Things I Know 37 of 365: I am uncool

Popular is the one insult I have never suffered.

– Oscar Wilde

It was an off-the-cuff remark a few months ago. One student was giving me a hard time about something and I was giving it right back.

“Chase,” said he, “you think you’re so cool.”

“Oh, no,” said I, “I definitely know I’m not cool.”

The class laughed.

I wasn’t joking. I’m not cool.

That’s a thought that’ll stick with ya.

For a while in middle school, I thought I was cool.

I remember the day in eighth grade when I learned the truth.

We were still given recess right after lunch. As the heads of middle school, this usually meant the eighth graders milled about the track aimlessly – training for when we went to the mall.

It was a fall day. The kind of fall day when you could see your breath.

I got outside and found my group of friends huddled in a circle at the far end of the track. Reaching them, I realized they were smoking. About 9 kids, sharing one cigarette. I walked away.

Something big had happened. They’d powered up to the next level while I kept an eye out for a pick-up game of tag.

I’ve held my uncoolness since then.

This comes not from a place of shame or inferiority, but one of self-awareness.

I’m totally uncool, and it’s one of my greatest assets.

In class as a teacher, I can dance or use an accent or give a kid a hug without fear of losing cool points.

In class as a student, I get to be a student because I don’t have to worry about the balance of cool and nerd. A question pops into my mind and my hand hits the air – at times, yes, waving like I just don’t care. (See, that was even more uncool.)

And I know there are those out there who will argue learning is cool and nerds are cool and how dare I suggest you can’t have a healthy appetite for learning and be cool at the same time. But, there it is. That nerds are cool is a myth propogated by the uncool in an attempt to subvert the language. See, nerds got game like that.

I’m probably not supposed to leak that one, but I’ve been in the same room as Bill Gates. He’s not cool. Super smart. Wicked savvy. Not cool.

Gates is a welcome reminder the eighth grade smoking ring has its own incarnation in the adult world. He’s also an excellent example of the primary benefit of avoiding that ring.

While the cool people like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama must worry about staying cool, the uncool like Norman Borlaug, Amy Sedaris, Tina Fey, Joseph Priestley and Dorris Kearns Goodwin get to do cool stuff.

And that’s the virtue of being uncool in the classroom. I can try new ideas, new projects and lessons never raising any suspicions or risking losing and non-existent cred. Being uncool affords me the opportunity to have some pretty cool ideas.


7 thoughts on “Things I Know 37 of 365: I am uncool

  1. Hello Mr. Chase, My name is Tiffany Blanton and I am in the EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama under the instruction of Dr. Strange. I must say that I too must be labeled as “uncool” . Even though we may feel that others are moving up to the next level does not mean that we have to. It takes courage to walk alone as most people feel as they are, when really most people are going down the same path. We must stand strong!I admire you for being “uncool.” The uncoolness has led us to where we are today! We must teach our students to stand for what they believe in and if they want to be “uncool” then so be it. We as teachers should be positive examples for our students. We should not care what others think of us, although it may be tough at times. I am sure your students' view you as being cool. Kids are so gullible and love us regardless, even if others may view us as “uncool”. That is one of the beauties of teaching. Even though you may be having a bad day, the kids can lift your spirit even though they may not know that they are. As part of my assignment for this class I am suppose to comment on your post and then next week come back and respond to another as well as summarize a reflection of your post on my blog. Feel free to leave me comments. Here is a link to my blog as well as the class blog and twitter. visit… myblogand check out the edmclassblog twitter: tblanton1113

  2. Cool-ness is also relative. So nerds absolutely CAN be cool – but only to other nerds. That choice you made in 8th grade? It wasn't to walk away from cool-ness, but to be cool within a different circle, under different criteria. I wasn't cool in school for many of the same reasons you weren't, but when I went to my 20th high school class reunion I discovered that many of the kids who were cool by the traditional definition had (FINALLY) come to the realization that THAT kind of cool just wasn't…well…cool in the adult world. And by some of their adult standards, I was now considered cool. So now I just think I was ahead of my time in my uncoolness. 😉

  3. I really wish I had a digital copy of the photo of us on the day we dressed like weirdos and went to the mall in Bloomington to see what kind of reaction people would have to us. You with your red plaid shorts, red polo shirt, rainbow colored tie, beaded necklace, heart shaped sunglasses, and- my favorite part- blond MOWHAWK were the epitome of “uncool” and I loved you for it. Thanks for showing me how fun it is to embrace the goofy side of life! MWAH!

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