However, You Must Believe It Before It Is.
Every child in the process of growing up will have been read stories about Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh, Roo, Rabbit, Piglet, Owl, Eeyore, and Tigger. Along with the stories, every child has played with one or more of these little animals.
The first story about Christopher Robin and his animal friends appeared nearly a century ago. A. A. Milne wrote Winnie-the-Pooh in 1926, which was followed by The House at Pooh Corner in 1928. The stories revolve around Christopher Robin who is a young boy who shares his world with his animal friends. While Christopher Robin is young, he is a most thoughtful child and wiser beyond his age. Additionally, it is interesting that Christopher Robin was the name of A. A. Milne's only child.
Milne was born in 1882. During his formal schooling, one of Milne's instructors was H. G. Wells at Henley House School. Later, he went to Trinity College, Cambridge where he majored in mathematics in 1903. During WWI, he wrote propaganda articles for the British Military Intelligence unit. Then during WWII, he was a captain in the Home Guard.
An interesting aside is that, while most people know Milne for his children's stories and poetry, the public acclaim that came his way because of Winnie-the-Pooh dwarfed his notoriety as a playwright. The praise that he received for his writing for children and his love for playwriting them caused some discomfort during his life both personally and professionally.
This brings me to the present. I just finished teaching a class at DeVry where I have taught for years. Teaching for me is emotionally critical. I went through most of elementary school as an above average student in an average school system in Pennsauken, NJ. My father got a promotion and moved to Mt. Lebanon, PA, which at the time was the 19th best school system in the States. My father sacrificed a great deal to provide for his three boys a superb education, but it was in an extremely wealthy community. That combination was not the most pleasant situation for me. When I evaluated myself, I put 2+2 together and came up with 17. I learned that I was poor both monetarily and intellectually.
It took me half my life to realize that I had not done my personal math very well coming up with 17. Steve Jobs said, "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future." Jobs was correct. I discovered that I was not poor nor average midway through my life.
That realization has motivated me not to allow other students to draw the same conclusion about themselves, which I had made back in Mt. Lebanon. I will never stop teaching. This past term, I began the class by having the class introduce themselves to the class and me and introduced myself to them. I told them about the class, handed out my PowerPoint Presentation that first week, and began teaching.
Then I stopped. I decided to try something that I had never done before. Where I got this notion, I have no idea; it just came to me. Maybe, I saw something on the face of one of the students while I was lecturing. I do not know. I told the class to write down on a piece of paper a number from 1 to 10. I wanted them to evaluate themselves on that scale...1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest.
Then I told them two things. The first is that I do not want to see their chosen number. The second was that they were all wrong about their number. The final comment seemed to the entire class incongruent. How could I know that they were wrong? We had just met. How could I say all their numbers were too low? That really rattled them. Talk about questioning expressions written on all their faces. I promised them at the end of the term that they would pick a number from 1 to 10 again and that it would be higher.
A week later, I gave them the following handout, which I just happened to come across on the Internet by sheer accident.
What is essential for my class to get is something that Saul Alinsky, a radical reformer and community organizer, wrote years ago, "We must believe that it is the darkest before the dawn of a beautiful new world. We will see it when we believe it." Once my students accept this seemingly logical disconnect, then it happens.
On the last day of class, I ended the class with this picture of Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh as the last PPP slide. I told them to write down a number from 1 to 10, which is their evaluation of themselves. Time will tell whether they got the message. However, I want them to promise me what Christopher Robin made Winnie-the-Pooh promise: "Promise me you'll always remember that you're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."
Now, I want you, my reader, to pick a number from 1 to 10.
You are wrong. Next, "Promise me you'll always remember that you're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." Live with the belief that it is higher...and it will be.
Visit the Connecting the Dots page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Darkest Before Dawn page to read more about this topic.
Visit The Mentors and Me page to read more about this topic.