‘To see things in the seed, that is genius.’ Lao Tzu
I was reminded recently of Ken Robinson’s story of Paul McCartney and George Harrison being in the same Music class at one point. He imagines the pressure on the teacher years later when he, just perhaps, underestimated the potential of these two spotty youths as they messed about at the back of his classroom. Gulp! Perhaps a moment on which you can dine out for years or, worryingly, one you might like to forget if you’d dismissed them as a wasters after a couple of weeks, as my Music teacher did to me about thirty odd years ago. I never recovered.
We’re fast approaching the summer holidays in Scotland and many of us met a new batch of senior classes this week, who’d returned from exam leave. They’re a fascinating blend of eagerness for the holidays, resistance because of the holidays and ambition to do well in English. Any potential geniuses in this class? Who knows?
The first time we meet any new class is always daunting. I tell the trainee teachers I mentor every year that this feeling never goes away. Even after thirteen years I know I will be slightly nervous before meeting new classes in August. But Sir Ken’s story got me thinking. Potentially in my room could be seated a future musician, physician, politician, scientist who will cure cancer, inventor of something which may change the world.
About a month ago I received an e-mail from an ex-pupil. He was contacting me to pass on the great news that he’d had his first novel published. I could have wept at the thought that he wanted to tell me after so many years. He was always a talented boy who saw school as an occasional necessity but I secretly admire him for missing a day because he ‘had to watch The Godfather trilogy yesterday’. I am delighted for him.
I suppose my point is that, even though the session is fast coming to a close, we have to remember the impact we can have on the learners in front of us. In the midst of the day-to-day grind, it may not seem that we change the world when we do what we do. We may not seem to be having the impact we expect when we get to the end of that well-planned lesson with the difficult class.
The impact doesn’t occur straight away. But somewhere down the line we do. Somewhere along the way that kid will remember what you did for them; the way you showed an interest; the way you asked about their life; the extra time you gave them over lunchtime; the book you passed on or the film you told them to watch. Our impact can be far reaching.
A music teacher with half the Beatles in their class might seem like a great story but it’s very normal. Einstein was in someone’s class. Hemingway. James Dyson. J.K Rowling. I had a future published author. Geniuses start somewhere. Could they be sitting in front of you this week? An incredible thought, isn’t it?