Truly Powerful People (231)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

While I was waiting for Steven Pinker to bury me in data I listened closely to a conversation happening in the row behind me. I’m a notorious snoop. I love listening to people talk – not so much for what they say but what they don’t say or, even better, what they are not saying.

Two elderly women sat next to each other and started to chat. They discovered that they were both retired teachers (which is what caught my attention). They began to compare notes about their careers, specifically their pet-peeves (we really do sort to the negative. Don’t ask me why. Someday I’d like to ease-drop on a conversation that begins something like this, “Oh, you’re a teacher, too! I had the most amazing kids all my life, let me tell you how fortunate I was to live this life….”).

Here’s the phrase that caught me (I wrote this on my program so I wouldn’t forget): “You can’t really do anything to help them (the students); the good kids will get it, the bad kids will ask why do we need to learn this. I never understood why they just couldn’t shut up and learn.”

Imagine: me hyperventilating, rubbing my forehead to stave off the stroke that was seizing me. I bend forward and put my head on the chair in front of me. The people seated next to me freeze, uncertain if they should call for help or call for help (if you know what I mean).

I’ve never heard a better encapsulation of what’s awry in the public schools: teacher as content deliverer, student as open mouth eating whatever worm comes their way. Test and repeat (this is a comment on the system, not on the amazing teachers dying under the weight of the stupidity).

With my head safely resting on the seat in front of me, my row-mates frozen, looking for escape routes, pretending that I wasn’t there, I closed my eyes and had great appreciation for Tom. He once told me that when interviewing teachers he’d ask a trick question. He’d ask them to tell him a story of the bad kid, the worse student they ever taught; if they told him a story he knew they were no good as teachers and wouldn’t hire them.

My cheers go out to the kids who are asking of the world, “Why do we have to learn this?” It is the only question worth asking. It takes a lot of power to speak the truth to an adult. If the adults don’t have an answer, perhaps they should take a cue from the kids and ask the only question that matters, “Why are we doing this?” Within this question is the key that unlocks the door to true power.

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