A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that “individuality” is the key to success.
– Robert Orben
Saturday evening, I listened to the salutatorian, valedictorian and student-selected faculty addresses at my sister Kirstie’s graduation.
The final speech from retiring physical education teacher, Mr. Butcher, made me want to get into an argument.
Though it wasn’t all particularly moving, the rhetoric of each of the preceding speakers hadn’t made me want to argue with any of them.
“Don’t ever fool yourself into thinking that life is not a competition,” Mr. Butcher told my sister and her class.
He went on to explain their competitors would always be waiting for them to make excuses for why they failed. Their employers, though, wouldn’t care how or why the failed.
I got the feeling that Mr. Butcher took a hard-line approach in his teaching. I’ve known and been taught by several iterations of Mr. Butcher. Maybe you have as well.
I don’t dislike Mr. Butcher.
I disagree with him.
I don’t want to call him names.
I want to ask him questions.
I don’t want to compete with him.
I want to engage him.
I don’t see life as a competition. Further, I’m not preparing my students to compete. Perhaps I am, but without the goal of competition.
Either way, Mr. Butcher and I differ in our pedagogies.
Though highly unlikely, if Mr. Butcher and I were to meet someday, there’d be many conversations worth having.
Retiring this year after 30+ years of teaching, he has more first person historical knowledge of teaching than most people I know. I’d enjoy learning with him.
Mr. Butcher’s speech and my disagreement with it also led me to think of the 140 Characters Conference next week in New York.
The tagline for the conference, “the state of now” excites me in the same way my mind starts churning when Chris writes about building modern schools. I like the idea of knowing where we are now.
We spend so much time talking forward and backward about then, that now gets little attention.
I wish I could be in the room at the conference next week.
Mr. Butcher’s speech highlighted the difference of my now and his now. My now is wrapped in learning with students toward the possibilities or interdependence and collaboration. Mr. Butcher’s now is one of competition and winners and losers. Both really, both felt passionately, both at odds with one another.
In the same way I wish I could sit for an hour and record a conversation with Mr. Butcher, I wish I could track the differences and similarities of the perceptions of nows that take the stage at the 140 Characters Conference.
I wonder if they would be so similarly different.