Wednesday, June 20, 2012

You're Not Special

"I am a teacher. When I speak, a few dozen teenagers listen ... usually. With good reason I anticipate no Nobels — but I take unceasing delight in kids. I believe in them and in what we do together, and evidence suggests that after more than two decades I'm not so bad at it. But I chanced upon the job. No boyhood reverie or parental path-charting headed me in that direction. I'd had no formal training for it, had taken no classes aimed at it, no tutorials, no weekend seminars. I did not go to teacher camp. Instead, long ago I found myself in a city far from home (Honolulu) with a thin wallet and little cause to be picky. A good man at Punahou School took a chance on me. And in those first few years I was not especially terrific. This alone served to suggest to me the enterprise might be worthwhile. A few among the brass wondered if I had what it took. But they were patient, I stuck to it, paid attention and learned. And today I prize what I do all the more because once upon a time it didn't come easy."
Read the whole thing.


1 comment:

Nic said...

I was really glad that I took the time to actually look the rest of this speech up. Very predictably, the media seized on it and went on and on about how irresponsible this teacher was and the rest of it.

And had he been setting out to destroy dreams or otherwise pound those graduates into the ground, I'd absolutely agree with the media on this occasion.

But when you listen to this speech, really listen to it, it's so obvious that he's trying to encourage their dreams. He's not saying "You're not special and you never will be". What he's saying is that you're not entitled to anything by default. I can definitely get behind that message.

But I don't see how lines such as this:

"If you've learned anything in your years here I hope it's that education should be for, rather than material advantage, the exhilaration of learning."

and this:

"Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you."

...can be interpreted as dream-crushing at all. Particularly the last one. The way I'm reading it is that he's saying do something because you truly want to do it. If you want to become a doctor, an engineer, a scientist, then chase that dream for all you're worth but do it because that's what you want for yourself. Not because those are the graduate jobs that command the most respect, not because it will make you "special" in the eyes of those watching you.

There's thousands of definitions of special. No one of these is any more significant than the other but that doesn't mean they're of no significance, if that makes sense.