I’ve grown up with you, you have often the first person I see in the mornings, and on some days I’ve spent more time with you in your classrooms than with my family in my own home. Thank you for the sacrifices you’ve made to teach me to the best of your ability. Each one of you has had an impact on the way that I see life, and contributed to the person I am today.
I thank you for being so consistent in the classroom, even on days when you weren’t in high spirits but still spent the effort and time to teach class. Thank you for taking the time to review our work, and for the times that you gave real and honest feedback to us.
I thank you for being so motivated, even when we have shown little or no interest in lectures by sleeping, texting, or talking, or even speaking slanderous words behind your back. It takes guts to do that, and I’m sure we don’t realize or acknowledge how much you have to sacrifice of yourself in order to teach us.
I appreciate you for all that you’ve sacrificed and who you are, and my interactions with you in the classroom have been the inspiration for my dream to come around and empower you to connect and teach your students on a whole new level. You’ve instilled in me a great value for education, and a real heart to believe in younger generations and inspire them to truly become themselves.
My dream is to bring a revolution to the way that you relate to and teach your students, not because I am angry or bitter, but because of a genuine desire to improve education to be more relevant to students, teachers, industries, and families. I dream of making your jobs even more fulfilling by building a system that encourages human connection and feedback, where trust becomes a path for you to have even greater impacts on the lives of your students.
My dream is to bring genuine trust and respect to parent-student-teacher relationships, so that teaching and tutoring fosters a human connection that extends deeper than simply the subject material. Because as I’ve realized in the last eighteen years, learning is just as much of an emotional process as a mental process if not more.
I know that it hurts you at times to give your students low grades because you believe in their potential to truly learn, but many times that has been lost in communication. I want to create a system where you are free to express that in order to inspire students, and make them look deeper than the letter grade on the surface.
But I can’t do this alone. I need your help. Just as I needed your help to understand academic concepts in your classes, I need your support at a time like this in order to bring a true revolution to the way schools are run.
This is dedicated to you.
I recently got together with an high school friend to put together a short article on college.
Even though more people than ever are receiving a higher education, there still hasn’t been a true democratization of college. This is ironic, because we have all the tools to make such a change. The biggest difference between the past and the present is how drastically communication has improved.
At this point, there are two visions of the future. One would continue down the path of escalation and hyper-individualism, where human beings steadily become more machinelike, starting from taking college prep courses in elementary school and ending with being hooked up to an IV at work, continually ingesting a cocktail of Adderall and Ritalin and other cognitive enhancers just to be able to hold onto your job. When everyone is struggling to place themselves above the rest, every man is an island, with no opportunity for collaboration.
It’s been about a week since I attended TEDx San Diego, and I’m still thinking about the inspiration and ideas that were shared at the conference.
TEDx San Diego
In case you aren’t familiar with TED talks that are slowly popping up everywhere, feel free to check them out. You won’t be disappointed. I promise.
I stumbled across TEDx San Diego while browsing the internet one day, and decided that I would like to go to one of these conferences at some point in my life. Coming across the TEDx San Diego page, I promptly noticed that I would be in San Diego at that time, and filled out an application. (Yes, you must apply in order to attend a TEDx Conference)
I applied, thinking that I probably wouldn’t get in seeing as I had applied late, and probably wasn’t the hyper-entrepreneur that other people probably were. But when I received the acceptance letter, I quickly paid my $100 for a ticket.
TEDx was incredible. To say the least. The way that the speakers engaged with the audience on levels ranging from emotional to intellectual was nothing short of mindblowing.
I learned about and connected with people who had inspirational life stories, people who were making a difference socially in the world, people who were researching new technologies such as thought controlled computing, and people who were musical prodigies. There were people who were teaching entrepreneurship in prisons, people who were educating homeless children, authors who wrote countless bestseller books, researchers learning about indigenous African tribes, engineers who are creating contact lenses with a computer chip on them, and so many more.
It felt amazing sitting in an auditorium surrounded by people who were so captivated and willing to learn and understand what each speaker was talking about. Each session lasted approximately an hour and a half, but the day felt like it went by in a breath.
It was a seven hour conference packed with 33 talks, all of which struck different intellectual and emotional chords.
Regardless of the obvious flaws in the education system, most people still have to endure at least eighteen years of it, if not more.
I love challenging traditional notions that no one else challenges.
Take studying for example: It is nearly unanimously accepted that spending more time learning studying will make a person smarter.
But I believe that such thoughts are largely misguided. While counselors and teachers heavily emphasize the amount of time a student should be working on academic-related work, it is much more practical and effective to focus on what is actually beneficial to a person’s learning.
In my four years of high school, I picked up how to maximize results of the time I spent on academics, while retaining facts and exploring areas that were of interest to me.
I went to a nationally distinguished and highly competitive high school that sent students to every single Ivy League college.
