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Snappy rejoinders - short term pleasure, long term pain?

Last Thursday, I sent this out to our optional, informal school mailing list:

Hi folks,

Very interesting article on the NYTimes blog:
Do School Libraries Need Books?

5 different perspectives on the question.


A short time later I received this response from one of our high school teachers:

Blogs are for the self-obsessed & self-absorbed

have a nice day
So I fired back:

Hi _______ ,

Rather a blanket condemnation of a format, I'd say. I hope you taught my son when he was your student to judge the content of writing, rather than the container in which it comes.

Have a nice day to you as well,


Zing! Felt pretty good sending that out. At the time.

But I wonder now if I've made an enemy. Or created a relationship in which neither of us will now listen to the other? Were I to do it again, I would have gone over and had a visit with the teacher, F2F. Or ignored the comment completely.

I'm not having second thoughts about what I said. I believe format bigotry serves no one well and that good teachers should not model it. (Although I will admit many bloggers, including this one, are self-obsessed and self-absorbed.)

But I am wondering how I might have handled this better as a human being.


I got a chuckle from the way James Likeks opened his column in this Valentine's Day morning's Star Tribune:

Here's some Valentine's Day advice: If you need it now, from a newspaper, you're already in trouble.


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Reader Comments (8)

My wife and I have a deal. Whenever we get an email that makes us grumpy, we're allowed to write a response, but we have to send it to the other one (or another level-headed friend) first before we're allowed to actually send it to the intended recipient. You get the pleasure of typing out what you want, then the cushion to think about it, edit it appropriately or, as you said, get off the chair and try the more diplomatic face-to-face approach.

I agree it's hard not to zing someone who is being obviously close-minded, but I think you're also right that the recipient of your email will probably dismiss the advice and not have learned anything from the exchange.

February 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim Randolph

Maybe I'm such a crank I am incapable of seeing what was so "zingy" about your reply. It was concise and to the point. It only stung in proportion to its truth.

I doubt the teacher spent more than a few seconds sniffing at your reply. Consider your hand-wringing sufficient penance for your "misdeed," but don't waste to much time worrying about how knuckleheads respond to thoughtful criticism.

February 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Doyle

Short responses like that aren't so bad...I think its necessary to put self-proclaimed know-it-alls in their place every now and then. Trouble occurs when its a three paragraph manifesto as to why the other person is an idiot. Those are the emails that need to be trashed or edited.

February 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNathan

I can be quick with a harsh word. I try to be aware of it. Thank you for this reminder. It benefits me to reflect on this now and not in the heat of my own moment of irritation. I find it is challenging to think long-term relationships/results when irritated. Thanks, again.

February 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVal

I was OK with the first sentence but the "Have a nice day" was really snarky. So sad that this teacher is missing out on so much.

February 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDottie

I think she raises an interesting point which you should bring to said mailing list by quoting her reply in its entirety, followed by thought-provoking questions for group discussion.

Sometimes I try to work with people to find out why they think what they do, share what I think, and talk about whether there's a solution we can both agree on. And then sometimes I like to highlight especially rude and ignorant statements, to serve as a signpost for others who may have to work with that person. >:)

February 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDave

One of the dangers of electronic communication is that it does often allow us to suspend our "think before we speak" reflexes. I myself have sent many a snarky e-mail that I later regretted. But on the other hand, I've also been the recipient of a few snarky e-mails myself, most of which I felt were largely undeserved. Oh well.

I think Dottie hit the nail on the head however, in her comment when she observed "it is so sad the teacher is missing out on so much." This is the heart of the matter. A closed mind never benefits anyone, especially the students.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, Dottie's comment reminds me of the scene in Ann of Green Gables when Ann asks Marilla if she ever imagines life to be different than it is (or something like that). Marilla responds that no she hasn't, to which Ann replies, "Oh Marilla. How much you miss." Not every teacher has to be a big fan of blogging or Twitter, or whatever the latest greatest thing happens to be. But by having a closed mind and not even being willing to explore, they do miss out, and worst of all, so do their students.

February 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Hi Ninja,

The problem with email has always been that it is just too damn convenient and easy to send. It's gotten me more trouble. Minnesotans tend to be non-confrontational F2F so this must be our pressure valve!

All the best,


Hi Michael,

I am sure you are right about the teacher giving my reply no thought. Thanks for the perspective.


Hi Nathan,

I wonder sometimes if the long diatribes aren't some sign of mental instability?


Hi Dottie,

Yeah, it sounded a little sarcastic, didn't it. Thank goodness we have emoticons to indicate sarcasm!


Hi Mary,

Very considered. Thanks,


February 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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