It’s not you. It’s me.
“Maybe it’s you,” my wife said.
I had been expressing frustration about the fact that our daughter, Mina, didn’t seem to appreciate that I was taking time out of my work day — and life — to teach her the Lean Startup methodology of developing customers. It’s the first lesson of several that we’ll work through together, as we flesh out a potential startup idea.
“If your approach isn’t engaging to her, that’s not her problem,” continued my wife. “It’s your job as an educator to find an approach that does engage her.”
Earlier, we started the initial stages of the design thinking process to brainstorm trends we’re seeing in the world (e.g., changing nature of work toward contingent workers, dramatically shifting demographics, climate change, etc.) and the resulting potential problems and/or needs that may yield business opportunities. (Yes, we are starting big.)
Later, after picking an idea (still to be determined) we plan to move on to validating the idea, designing our minimum viable product, and implementing the rest of the process toward developing a potential product or service.
What an amazing opportunity for her! I thought to myself.
I went to a fancy business school and didn’t learn any of this, and here’s my 13 year-old daughter, getting to step out of her traditional school for a year to develop a cutting-edge entrepreneurial skill set — including a potential business that may result from it — and she’s acting like she’s doing me a favor!
Is it that she’s learning it from me, her parent, rather than a teacher in a more formal, traditional classroom setting? Maybe she can’t take it seriously enough? Maybe she can’t get past the 13-year-old teen angst today?
We’re only a few weeks into this and I’m not going to waste my time trying to provide her an incredible learning opportunity and feel like I’m pulling teeth to get her to focus and get into what I’m trying to teach her.
Did we make a mistake? Perhaps we should just put her back into school.
It wasn’t until later that night that I remembered a social action campaign I helped design around a film called Teach, written and directed by Davis Guggenheim, the filmmaker who made An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for Superman. The film follows a few teachers for an entire school year. You see their highs and lows, as they try to overcome both their own and each of their students’ challenges to help ensure their mutual success. The film really brings home how difficult it is to teach an entire class of children.
And one of the takeaways was the recognition that each student is different. You have to do what it takes to adapt your lesson and style to ensure you break through to each student (or to as many of them as possible).
It occurred to me that my wife was right. Maybe it wasn’t just that my teen was throwing me shade or was being ungrateful and unappreciative of what we are trying to do for her.
It is incumbent upon me to come at her from a different angle, and if that new angle doesn’t work, then come at it again from yet another.
I need to dig deeper.
I’ve worked with teachers and helped design innovation pilots for some of the most challenging school environments in the country. But as I’ve said before, doing it yourself is different. Trying to connect to a student in a way that truly resonates requires that you be all in.
Teaching is hard. But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.