Wednesday, January 17, 2024


I've been thinking about reputations recently. People, places, companies - many have reputations for this or that.  For being friendly, funny, charming, authentic, honest. And sometimes they are, but sometimes they're not.

I recently visited a market town which has a reputation for being a place which delights foodies. It also has a reputation, and promotes itself as being charming, old fashioned, and some culture. I was rather surprised to visit and see none of that. It was rather disappointing, particularly as we had driven some distance out of our way to have a look.

Of course I recognise that we all have different perceptions, we all see things in different light. But apart from a small deli and a farmers market on the way out of town, there was no indication that this village had any culinary delights to offer. In fact I really only saw chain bakeries and supermarkets. Perhaps it is a hidden gem, which they only show to special visitors.

Over the years I've been invited to meet people with a reputation. One in particular was described to me (by several people) as being "very creative and imaginative."  We met, we talked, we exchanged ideas.  Their ideas were no more creative than those of the Year 8 students I was teaching at the time.  Looking back, I now recognise that the people who had described them as such were in a world which wasn't particularly creative.  I can say how comparatively, they might have believed this person was. The problem was, I think, that this person wanted to build this reputation, and to use it to get out of doing work.  When the team was doing all the hard work, they wouldn't go, and simply said, "I'm the ideas person."

More recently I was introduced to two people at the same time. The first used a term to describe themselves which is usually only used in newspaper articles, biographies and history books.  No one would ever use it to describe themselves. In the following discussion, they then use a word and said, "But you probably don't know what that means," and then went on to explain it. (I did know, but I didn't have a chance to say so!) Not to be outdone, the second person used another term to describe themself, and then out how clever and intelligent other people thought they were. 

We conversed for around thirty minutes on a subject in which both claimed to be specialists, but neither were particularly insightful, and indeed one was completely wrong on several counts. So much for a reputation created by and for yourself.

Many times I have taught students who had a reputation for being trouble and causing problems. I would always let them know at the start of the year that I didn't care what their reputation was, I would accept them based on how they behaved with me.  I can honestly say that with only a couple of exceptions, these kids were fine with me and caused little trouble.

Reputations are there to be tested. I don't ignore reputations, but I try to not believe them and discern what people are really like.

Sometimes, with a bad reputation, all we really want is to be proven wrong.

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