New poster for my classroom. Starting quarter 2 with some focus! pic.twitter.com/sGLIFop8Mw
— Zack Patterson (@misterpatterson) October 27, 2013
I have mixed feelings about this poster. On the one hand, I really appreciate the contempt for laziness. I love the no-nonsense, kick-in-the-ass tone of it. I kind of want this poster on my wall. And there's a ton that I agree with here. "Struggling is good. It means you're learning something." Yeah!
"In order to learn anything you have to WANT TO LEARN ALL OF THE TIME."
Look, I want to learn stuff. I read for fun. I write for fun. I do math for fun. But do I want to do math all the time? Hell no. I spent today reading comic books and hanging out with family. It was great.
I know, guys. I read the fine print on this thing too. I know that our enemy here is "I'm really good at cramming" or "But I'm sooo tired this morning." But that's not what "ALL OF THE TIME" means, and that's up there in caps.
Anyway, that's not the part that really caught my attention.
"Don't be mediocre."
Well, why not? What's wrong with being mediocre at math?
I'm a mediocre runner. I'm a mediocre writer. I was a mediocre Physics student in college. I'm mediocre at most things that I do.
What's wrong with being mediocre?
I promise, I'm not trying to be a pain here, and I don't want to take this all too seriously. But should we really be telling our students that in order to learn something that it needs to be constantly on their minds? And should we really be telling students that there's no room for mediocrity in our classrooms?
We wouldn't tell kids not to be poor, or not to be dumb. So why would we abhor mediocrity?
At the very end of A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court, the Yankee has massacred an army. He boasts:
"Reflect: we are well equipped, well fortified, we number 54. Fifty-four what? Men? No, minds."In praising hard work, learning and the intellect, it's possible to elevate the mind and dismiss being normal. We can find a certain kind of communal disgust for just being plain old OK at things, and end up teaching lessons to kids that we don't mean to teach. (Like: "Success in life is about finding something that you're especially good at," something that caused me a ton of psychological stress in college.)
You can enjoy math, even if you aren't great at it, right? And you can learn something, even if you're not obsessed with it, right? You don't need to be a mind, but you can be a man and a woman and you can have a mind and a heart and all those other important organs of life.