Everyone’s a Nerd

When we reached a certain scene in Hamlet, I decided to switch things up and have students delve a bit deeper into the psychological aspects of the characters.  I gave them a modern translation to use side-by-side with Shakespeare’s words and asked them to explain and respond to two different speeches in the scene.  One of them was my favorite speech in all of Hamlet (and possibly all of Shakespeare), spoken by Claudius on the topic of prayer.  I’ve always been fascinated by this speech, so much so that I memorized it for a competition in high school.  I admitted this to my students.  They looked at me like I was crazy, and said as much to my face.  “You memorized this?  By choice?!” they said, shaking their heads in disbelief.

“Hey,” I replied with a shrug, “Everyone is nerdy about something.  This just happened to be mine.”

We used to say that in college about our group of friends.  We had the band nerd, the Shakespeare nerd (that was me), the theater nerd…  We all had our niches and we were proud of them.  I hadn’t thought of that for a long time, but as my students reacted to my admission of nerd-dom, the words popped out of my mouth almost instinctively.  Everyone is a nerd in some way.  It’s just the focus that changes from person to person.

What was so cool was how easily my students accepted my answer, even though they’d been ready to institutionalize high-school me a few moments before.  Even kids who weren’t engaged in the conversation looked up to respond.  “Yeah, that’s true,” they nodded, almost eager to agree with my validation of all things nerdy.  One student commented that Shakespeare wasn’t a common thing to be nerdy about, but the incredulity had left his tone.  After all, he’s the school’s resident computer nerd.  He couldn’t fault me for having my own nerdy tendencies when I was in high school.

So what’s your nerdiness?  Claim it.  Own it.  Be proud of it.

Admittedly, some activities are more widely recognized categories of nerd-dom.  If you claim a certain fascination with all things sci-fi, if you can speak Klingon or Elvish, or if you can finish a Rubik’s cube behind your back in a matter of seconds, you’re more likely to be labelled a nerd.  PC gamers, Magic the Gathering players, and avid comic book readers can’t help but fall into this category, too.  That’s OK.  Let no one dissuade you from your interests merely because they are nerdy.

Because, yes, you athletes and “cool kids”, this applies to you, too.  There is some topic that you know better than other people, some interest that occupies much of your attention voluntarily.  You are the movie guru, the sports statistics guy, or the culinary expert.  You’re the girl who’s fascinated by fashion design, the kid who can read the last Harry Potter book in one night, or the go-to person for random knowledge about cars.  Whatever engages your interest in your spare time, whatever you know more about than other people, that’s your nerd-dom, whether it’s musical theater or college basketball.  If your interests are culturally accepted as “normal,” that’s OK, but that doesn’t make you better than others.  So don’t make fun of the “nerds”, because you’re a nerd, too.  You just might not know it.

Everyone is nerdy about something.  What’s yours?

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15 thoughts on “Everyone’s a Nerd

  1. This is such an epic post, thanks! I’m nerdy about Jane Austen first and the Shakespeare second. I’m a British literature teacher, so I’m livin’ the dream!

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  2. For a very, very long time I was embarrassed about the books I enjoyed reading – mainly the fantasy genre. I rarely let on to anyone in high school that I was a BIG fan of Dragonlance books, and anything that had to do with dragons and/or magic. Even now, surrounded by tons of fellow bloggers of all ages who like the same fantasy/sci-fi genre as I do, it’s still tough to be honest about it in real life.

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  3. Amazing post! I absolutely love Shakespeare, but if I had to classify my nerd status, it would definitely be a film/TV nerd. Under that category, I would also say I’m a Disney and Harry Potter nerd. And I say it with great pride too! Thank you for helping us love our inner nerdiness! 🙂

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  4. i would have to disagree with parts of your post, i don’t think being an enthusiast about something makes you a nerd… Being an enthusiast about Shakespeare doesn’t make you a nerd, i don’t care how much of it you can quote. Being obsessed with Shakespeare and speaking elvish, and quoting star wars daily, and larping, and having background in all of the science, that makes you a nerd. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing but bear with me and check out this article http://www.cracked.com/blog/4-reasons-2013-officially-marked-death-nerd/

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    • My question then is, where do you draw the line? Who decides if a person is an enthusiast instead of a nerd? I could list all the things that demonstrated my youthful obsession with Shakespeare (and it was extreme), but that isn’t really the point. I shouldn’t have to defend it, just as someone who is a more stereotypical “nerd” shouldn’t have to defend themselves against those who would mock them for not being “normal”. Acceptance was my point, if that makes sense.

      I read that article, and they seem to stake their claim on the social awkwardness that often accompanies nerdy tendencies. I would disagree with that claim, though. It’s not the awkwardness that makes someone a nerd. It does, unfortunately, often lead to nerds being teased, and then their interests become the ammunition for the teasing, which isn’t right. But that doesn’t stop someone who isn’t socially awkward from being a nerd, either.

