Kids are Serious Biz

I was 13 when I started to hate Math. I say started to, because I loved it before I entered grade 8 and had Mr.Holmes. I’m not completely blaming a teacher for helping me develop a new disdain for Math, but he sure didn’t help.

I loved Math before then. I would enter and win many competitions. I understood what it meant to compete and what it meant to win. I am the youngest of three children. Each day at the supper hour I spent fighting against my two older brothers to get some food on my plate and then spent the rest of it fighting them off from helping themselves to what I thought was mine. I was a born earner and the only thing I felt entitled to was the opportunity to prove myself.

I don’t want to blame Mr.Holmes. I don’t want to say that a single person reduced the possibilities instead of expanded them. But, he did. He wasn’t the teacher for me. I couldn’t relate to the subject matter. It became boring. He made it impractical when its the most practical and applied skill I have in my toolkit today. He shamed me for not knowing, for not understanding himself that humiliation wasn’t a motivator for me. Instead, I shut down, did what was required and developed a distaste for something that would remain long afterwards.

I would not consider a career that required Math. I made that decision in grade 8, because of one crappy teacher — who probably wasn’t the worst teacher known to mankind, but just wasn’t helping me connect to the material. I was done with Math. And in that moment, I closed off a whole world of options for me simply because of this experience. I would not become a repeat customer.

One bad experience. One bad experience and you won’t go back to that restaurant. One bad experience and you won’t try rock climbing again. One bad experience and suddenly you’re writing a Yelp novel about the line up at the door, the waiter with the runny nose and the customer beside you who bathed in lavender and how you wish you could give it more than 2 stars.

I wish I could have given my grade 8 teacher a review and a star rating. But I couldn’t. And he wasn’t an establishment that I could visit and then make the choice to take my business elsewhere. As a steward to my future, he had done a much better job of slamming some doors shut than he did opening them, and a future is not something you can just send back because it’s not medium rare.

This is why, when I work with kids, I take it seriously. I know that it is an opportunity to hold open a door for them. One they might have already considered or one that might have been slammed shut. Our jobs, when we work with kids, is to be that doorjam. We are there to stop that door from shutting on them. They can choose if they walk through it or not, but I need to at least try to hold it open for them. Every moment, when teaching kids how to code, is a moment where you might change their life. It is a moment where your impact might be felt and remembered for years to come. You can’t take those moments for granted. You can’t be sloppy in those moments. You can’t be the person who slammed the door shut because of your own carelessness.

One day that kid will grow up. She will remember. She will remember the moment when she heard the door slam on possibility. She will remember the moment when someone kept the door open and encouraged her to go first. She will be me. He will be me.

Be what opens up the door to possibility and not what slams it shut.

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