I’m a frequent flyer. Most of the time, I enjoy flying because it is my time to relax a bit and reflect on my day. I am often in my own little world. This usually isn’t a problem because most people who fly, or the ones that sit next to me, are also often not talkative. I suppose they have their own little world, too.
Today was different. I had the great fortune of being moved to first class, one of the few perks of being a frequent flyer. This happens quite a bit now, and I find people in first class are often the same as people in coach—not very social.
At first I thought I was going to have the row to myself, but right before takeoff, my new friend arrived. Yes, you read that correctly—my new friend. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time. I figured I would have a nice quiet three hour flight to work, eat breakfast and relax. But Nick was no ordinary guy. I could tell right away he was friendly, and so a conversation ensued. Frankly, I can’t even remember how it started, but we literally talked the entire flight—three full hours. This was a first for me.
I learned a great deal during the flight. Early in the discussion, Nick asked me what I was doing in Fresno. I gave him a brief description of my work with schools and districts. It was at that moment when Nick expressed a “deep-seated hatred for education” (his exact words). He wasn’t ugly about it. He had obviously worked through any issues he had and was quite proud that he had succeeded as the CEO of a multi-million dollar business, despite his miserable failure as a student. Well, needless to say, I couldn’t leave that alone. I had to know more.
It started very early in his educational life. Nick was color blind, and no one knew. When they learned colors in kindergarten, Nick couldn’t do it. As a result, he learned very early that he was stupid. That made me so sad. You might be wondering when Nick went to school. Based on our conversation and my best estimation, I think he probably went to school in the late sixties to mid-seventies. He didn’t go into much more detail, but he made it clear that he didn’t learn the way everyone else did. He truly believes our educational system is made for a certain type of kid, and if you can “play that game”, you will succeed. If you can’t, you fail. He failed. It broke my heart that there was no one along the way that saw his brilliance.
As we continued to talk, I was so impressed with his intellect. When he told me about his company—something to do with energy management—I just had to nod my head because it was way beyond my level of understanding. His knowledge of engineering and science was incredibly advanced. I finally just stopped him and posed a question. “You are obviously a very successful man. What contributed to your success? If your schooling was such a negative experience, how did you become so successful?”
He was speechless. He just sat there for the longest time…thinking. Then he said, “I guess I’m curious. I wanted to figure out how things worked. I wanted to solve problems. And, I like people.”
I could also tell Nick was a hard worker. This made me sad, again! Here was a man that had a desire to learn, was curious, enjoyed solving problems, and had strong interpersonal skills. Yet, he failed at school? Why? Was there no one in thirteen years of Nick’s schooling who saw his potential? No one? I find that so hard to believe. I realize there is always more to the story and there is probably other information that would shed light on Nick’s experience. Nevertheless, I just don’t want there to be anymore “Nicks”.
I know things have changed over the years and our educational system is improving. However, I fear there are students like Nick still out there, probably more than we want to admit. Will they still find a way to be successful despite our rigid system of schooling? Can we do something about it?
I do have to wonder, if Nick had Jesus as a teacher for even one year, would he have gone unnoticed and uneducated? I don’t think so.
God’s word is pretty clear when it comes to guiding us as educators. There are so many verses, it would be impossible to list them. But if we were to just live out Galatians 5:22 and Colossians 3:17, the “Nicks” of this world would leave our classrooms valued, loved, curious, challenged, and filled with confidence.
“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; against such there is no law.
“Whatever you do in works or in deed, do all in the name of The Lord Jesus, giving thanks to Him through God the Father.” Colossians 3:17