      But if we can separate those two ideas, then why do “nerds” have to be limited to certain kinds of interests? That only adds to the segregation that causes them to be outcasts. Instead, I would rather recognize that we all have areas of interests, of enthusiasm, that set us apart, whether they’re culturally accepted as normal or not.

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      • Christine, you know I agree with you on all this, and I just had to chime in here… I think to a certain extent (not in all cases, but in many that I’ve seen with my middle schoolers) they are awkward BECAUSE they’ve been labeled. My most awkward students will light up if they are given the chance to share their inner “nerdy-ness” in a non-threatening way, and they cease, at that point, to be awkward.
        We truly had an awesome group of friends in college. I feel blessed to have been a part of it! And proud of my inner nerd (Star Wars and grammar- though I didn’t realize I was a grammar nerd until I started teaching it and got really excited about gerunds and infinitives!).

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      • I believe that the line is drawn by the definition of the word in the language you’re using. When someone says to me i’m a “blank” nerd whether it be Shakespeare or star wars I have to pause. I, personally, am just a nerd. Text book definition, i’m not a nerd “about” things, I am an enthusiast to a fault about many things, overly intellectual, obsessive, socially awkward to the point of impairment, Not to be confused with a Geek. If you want to own a label own the correct one.

        Acceptance is a great point to have, this is just kind of a sore topic with me I suppose. For me that’s like someone who says “oh i’m so OCD because I need to know the color of the m&m’s i’m eating or i’ll go crazy” No, no that’s not OCD, that’s a quirk. To someone who HAS OCD, that’s kind of insulting. If i tell you i suffer from depression and your response is “awwww, we all get sad sometimes, i get depressed too” i’m going to stop and look at you like you’re crazy, because clearly we’re not talking about the same thing.

        However if you really understood what it was like to be an all around nerdy person, instead of a person with some “unpopular” (i guess that’s a good way to put it) quirks you would understand where that comedy article is coming from… and laugh, because it is a comedy article.

        Like i said, i’m going by the text book definition, or even the wikipedia entry if you prefer, not necessarily the interests the people have but the behaviors plus the interests that surround them. Also i don’t think segregation is the correct term for what I was trying to explain. I feel like diversity is a better way to describe it. We can’t all be nerds but we can accept them because they are different and this is a diverse planet we live on. And as a Nerd i have to tell you, although I am an outcast to you, I am very comfortable being around other socially awkward people, who are intellectual, overly obsessive, and yes sometimes, i even hang out with geeks too. However the people who i had nothing in common with before… i still have nothing in common with… and that’s ok. I still respect them leaving me alone, and i leave them alone too.

        Anyway, that’s just me being a prideful and socially awkward nerd, making people upset, and turning myself into an outcast.

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  5. As a teenager, I just want to say thank you for believing in your students! There’s a serious lack of that sometimes. You’re accepting of everyone, and that’s such a priceless gift! In my school, I know there are instances (primarily with new or student teachers) that we’re still trying to get treated with your kind of compassion, or at least politeness. (See Mr. X in my blog posts if you want more!)

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  6. I collect baseball cards for my grandson. I like the old stuff like Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, and Rod Carew. It is nerdy because I enjoy it and I find comfort in my collection. Yes, I know it is a cardboard piece but the history of it tickles my fancy.

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  7. I think the new term is Hacker. You can be a snowboard hacker, a Shakespeare hacker, a Computer Hacker. It is the idea that you delight in gaining as much understanding as possible about the inter-workings of a system, an author, a concept. You might gain this knowledge through unconventional means, like study something outside of school.

    I think our students love it when we get nerdy, as you say. They love to see our passion. It intrigues them. If they like you, they want to figure out why you think that passage is so cool. They will follow you down the path when you are passionate about the topic. They might think you are a nerd, they might even think you are crazy, but in the end they will remember you as that teacher that brought Shakespeare to life.

    Great post!

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  8. Reblogged this on °o.O Spreading Light O.o° and commented:
    This reminded me so strongly of how indeed each person has some or another interest which is a huge part of their personality. For some people their nerdiness of some “thing” is soo apparent and for others you might have to dig deep or know them closely- but everyone does have it! (Realised this when I recalled all my friends and thought about what their “thing” is- and yes everyone has one! :))

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  9. I think, in regards to kids in school, being a nerd is a perspective…not necessarily a definition. I loved this post! I have 2 teen-aged girls and I have worked diligently to help them accept who they are and what they like regardless of what others do. I have always discouraged an interest in something primarily because the other kids are interested. In the same respect to be proud of what they like regardless of whether or not they have friends that like the same thing (s).
    Embracing nerdiness…or difference is key to being an individual and I applaud your insight in the giving your students some food for thought on the matter!
    When I was in school, nerds were kids who liked computers, video games, and math and science…because the majority of the kids did not find interest in these things. “Band geeks” was another term I heard often.
    My “nerd” interest is gardening. My kids often call me a flower nerd, but with great affection 🙂
    Accepting your own differences and the differences of others makes for well-rounded, empathetic, and accepting people. Great lesson!

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