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Blog #10: Dropouts and Nerds

I am not a huge country music fan. I mean, it’s okay, but it all starts to sound the same after a while. If that’s your thing, cool. But I have been very selective in my musical tastes when it comes to the twangiest of genres. That being said, I do indulge in Zac Brown Band, Darius Rucker, Lady Antebellum, and Brad Paisley from time to time. The last one being the most prevalent of those pearl-buttoned, boot scootin, good ol’ boys. And one song from that guy that has always stuck with me is “Letter to Me”, which, interestingly enough, came out the year that I graduated from high school (2007). The whole song is written from the perspective of a man talking to his younger self, a seventeen-year-old who is going through a break-up, struggling in math class, and other troubles of the modern middle-class white boy.

For some reason, I have always identified with this song. I think it has to do with the fact that I had many of the same worries his seventeen-year-old self had. But I think it’s more than that. There is a line in the song where older Brad tells younger Brad to not worry so much about his Algebra class and go to the bonfire at school because he will “squeak by and get a C” anyways. This was me on so many nights in high school. Not necessarily the fight to go to the bonfire or not, because I would have had to have been popular for that, but that no matter what I was going to squeak by. School was never something that came naturally for me. It was something that even in the subjects I liked, such as English and History, I still struggled to do the work because I have always had this mindset that unless you can explicitly tell me WHY I am doing something AND I agree with its purpose, I am not doing what you tell me to do.

This defect has always been my struggle in school. It’s why I graduated in the middle of my class in both high school and college. It’s why I failed the 8th grade and my parents saved my butt. It’s why my resume looks like old-school yellow pages. I have never been good with authority, especially authority that I feel have significant deficiencies within their own professional practice. I freely admit that I have never been good at having a boss. Rachael can tell you that I even get a little touchy with my honey-do list from time to time. I come by this honestly. My mom and I have similar issues. She has had at least a dozen different jobs in my lifetime (if not closer to twenty). Maybe I want to be like my mom or maybe I just have to have a tremendous amount of respect for authority that I don’t give freely.

Segway Alert!!!!

This matches up with so many of the people that I have interviewed so far for the podcast. I have observed that at least half of the 40 people I have talked to so far (including upcoming podcasts), struggled in school in one facet or another. They saw something wrong with the system or the system failed them in some way. Some people dropped out and came back to education through a winding journey. But then there is the other half. The people that knew that they wanted to be teachers while they were in utero. Maybe their parents were teachers, maybe the system supported them and their unique set of skills, maybe a teacher took them under their wing and manufactured an interest that wasn’t there originally. Some of them even created classrooms comprised of dolls and action figures and their little brothers. I have talked to at least 6 of these weirdos so far and it just baffles me how they knew from so early of an age. But yet it wasn’t until I basically got told by my radio and television professor that I will never make it in broadcasting and that he would make sure that it never happened where he was a professor, that I even considered teaching seriously. I sure showed him! I have a thriving blog and podcast with dozens of listeners! All of which I am extremely grateful for!

It took another system failing me to get me to decide to get into a profession to help fix the profession that failed me. I don’t mean that teachers necessarily failed me. I had some great teachers like Mrs. Allen, Ms. Forbes, Mr. Clawson, Mr. Rector, Mr (Coach) Sears, etc. but I don’t think the type of education that was popular when I was in school was meant for me. I didn’t learn well from books and writing and worksheets. I learned well from discussion and demonstration. I think that’s why history always stuck with me. History is such a discussion based subject. It requires people to see outside of their own bubble and jump into the shoes of someone else. Other subjects do that as well, but nothing like history.

As I have observed so far in my discussions with teachers, they either go into the profession because they loved the system that validated who they are as human beings and want to contribute to that pillar of society, or they were a product of extreme dissatisfaction with the system and seek to change the status quo. Now that’s not to say that every bookworm and “nerd” is content with the system. My wife affectionately meets both of those criteria and (maybe due to me rubbing off on her) has one of the most inclusive classrooms that you would ever walk into. I do find it interesting that the most prominent members of our profession are either extreme beneficiaries or were deeply disgruntled with the way the system treated them. Both of them need to make it more inclusive for all who walk through those doors by catering to the bookworm, the nerd, the theatrical, the jock, the attention-deficient, the fidgeter, the exceptionally charismatic, the deeply reserved, the loved, and the unloved.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Tripp