Elizabeth Willis Barrett………March 2021

My first teaching job was as a Home Ec Teacher on an Indian Reservation in Winnebago, Nebraska.  Since I had gotten married three days before the job started and had graduated with my treasured Home Economics Education Degree about five days before that, I was green, naive, inexperienced and, to be truthful, totally unprepared.  You’d think four years of college, which included a semester of student teaching tacked on to the end of that education, would have given me  courage, expertise and a full set of tools to teach with confidence and success.  But nope.  I was challenged and didn’t mind telling anyone that I didn’t know what I was doing.

One day I went into the nearest town—Sioux City, Iowa—to find patterns for aprons so I could teach a sewing class.  I didn’t know how to choose a pattern.  I asked for help and the clerk said, “What did your teacher tell you to get?”  I had to answer, “I am the teacher!”  The responsive look she gave me seemed to say,  “Your poor students!”

I have learned a lot since then, thank goodness.  One major piece of knowledge I’ve added to my repertoire is to “act as though.” 

When I’ve taught piano or ukulele or choir or Time Management I act like I know exactly what I’m doing.  I attempt to exude self-confidence.  No one wants to learn from a tentative teacher.  I’ve found that others don’t necessarily know a whole lot more than I do in certain areas, but they’re just acting like they do.   

“Act as though” can be used on many occasions.  It could actually change your childhood.  When you go to Class Reunions, act as though everyone loved you back in the good old days.  Know your classmates names and use them as though you were one of the most popular students at your school.  They’ll respond to you well.  In Junior High and High School, most were so absorbed in their own self-doubt that they didn’t have much time to worry about yours.  

You don’t need to say something like,  “You guys didn’t like me back then.”  Or “I always felt left out” or “Why didn’t you ever call me?”  or “Remember when you wouldn’t let me sit with you at lunch?”  Those kinds of comments will keep you in the self-conscious, insecure past.  “Act as though” you had it all together back then, and others will treat you like that’s exactly how it was.

I had someone say something denigratory when several old friends had gathered at my place for lunch.  She started out with,  “Should I say this?  Maybe I shouldn’t say this.  Oh, Ok, I’ll just say it!”  Then she proceeded to remind several of us there that in the long ago past, her family had been left out of activities and that we had been very wrong to be exclusive.  

She was right at the beginning—she shouldn’t have said it.  Somehow, her bringing up old infractions didn’t endear her to me at all.  Did she think a fifty years too late apology would make her past a little happier?  Her words victimized herself all over again and made me part of the cause.  Being reminded of past mistakes makes the “reminder-er” poor company.  She would have been more welcomed and enjoyed if she had “acted as though” our past together had been pleasurable and rewarding.  That’s how I had always thought of it.  

If someone is mad at you about a slight or a comment or a personality flaw, I find it best to “act as though” that person really likes you.  Eventually they’ll forget there was a problem and they can at least “act as though” they really do like you.  That sometimes works better than an apology or a long discussion of the problem.  

If you feel awkward—and who often doesn’t—“act as though” you don’t.  If you’re miserable, “act as though” you aren’t.  If you’re very disgusted with some parts of your body, “act as though” every part is exactly as it should be at the moment.  If you’re bored to tears with Sally’s 100th rendition of the time she met The Backstreet Boys, “act as though” it is delightfully interesting.  

“Act as though”—it can make life a lot brighter for yourself and those around you.  And sometimes that fake smile can become real and light up your soul—a huge payoff for “acting as though.”