize that the problem isn’t always the kids. It’s the adults who are acting them. But before you make that realization, you’ll walk down the hallway, not showing too much emotion, and keeping a safe and comfortable distance from everyone until you’ll assessed everyone enough. And even then, you set a standard for how you want your interactions to go. In the field of education, you don’t have lots of autonomy (or in many other fields for that matter), but you do have control over many of the interactions that happen.

You play your cards right, never show your hand, and soon, everyone will want to play on your team. Even with that ace in your sleeve.

Jose, who didn’t realize how Lady Gaga had anything to do with education till now …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 3

  1. MarcyWebb

    The truth, and well-written.

    The “P” in professional can’t exist if a teacher is acting younger than the kids.

    BTW: I think your photo is going to give me nightmares.

  2. Miss Teacha

    Marcy is right, that photo is CREEPY! You’re so very right about professionalism & poker face. I learned this when I first started teaching: go in the lounge, say very little. Soak it in. Wisdom of a church friend who’d taught for 20 years.. Eventually, it was “stay out the lounge and do your job.” This way you have respect for doing your job and don’t get involved in confusion.

    I HATE that I don’t have poker face. I’m so expressive about EVERYTHING. People can read me like a book . .. send me tips for keeping a straight face!

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