I’m like Sheldon Cooper in the sense that certain emotions confuse me. Well… mainly, the “shit-eating-grin.” It drives me insane and pisses me off. I hate it so much. If you’re guilty of this, here’s a friendly PSA from me: “Please make your face match the words coming out of it.”
The Korean woman I co-teach fifth-grade English with does this. It confuses the hell outta me. I’ll say or do something that upsets her, and I can tell she’s upset based on her words, but she’ll be smiling the whole time like she’s happy. And I’m slightly smarter than Forrest Gump, so half my brain is like, “Whew, she smiled; we’re in the clear,” and the other half of my brain is like, “Oh man, did you hear that? We’re in so much trouble!”
I cannot fake my emotions. You can read my face and body language like an open book. When I try to pretend everything’s fine, it’s really obvious. Unless of course, you’re Sheldon Cooper.
I can act… if it’s my job, and I’m mentally prepared for that. I acted in plays, growing up. I’m currently in an improv troop, and I’m pretty good at it. But if I’m at work, and all of a sudden I have to play make-believe in a real life situation, I can’t do it.
My first job after college was at a restaurant. One day while hosting, one of my managers approached my host stand, acting like a customer. After a long awkward silence, I said, “Yes?” She looked taken back by that, and shot back with, “Is that really how you greet customers?”
I didn’t know I was supposed to be pretending she was a customer. I also wasn’t clear on how far to take this charade. Like… Do I put her name on the waiting list? Do I seat her at a table, thus robbing a real customer of their spot? I mean… Set the scene! Give me some parameters!
The same thing happens routinely now as a teacher. No matter how many times I am forced to do this, it feels impossible. I have to stand a few feet in front of a woman, and pretend like the room if full of kids.
It’s painfully awkward. And I have so many questions about this pretend world. Like… When I ask a question, does she answer it or do I? When there’s a listening activity, do we both pretend to listen to a recording that isn’t playing?
Also, a big part of teaching a foreign language is the students repeating after you. So without the students there to repeat, it’s just me reading a list of elementary vocabulary with pauses between each word.
I can never tell if it’s going well or not because she has a blank face the whole time. It’s like performing stand-up comedy in an empty room. I need facial expressions… and the words to match!