BEFORE YOU WATCH THIS VIDEO, you should know there is some language. I've probably watched it a twenty times. I love it. It is so beautiful, raw and real. It's an amazing piece written by an amazing human who was bold enough to forge his own path.
I've been binge watching TED Talks. If you don't know what TED Talks are, you are in for a treat - and possible a loss of many hours of your life. It is a collection of some pretty amazing people. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design -- they are short talks about innovation. The longest ones run about 20 minutes, but most of them are much shorter. You can watch some really amazing stuff. It is easy to get lost.
The one I've included here is one of my favorites. It is listed under the category of bullying -- I believe but really it is about so much more than that. I love his perspective on school and dreams. I must confess that I have probably reacted like his teachers did when he shares his dream of being a writer. I'm pretty ashamed when I think back on it. Teachers should be the people saying, "Yes" and "You can do that." We should be saying it over and over and over.
I also love this talk because I can relate to him - being the kid who didn't quite fit in with the other kids. I don't remember being bullied, but just feeling like I was out of sync with everyone around me. I, too loved words, and secretly dreamed of being a writer. I already knew that it was an unlikely and impossible dream: 1. I'd have to write a WHOLE, COMPLETE something and 2. I really don't spell well.
But, let me tell you about Ms. Finke. She was my 7th grade English teacher and I adored her -- to be honest, I adore her still. She read one of my stories out loud in class. She told me I was a writer, and once said to me, "Listen, you can't spell, but you are a writer." I still remember what she wrote in my middle school year book: "To Jenny, a reader of tremendous tomes." She was impressed by my vocabulary (I had read the dictionary in 4th grade) and always, always, always encouraged me.
Most teachers, chose to teach out of gratefulness. We had a teacher or a group of teachers who made a difference in our lives, and want to do the same. I can think back on all my amazing teachers: Mrs. Schroeder, Ms. Bauman, Ms. Finke, Mrs. Stanhope, and Mrs. Frasier. They were kind, sweet and encouraging. They made me feel like I was important and could accomplish things.
I have had other teachers, too. Teachers who made me feel small or unimportant. I will never forget standing at the board in the front of the room trying to work my way through an equation and my teacher (who had looked at my work and sent me to the board to show my work to the class), saying, "You don't know what the hell you are doing, do you?" The stinging pain of that moment is fresh. It wasn't just how is comment made me feel, but that he had made me think I was putting my work on the board because it was right. I thought that I had finally understood something in geometry, and then he said that. Out Loud. In front of the Class.
I try to keep that memory as fresh as the sweeter ones. I never want to be that teacher. I got a D in geometry that year - even though due to a scheduling conflict I transfered to another teacher half-way through the year. The damage had been done, and for years afterward, I was quick to explain that I am terrible at geometry. I redefined myself as BAD AT MATH based on a momentary interaction.
Teachers hold so much power. We can breath words of life or send someone spiraling into a new and dark definition of themselves. The hardest part, of course, being that teachers are also human. I've messed up more times than I would like to remember, and those moments stay with me. The look of confusion or pain when I say the wrong thing, or even say the right thing the wrong way. It is a serious resposibility.
I would like to think that Shane had some good teachers in his life -- ones that told him he COULD be a writer or even a professional wrestler. I hope that in all those painful years there was someone who said to him, "The words you write are beautiful."
I am going to start watching one TED Talk a day -- there are millions by the way. But I figure if I can remember to write 500 words every day, I can remember to watch one video a day, too. I'm going to focus on the topic of eduction but might branch out over time. I'll probably post one every now and again. If you watch a good one -- let me know.