It occurred to me that, even as far back as middle-school, I had an issue with authority. Now, let me clarify. I had role models, teachers that I loved and respected—but the type of authority figure that made me uncomfortable was the type that thought they always knew best, never open to feedback. The confusing type that expects everyone to learn and behave the same way, but in the same breath told us that everyone is unique.
Mixed messages like that were always confusing to me—and I questioned authority whenever I felt it was necessary. I became the bad, unruly, non-compliant student. I was labeled the kid that would never succeed in life, and in the eyes of my teachers, I was on the fast track to failure.
I remember seeing one of my middle-school teachers at my baby sisters high-school graduation. I said “hello,” and he replied with a “hi Mr. Leif—what are you up to these days?”
I presume he expected me to say “I’m unemployed and living in my parents basement.” What I said instead was “I graduated college last semester and am moving to San Jose for a job.”
“YOU!?!?” he replied—like a complete and utter douche bag.
A true teacher and role model would’ve said something like “I always knew you had it in you kid. Best of luck.”
Unfortunately, just because you’re a teacher, parent and/or role model—it doesn’t mean you’re actually good at it. In fact, you may be really bad it.
By the time I entered college—I was the kid that questioned everything. Yeah, I could be annoying—but I knew just because someone in a position of authority said it, doesn’t always mean it’s true. And someone who truly is there to guide or teach us, should realize that they can learn from us as well. It’s not a one way road.
When I first moved to San Jose, I worked for a program called City Year. It was a tutoring/mentor program that served the most challenged schools in the San Jose area. I had a roster of kids I tutored that had some serious challenges in life—they were me. My philosophy was the more challenged the student, the more I want to be working with them. I connected with my students, and I ended up learning more from them than they ever learned from me (don’t tell them that though).
I didn’t create the “my way or the highway approach to learning” because that would make me a hypocrite. Instead, I told the students that we would pave our road together—I have expectations for you, and you should have expectations for me too. Put me on the hook if you don’t agree with me—or you don’t understand what I’m trying to say…hold me accountable and I will do the same for you.
I’ve been thinking a lot since I stopped drinking—but one thing that has been eating at me lately, especially as a parent, is ensuring that I raise my daughter to not always believe what she hears. Don’t be gullible—be strong and stand up for what you believe in. Chances are, if you question something, many of your peers have the same questions, they are just in fear of rocking the boat…defying the status quo. Be a leader.
My random thought for the day.