I get a kick out of young people and try and make myself available whenever possible if any of them ask me to participate in a school related project. I also think it is critical for high school and college kids to engage adults whenever possible in order to move on to the next part of their lives. I try and tell it like it is in a way that they can understand, I can speak the language, there is no real generation gap for me. I am "cool". If there is a gap, it is on the part of the student and it is usually one of the last things that need be addressed before moving on. I will eventually peal away the onion layers to get to what makes them tick.
There are always those who need a little help getting to the core and always those who totally get it and need to be toned down a bit.
I was a judge at a DECA (Distribution Education Clubs of America) competition a couple of years ago. My role was to evaluate and grade a whole bunch of top students in a competition with all sorts of role playing tests. It was really quite interesting and the talent was absolutely unbelievable. I could not have asked for a more positive glimpse into the minds of young aspiring students well on their way to being the best. Hats off to the parents and teachers of these kids. There was special care taken to get them where they were, the finals. There were scholarships at stake and the best in the metro were there. DECA's purpose is to improve education and career opportunities for students interested in careers in marketing, management and entrepreneurship.
Now I don't normally like the conventional stuff. I was a member of DECA when I was in high school and went to a similar competitions as a senior in high school. I didn't really study the materials and take part much in class, so when I was asked at one of the role playing competitions "how I would handle a male employee advancing on a female employee", I said something like, "shitcan the dude and toss him in the street". I didn't do well in the competition but was offered a job selling car stereos.
I also had a tough time teaching a Junior Achievement class a few years ago too. Me and the bald guy got interested in Junior Achievement as part of a community give back. We committed 10 or 12 weeks as instructors of a group of kids at Parkway South High School, and it was a very long 10-12 weeks. The program was the program, there was no room to introduce any of my unconventional wisdom in to the mix, but I did anyway. We suffered through a litany of issues relating to the template handed down by the Junior Achievement folks. It really was just a follow the directions and don't vary concept.
I got a little worked up with the organization when one of my students, who incidentally won the vote for "President" of our JA company by his piers, dropped out because he said he was too busy to continue. The class had to re-organize and we persevered, learned, overcame. By the time the class ended, we indeed crafted out a message for our students and we actually hired one girl to work in our corporate office. I ended up coaching her mother on a startup of her own business. Many more have come back and said what they learned from the Bald guy and I was the most important of their career as a JA student.
Funny, at the end of the year banquet the "impeached" student JA company President ended up wining a scholarship for his attendance, of all things. The same kid who disappeared leaving our class without a leader. It was just a bunch of crap and truly a disappointment. But a good lesson in reality for our class. So maybe it was supposed to be that way.
My role as a DECA volunteer wasn't taken lightly. These were some grade A top gun kids, dressed well, prepared. I was really having a hard time distinguishing one students aptitude from the other because they were all so smart, all so bright and polished. I decided that for the most part, these students all new the material, so it was not going to be a judgment of how well they understood the material but how well they could communicate it to me. This is my forte. Communication. I can get to the root, peal away stuff. I had my criteria now. I was set.
After several students came through I was delighted to see the daughter of an acquaintance of mine sit down before me. She looked excited when she sat down and I was anxious to find out what she was all about. I knew that she was very bright and had always heard of her sisters academic achievements whom had already gone on to college. The youngest sister before me was even brighter and I was honored to be involved with her in her competition. At least for the first 30 seconds. The only problem was, she really had a tough time looking me in the eyes, and I had to lead her up to the answer, extract the words, she was nervous and lacking confidence. She could not adequately present her answers without the help of me asking leader questions and me finishing her sentences. A complete opposite of every other student whom I had evaluated that day. I had no choice but to grade her accordingly or risk facing my own moral dilemma.
As I tallied up the scoring, I noticed that she fared towards the bottom of the overall scoring. When I reviewed each students placement, I was satisfied with the ranking, and checked it again to make sure. It was unfortunate, but she would not be a contender for the final competition. Just as she had walked away unsure of her performance, I was walking away unsure of whether I had done the right thing. This girl was top in her class, as her sisters before her were, she was gorgeous, a top athlete, very smart/bright and, unfortunately, lacking communication skills.
Later in the months following I attended a high school event at Parkway West High School in Chesterfield where I bumped into her father. I hadn't seen him in quite a while and had forgotten the entire episode at the mall, the DECA competition where his daughter likely got a dose of reality. He brought it up and said that his daughter was indeed going to Mizzou regardless of how I "fucked" her out of her scholarship. Needless to say I wasn't suprised.
So if anyone wants to know why I continue to do good things for the community, why I write this blog, why I feel it is important to have a pretty decent set of rules when engaging and choosing not to engage people for what ever reason, I have one thing to say. To me there is no entitlement. Nobody gets to ride for free. My integrity is not perfect but I put myself out there as authentically as I can because it sets a decent example. The other kids were better, period. I am smart enough to know that both the student and the parent will find out where work is needed and adjustments will be made. Life is not all positive feedback, it is about collecting possitive and negative experiences and referencing them later in life. My comment to the parent that night was that she was in the wrong competition, she/he blew it by not knowing "who" she is.
Here is why. She was a classic left brain, and a good one, not cut out for this type of competition. Left brains tend to choose careers in law, accounting, science; careers that are exacting and have many rules and regulations. This is right up their alley.
Rights brain folks select careers as, entrepreneurs, sales, artists, musician, craftsmen, dancers.
Conventional academia and or template oriented education models are filled with left brain influence. This frustrates me to no end; likely the reason that I have a hard time in school or migrating towards anything "exacting" to the point that rules must be followed precisely or the likelihood of my achievement is null. I respect academia, and have made a living working as a right brain within a predominately left brain culture. But this is necessary for the balance of things. I am supposed to be there, stirring up stuff with creative thought and vision. It is where I am supposed to be, as an entrepreneur.
I can tell who is left and who is right what with one question:
Who are you?
Think about it. How would the words come out for you? As a right brain, to me I am a box, with a label on it sitting on a shelf. I have a bunch of things in my box that distinguishes me from the other boxes on the shelf. My box is worn and tattered, opened and shut many times and it sits there close to reach because my box gets picked off the shelf a lot. Because in my box are snippets, vignets, interesting things, story's, platforms, opinions, dreams, achievements that are uncoventional but easily recognized because they are "theme" oriented. There is authenticity in the box, not perfection.
I still wonder if they hate me, the father daughter combo of entitlement. But I have moved on to other doses of reality and other examples of reasons why I express myself accordingly. Since then I have probably killed several others dreams and opportunities. Hopefully for the right reasons. Perhaps some important lessons to go in the other boxes on the shelves.
I hope you guys like this one.