And yet, while many of my peers spent hours and hours studying, I can probably count the number of times I actually sat down to study with one digit. And even despite studying only a fraction of the amount that my classmates studied, I maintained a solid 3.9 GPA in high school.
And with the extra time that I had, I focused my energy on actually learning thing that I cared about, such as web, graphic, circuit design, etc.
I’ve never believed in studying the way that most school teachers explained it. Don’t get me wrong, I love learning new things, and challenging myself to grow. But if you tell me that successful learning is found in patterns of reading, doing homework, and taking exams, you’ve been listening to what other people tell you too much.
True learning comes from an internal desire to expand your horizons. Such a desire can be manifested in a desire to take a class, go to school, etc, but is not limited to traditional means.
The most effective way to learn is have an internal passion and drive to learn it on your own. But most of the time, schools and educational systems do not give students enough freedom to allow students to learn completely in accordance to their passions.
For example, I love writing. I love expressing my thoughts on a blog, and articulating what’s on my mind to the internet. I am genuinely interested in improving my skills as a writer, but the writing class required for my college makes me want to gouge my eyes out. Why? because the class puts me in a box, forces me to analyze poorly written articles that I have no interest in, and then expects me to pick a side and come up with arguments for it.
Children, when they are born, are naturally curious about the world around them. They want to learn about the mechanics of trains, cars, and planes, animals, or anything else they can see, hear, taste, touch, or smell. It only takes a decade of schooling to demotivate them from learning. They start dreading subjects because they are forced to memorize information and regurgitate it on an exam, and their genuine internal drive starts fading away.
Perhaps it would be most effective to avoid the education system altogether, if you’re an individual that is motivated and driven enough to learn things on your own. But for most of us, who are in school for a degree, or because we need classes, exams, and fear of failure to motivate us, here are some ways to readjust your mindset and allow yourself freedom to actually learn.
If you never want to spend an hour studying ever again, you have to focus on learning. You have to learn the material to the point where you are able to teach it to someone else. There were countless of times in high school when I walked into a class, and remembered upon walking into the class that there was an exam that day. Did I study the night before? No. Did I freak out because I didn’t study? No. Did I have a nervous breakdown? No. I sat down and aced the test.
I was able to maintain that habit throughout high school because I focused on learning the material as soon as it was taught, not waiting for an upcoming exam to force it all into my head. I let my mind connect different subjects together, seeing the big picture of how everything I was learning was connected to everything else. That way, I was always prepared for an exam, and never let fear serve as a motivator to learn.
Here’s the big catch. If you want to get more out of school, you have to care less about your grade. In fact, it would probably be the most advantageous to learning if you never saw your grade or numerical progress in a class. That way, instead of worrying you won’t get a good grade, you can focus on truly learning and understanding the material being taught. In fact, learning not to care about your grade will naturally relieve you from being as stressed, tired, and burnt out, allowing you to actually learn in a healthier mental state.
The 80/20 rule applies to learning as well. If you aren’t familiar with the 80/20 rule, it basically states that 20% of the input causes 80% of the output. Applied to learning, 20% of the effort will allow you to understand 80% of the material.
I believe that anybody can do this. Most people have difficulty unlearning everything they’ve been taught about how to study, thus hindering them from being motivated from a deeper, more effective place.
This is not to say that one way of studying is perfect for everyone. You will definitely have to experiment with circumstances, environments, and conditions that will help you learn best, or motivate you to learn best.
Take advantage of what you have. Just because you aren’t in a class doesn’t mean you can’t learn that subject. Just because your professor teaches math doesn’t mean you can’t ask them about art. Don’t feel boxed in by the suggestions of other people, learn to think outside the box and be as creative as you can.
Humans like to focus on externals.
We love investing in external indicators for something internal. External indicators present a quick, scalable way of judging a person’s characteristics.
Practically every job in today’s world requires some sort of college education, sending people all across the world to get a spot in some type of college institution. That way, people can obtain a degree that serves as an entry on their resume to satisfy the education requirement for a specific job.
Hiring managers use degrees in order to differentiate between job applicants and filter out people who may not be capable of a position. To them, having degrees/internships gives them a sense of security regarding what you are capable of doing. Especially for young people who have had very little work experience, the degree is perhaps the only thing a hiring manager sees.
But as you gain more experience working, and establishing a reputation for actually being a valuable individual to have around, education becomes less relevant.
A popular saying that I have heard circulating around states that people with a college degree earn a million dollars more in their lifetime than people who don’t. To me, that is a completely ignorant statement that relates two mostly irrelevant variables. Correlation does not always indicate causation.
As a general statement, individuals who attend institutions of higher education have a better understanding of the job market, investing in their future, and taking advantage of what institutions may have to offer them. Not to mention that in order to receive admittance into such institutions, they already have to indicate their abilities by performing in high school or some other way.
Thus, I believe that the difference of making an extra million dollars over your lifetime is the same difference that attracts people to your character, not having a piece of paper to vouch for your character.
Place value on how you can actually learn and grow; not on the degree.