“Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness.” Malcolm Gladwell
Personally, I struggled throughout most of my time in school. Although my early years I did very well, by the time I was in grade seven, I disconnected from the process of school, and honestly do not know if I would have actually stuck it out if it wasn’t for my love of sports. If I wanted to play basketball and football, I would have to stick it out in school.
I am also not one of those educators that grew up wanting to be a teacher. I only decided after my fourth year of university that I wanted to become a teacher. I loved kids but it was not my first choice as a profession. Any way that I could avoid school, I would, whether that was missing classes or simply downloading the notes off of a website at the time. I still have dreams about missing final exams and failing courses that I had no idea that I was actually taking. This experience, I believe, gives me a certain empathy for the student that hates school, or gets sent to the office, because I was that same kid. Why would I recreate the same experiences for someone that I struggled with myself?
Yet sometimes, I have watched teachers that mastered school struggle with teaching students. I remember one math teacher who was a genius in the subject, struggle to reach students. You could see him wondering why kids just didn’t understand the toughest problems, as it became second nature. His ability and interest in the subject was so advanced, that he would often struggle to understand why others didn’t have the same ability.
In the context of change, are we more likely to hire an educator that breezed through school and loved the way it was created, or someone who struggled? If want school to look different, someone who aced school might actually be the person that struggles with changing a structure they accelerated in, whereas someone who struggled, just might be the person who wants to challenge the way we have always done it. I am not about absolutes, but these decisions are not as simple as the person with the best grades, is going to be the best for the position. Thomas Friedman challenges this idea in the article, “How to Get a Job at Google”:
…Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google — i.e., the guy in charge of hiring for one of the world’s most successful companies — noted that Google had determined that “G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless. … We found that they don’t predict anything.” He also noted that the “proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time” — now as high as 14 percent on some teams. At a time when many people are asking, “How’s my kid gonna get a job?” I thought it would be useful to visit Google and hear how Bock would answer.
Don’t get him wrong, Bock begins, “Good grades certainly don’t hurt.” Many jobs at Google require math, computing and coding skills, so if your good grades truly reflect skills in those areas that you can apply, it would be an advantage. But Google has its eyes on much more.
When administrators look for strengths in what sometimes might be perceived as weakness in their educators, we create an environment where educators do the same for their students. But we might need to also realize that sometimes our greatest strengths might be the thing that is holding us back. What works and comes natural to an individual might not work for others, and in an organization that should be so learner focused, we really have to try to understand things from the viewpoint of those that we serve, not only the ideas that have been shaped from our own experiences.