Each week you allow me the privilege to provide you the reader with some of my insights regarding the issues of the day, or just some minor things I have chosen to share with you. Some are for simple entertainment, while others reflect on some of my life experiences. I just wanted to thank you all for being patient with me, for I know on occasion we may differ.
A good friend of mine who I had the privilege of teaching with some years ago would always impress me with his philosophy on teaching and what he thought was important.
Now you have to bear with me because these conversations usually were carried out over a beer or two on a Friday after school had ended. One of our favorite places to meet was at a little hole in the wall spot in Concord, New Hampshire called the Gas Lighter. It was owned by this wonderful Greek couple who had the best Roast Beef sandwiches, crispiest French Fries and the coldest iced beer mugs you could have asked for.
Each week a half a dozen of us would have our special table near the window and the conversations were always freewheeling, to say the least. There wasn’t anything special about us, we all had our set of flaws and inadequacies, but we would always leave that table laughing and smiling and happy for the friendships we shared, then and now.
The one thing I could say about each one of these individuals was that they cared deeply about those whose futures were entrusted to us. We took that charge seriously and would go out of our way to try to make a difference in the lives of each of those kids.
Adolescence is such a tough time for a 14-year-old boy or a 16-year-old girl. Everything is a crisis for them, and we as professionals must help them through those mini crises they encounter during those formative years.
Each and every one of those kids has great potential to do something worthwhile and constructive with their lives. It’s unfortunate that we sometimes lose sight of the fact that not all belong on the same track as another. We need to take more time listening to what the younger generation’s interests are and working with them to explore those possibilities.
I took that same philosophy with me into the business world and guided sales personnel to talk less and listen more. By doing so, that individual would come to a better understand what was to be expected of that piece of equipment we were trying to sell and allow them to establish an important bond with that customer. It allowed our company to become our customers’ most valued supplier.
From that, one of my favorite phrases became, “It’s hard to hear with your mouth open.” That easily applies to all of us today, as well as back then, and in almost all aspects of life, personally and professionally.
That friend of mine instilled in me the belief that it was not my job to pour knowledge into a kid’s ear and expect it to be absorbed into the grey matter between his/her ears. Instead, it was more important to stimulate the thought process of the individual and drive the desire to learn more.
A young person’s mind is like a sponge and it thirsts for more and more, so long as you don’t bore them. Boredom is probably the greatest enemy to learning that exists today. You’ll find, in many cases, that a youngster that acts out in class or in other segments of his/her formative years may be the direct result of not being challenged enough by the subject matter being presented to them.
We tend to “dumb-down” the instruction to ensure everyone gets a passing grade; while causing others to never reach their potential.
I’m amazed how focused a young person becomes as you pour out a box of Legos and just challenge him to “build” something. Think back to when we were growing up and played with Lincoln Logs. Do you remember them?
Think about the eye to hand dexterity which we developed with the simple jigsaw puzzle and how quickly we sought out harder challenges as we quickly overcame the simpler puzzles.
Because the younger person’s mind is like that sponge we spoke about, the ability for he or she to learn a second language is astonishing, while you and I will struggle with that challenge at our ages.
I’ve watched the last couple of months as we’ve sent our kids home to learn from a plastic box on their desks in their rooms. I’m not against computers, they’ve become an important and indispensable tool in our lives, especially in the business world. However, nothing will ever really replace that flesh and blood individual who helps your children explore their own capabilities and discover their inner selves and the potential they have.
That individual who stands in front of that child and makes him or her believe in themselves is an invaluable commodity in today’s world. We should never lose sight of their worth or complain about their value. Maybe that should be one of those valuable lessons that are learned from our experiences with the battle against COVID-19. It should not just be seen as a race to find a vaccine, as important as that is, but as a refocusing of our understanding of the value of the education of our children and the relationships within the family unit itself.