I’m Not the Jesus of Education

I stand in front of my students. I say, “Listen, it’s your decision. Research it, make the call.” Blank stares. Pause. More blank stares.

I explain. “I’m not the Jesus of education…I’m just a nerd. You need to interpret things the way you want.” I give examples using facts, figures, case studies…

“How will I know I’m right?” Students need that sense of “I must define the right answer so you can give me an A. I MUST KNOW!!!” Right answers are seldom right. Only shades of right. It’s a lesson nearly impossible to teach–one I’m still trying to learn.

I tell them, “You’ll know you’re right because I’m the one reading it. It can’t be wrong if you back it up.”

“You see,” I say, “Life doesn’t work that way. I think I have a plan for school, for business, for life…but it changes constantly. Life evolves. Real learning is about taking the input and research–whatever you can find and whatever comes your way…and using it to be awesome. Digging deep, defending, explaining, pitching, selling, convincing…to do that, you have to collect knowledge.” Rake it into a pile…jump in the leaves. 

“Then trust yourself and take it to the next level. Who knows what the right answer really is? No one. That’s life. The answer is that no one knows the answers. That’s really what happens. I wish I had something different to tell you.”*

Pause.

“The good news is, you can get used to that and blow by the people who can’t.”

Eventually, one student cracks a smile. Then one more… until a whole bunch of smiles light up the room.  Students begin to re-engage, finding solutions to the problems of the world once again. Because I’ve told them that each one of them is a genius, and the world needs their contributions.**

*The actual phrase was “loose corners.” (Kamal Ravikant). Truly the best of lessons. I’ve passed it on. The best of lessons, kept to oneself, simply withers up and dies.

**Angela Maiers asks the question, “What breaks your heart?” then makes students solve those problems. For real. I’ve brainstormed these things, even called my students geniuses, but never made them iterate on the ideas. And that small paradigm shift, I see, makes all the difference. The power of one single student can light a thousand cities. Amazing to behold. Angela–I hope you are proud. I am.

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4 thoughts on “I’m Not the Jesus of Education

  1. Casey, I’m Mark Moran, the co-founder of Choose2Matter with Angela Maiers, and am also co-writing a book on digital literacy and research with her. Angela has had a rough couple of days with a back injury. When I came across this post in a Google Alert, I called her and read it to her just as she was falling asleep for the night. We both exclaimed “WOW” after nearly every line. This is one of the most insightful pieces either one of us have ever read about the realities of research in the real world and how we should be preparing students for it, and it elevates what we’ve been preaching in our Choose2Matter presentations and in our manuscript. Angela is beyond proud of the breakthrough you had with your students; she is utterly elated, grateful to you for sharing it with her and the world, and going to sleep tonight in a much better way than she was before I read this to her. We’d love to talk to you about sharing this post in other forums. Casey, I’m Mark Moran, the co-founder of Choose2Matter with Angela Maiers, and am also co-writing a book on digital literacy and research with her. Angela has had a rough couple of days with a back injury. When I came across this post in a Google Alert, I called her and read it to her just as she was falling asleep for the night. We both exclaimed “WOW” after nearly every line. This is one of the most insightful pieces either one of us have ever read about the realities of research in the real world and how we should be preparing students for it, and it elevates what we’ve been preaching in our Choose2Matter presentations and in our manuscript. Angela is beyond proud of the breakthrough you had with your students; she is utterly elated, grateful to you for sharing it with her and the world, and going to sleep tonight in a much better way than she was before I read this to her. Thank you! We’d love to talk to you about sharing this post in other forums.

    • I’d be honored, Mark. You know, it’s interesting…the structure of the “I’m-just-figuring-out-genius-hour” was already in place, but it was that one line, that one key that changed my whole paradigm with this. Talking with Justin’s students that they brought–the conference was an innovation summit. I’ve long felt that education and innovation should intersect. In not taking that last step, I’ve sold my kids short. Not everyone will go all the way with this, but they’ll get the experience of thinking through the process. That’s what matters.

  2. YES! Yesterday in my math class I asked the students to write a summary of the concept we were studying. I got bombarded with questions about what EXACTLY they were to write. Even in a class where success is a lightbulb moment, not an A, they were afraid to write the wrong thing, CONFINDENCE to believe in what they know, belief in themselves. I did not tell them what to write, even after all the questions. For some who just couldn’t let go I suggested them to write it as a letter to themselves in 20 years as a reminder or tips on the concept. The responses were amazing from just an explanation of teh topic to a long explanation of what the struggles and pitfalls are to watch out for to strategies on how not to freak out about math (exact words). I truly believe that in order to bring out best in our kids academically we have to bring out the confindence and belief in themselves first. I teach an academic math class, but first and foremost I teach kids (who happen to all be blind)

    • That is amazing. I would love to touch base with you on some of your adaptive technology. What kinds of tools do you use in your instruction?

      I totally agree with you on the issue of confidence. It is difficult. My students felt that they could not write. So I abolished the five paragraph essay. I told them “Ain’t nobody got time for that. ” think about it… When I write academically, few people read. When I write blog posts and other things, I am to the point. Sentence fragments even. It’s effective. Teaching them to develop the tools, and use their tools, and that their tools can serve them… That is the mission. Passing tests, secondary. Or maybe tertiary:)

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