I have been told many times that I do not suffer fools gladly. I have often been called an intellectual snob and a know it all. Though these have not always been relayed to me in the most positive of lights; I have always worn these monikers as badges of honor. I mean, what’s wrong with being intelligent? Why shouldn’t I want to possess a great deal of knowledge? I will admit that it is not the best to look down upon or judge those that are not endowed (by my narrow definition) with a superior intellect. I will also readily admit that I am in no way a member of Mensa. But, I am proud of the mental acumen I have been “blessed” with.
Now, before you write me off as a self-centered pompous douche bag the irony of these thoughts has come into glaring focus this year. I am working with students that have learning disabilities. They are by no means “stupid” but they do not process information the same way I do. (However, full disclosure, I have a learning disability when it comes to math and science; as well as being ADHD growing up.) I do empathize with these students. I remember excelling in reading and English classes but being pulled out to the “dummy” math classes. I had to have special tutors come into the school to teach me math. My grades were often so poor that guidance councilors tried to bribe me to get better grades. How then, do you ask, did I grow up to be an intellectual braggart? I have no idea. So, you’d think that I’d be better at relating to my students that have difficulty learning. I however, forget, quite often, how much I have in common with my students this year. When they do not grasp the content I am teaching quickly enough, I catch myself wondering, “how can you not get this?” “It’s so simple!” “Why aren’t you smart enough to understand?” These thoughts are not only irrational, but unfair to these and any students.
I was discussing my concerns with a colleague recently who put it in perspective for me. I grew up without the benefits of technology. My knowledge came from books. Which is exactly where I am asking my students to look. Students today do not need to look in books any longer. They look online. They have technology that gives them ready answers to all of life’s probing questions. They can manipulate technology to find the answers they need without trudging through book after book after book. This, to me, is both a benefit and a detriment (but that is for another post another day). Though I consider myself to be tech savvy, I am no where near the digital native that my students so obviously are. Perhaps I should now judge my own lack of knowledge. How does that make me feel? I will be blunt, I hate not feeling I am not one of the smartest people in a room. Again, I recognize my elitist mentality. It takes time to change one’s thought patterns. But, I am working on it.
On the flip side of my intellectual snobbery, what do I expect from 11 year olds? They are not going to be at the level of Albert Einstein. They’re barely at the level of Fat Albert. How can I look down upon someone that hasn’t grown into their intellectual capabilities.
I judge so harshly those I deem less capable of higher order thinking that I am often blinded to the amazing people they truly are. My students are slowly teaching me the value of suffering fools gladly. I now try to ask myself when I have these judgmental thoughts, “who are you to define their intelligence?” I am no where near where I need to be to stop criticizing those I have harshly labeled, “not on my intellectual level.” But, I am slowly improving. My Buddhist studies have shown me that intelligence, like life, is fleeting. Nothing is permanent. If I cling to my intelligence I will suffer. For when my memory fails, I am driven crazy. I have to find a way to release my desire to always “know everything.” As I slowly learn to cease this desire I can only hope that those around me can suffer this fool gladly.