I'm sitting in the main hall last Thursday, still a bit groggy and not really awake yet. You are there too. A few rock bands have played and I feel an indescribable sense of pride. The same pride I feel every time I see young people expressing there passion, however, self-consciously. Makes me think that passion when given a voice, no matter how awkwardly, is why I do what I do.
The MCs crack a few more terrible jokes to a smattering of chuckles from the front of the hall. I notice the stoic eighth graders expressionless, always too cool for school, whisper to each other-- clearly annoyed to be lumped together with the rest of these "children."
I think back to when I was your age and wonder if I am doing good work. If I'm making a difference, getting through to any of you. Teaching you anything at all.
Then a Balinese man is on stage placing a microphone near his phone. A shrill painful Gamelan begins to squeak from the PA speakers. We all wince in pain and I look around the room to see how everyone else is reacting. A group of young men take the stage and begin to dance like Birds of Paradise.
I am bored and quickly forming judgments: the music is too loud and needs more bass. I don't like this type of dancing. I don't want to be here. I scan the room and to my horror I see the same expression on your faces. Is my boredom as obvious as yours? Am I that bad of a role model?
Then, as is often the case, my mind takes off. Flutters a bit over my head and disappears into the high corners of the Main Hall. Here is what I was thinking as I watched you watch the boys dancing on the stage:
Education is not about opinions. It is not about liking or disliking. Education is not about always having fun and being engaged. True education is about exposure to a diverse range of expereinces. The truly educated person is not concerned about always liking what they are exposed to, or worried about it always being fun or pleasurable. The truly educated person is simply open to experience for its own sake.
As an adult, I realized that while I was not enjoying the Balinese dance, I could recognize that having witnessed it, it added to my overall life experience. It was teaching me. I was learning. This realization and reminder that everything in life is teaching me and that I am always learning, excited me beyond belief. I begin to wish that you were having similar thoughts.
I wanted to stand up and grab the microphone and remind you to appreciate the incredible amount of expereinces you are being exposed to everyday at school and everywhere else you roam. I wanted to tell you to sit up and not mope. Forget your opinions and your likes and dislikes and just soak in the moments. Every single one of them. There are people in this world who will never even know there is a place called Bali. Never mind watching dancers from the island. I wanted to remind you that you are lucky, not in the annoying way know-it-all teachers have a tendency to do, but as a mentor, a father, a friend who has been a round a bit longer than you. A man who has learned a few things in his life and has devoted his life to teaching them to you.
I didn't have the microphone last Thursday, but I do have it now, so what were you thinking last Thursday? What are you thinking about now? It's hard to teach people who do not interact with your thoughts. Leave a comment. Share your thoughts with me on any thing I said in this post.