Thursday, September 27, 2007

My Good Friend Bill

Tucson, Arizona. My recent lunch with my old friend Bill (not real name) warrants more material. Bill dates back to the mid 90's and the LDP (Leadership Development Program). Bill participated in Group 7, thus witnessing your humble blogger's ontological meltdown when Errol tossed me off the course leader cliff. Via another route of equal peril, Bill himself became a for real course leader.

Run of the mill teachers deliver material to a randomly engaged audience. More effective teaching moves the random variable's expected value upward. In a room led by a course leader, engagement is not a random variable. Everyone is engaged, period. Language and semantics shift. Teachers have students. Course leaders have participants. Participants PARTICIPATE.

Now, duly respecting teachers, the highly skilled and effective ones do engage a room, and some (unfortunately few) do attain distinctions of course leadership. Without a mentor or training, the feat is almost impossible. Teachers deliver content and try to do so as effectively as possible.

Course leaders alter participants. The distinction is profound beyond language. Does the reader think I can raise the aggregate wages of a group of 25 Tucsonans over $130,000 /year in a twelve week course teaching algebra? Those in the room become different people. It feels like magic. The room glows, and it is the closest I have come to feeling in touch with God.

Bill helps elect Democrats in southern Arizona. He is also a course leader, and he has a job. I asked him what he did. He said, "I teach at a high school."

OH. MY. GOD.

A course leader at a high school?!!! Our eyes locked, and his were beaming. He was really doing it. He saw the wheels turning in my head and broke out laughing.

I asked him if it was as extraordinary as leading adults. He replied, "Even better, but you must break yourself apart and reconstitute in the context of the new commitment."

Piece of cake, NOT.

The material he delivers is irrelevant, but I'll share that it's math and physics. Parents send him emails and visit his office with tears of gratitude. Students also cry. Crying is normal when words cut bone and alter reality. Transformation is profoundly moving and deeply touches the dignity of the human spirit and its desire to matter and make a difference. Witnessing it is priceless. The sacred honor of causing it transcends language.

Bill invited me to join him on the front lines of our embattled high schools. I'm no lightweight, but Bill is packing solid brass. He is part of the solution, and God bless him.

6 Comments:

Anonymous The Navigator said...

I am not a course leader, but I have been a participant in such work. As far as I am concerned, anyone that can "lead a course" is, to use your expression, packing brass.

What a person must go through to master that art is brutal. I could not do it.

Having said that, I must say that it pains me, x4mr, to think of you, a course leader, sitting in an office analyzing statistics.

I think it would be a huge contribution to the world, and therapeutic for you, to get back in the game. You need a room, x4mr. Go teach algebra at Pima and make it a course. Change the lives of those kids. You have mastered the craft.

Those juices flowing through you would do you a world of good.

9/28/2007 9:23 AM  
Blogger Dustin said...

I have to agree with the navigator. It sounds like this is something you really enjoy. It is something very rare indeed, to enjoy something that is also a viable line of employment, not to mention spiritually fulfilling.

I understand why you might not however.Touching the lives of others is not done easily

9/28/2007 11:05 AM  
Anonymous the doctor said...

Hear Hear!

I could not agree more with the navigator. You need a room, x4mr. Rescue some kids from those lousy algebra teachers at Pima college.

The kids will be delighted. The head of the department will be delighted. I heard about your teaching there, by the way.

Someone I know took machine shop math from you. He said you were FANTASTIC, so good it was weird.

He said that you'd be explaining something, and he'd start to have a question, and before the question was even clear, you were answering it like you read his mind.

9/28/2007 11:55 AM  
Blogger x4mr said...

No, can't read minds. A course leader, can, however, read an extraordinary amount of information from the face, body language, and yes, the room does have an energy a course leader can sense.

Also, a real understanding of the material includes a grasp of its impact on participants as they are exposed to it.

Bill as well as your comments have given me food for thought. I don't think I can handle high school. However, giving Terry a call about a single algebra class at downtown PCC is compelling.

9/28/2007 2:28 PM  
Blogger Dustin said...

sweet, should you be teaching next semester, I might even see you there. Especially if you decide to teach a spot of programming as well.

9/28/2007 3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crying is normal when words cut bone and alter reality. Transformation is profoundly moving and deeply touches the dignity of the human spirit and its desire to matter and make a difference. Witnessing it is priceless. The sacred honor of causing it transcends language.

Who are you?

If schools had course leaders like Bill, and Washington had people like you, our troubles would end quickly.

Outstanding blog.

9/28/2007 7:59 PM  

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