“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”
– Albert Einstein
There was a kid in my class, let’s call him Mark, who whenever he was asked a question would reply “I don’t understand anything.”
This would often get laughs because of two things. One, after a couple of classes we came to expect this from him. Two, he had a thick Finnish accent. There was just too much fun there to be ignored.
Eventually the teachers just seemed to give up on him, not even bothering to send a question his way.
One of teachers had taken a leave and a substitute was called in. Now, not knowing about Mark she shot a question his way. We all looked expectantly at Mark and he did not disappoint. She must’ve understood there was something going on when his “I don’t understand anything” caused us to explode into laughter.
The next time we had her she again asked Mark to answer the question. When he yet again repeated his classic line she challenged him.
“Well, why don’t you try to figure it out with me? What are you thinking?”
I remember it being something about volcanoes and he actually figured it out. Don’t know about the rest of the class but I was impressed. He was actually pretty bright.
This pattern continued every time we would have her. She’d ask him, he’d give his line and then we’d wait until he figured it out. After a couple of weeks Mark even started raising his hand and answering questions without being prompted.
Now, he would sometimes get things wrong but she’d gently guide his thinking and he would get to the right conclusion eventually.
After a couple of months the substitute teacher told us that the old teacher would be back the following week. Mark didn’t show much emotion about the news but he slowly reverted back to his old behavior.
The following year he’d changed schools. Sometimes I wonder what became of him. If he went on to have another teacher who believed in him.
Really hope so. Because the story he repeated to himself time and again, that “I don’t understand anything”, it clearly wasn’t true. He just needed someone to push him a little. To expect just a bit more and let him know that if he got it wrong that they’d keep at it together until he got it right.
Perhaps those few months were enough to at least plant a seed. Maybe he’s even reaping the rewards today?
Did you ever have teacher like this in your life? Have you been that person to someone else?
Let me know in the comments and hit me up on Twitter.
Have a kick-ass ₢eative day!