Posts Tagged With: teaching

We All Have Our Eskimos

Ladies, you’re welcome for this picture of Rider Strong, the feature of this post. Eat your hearts out.

“We All Have Our Eskimos”   3-19-13

Interestingly enough, this episode is centers around Shawn. And while that is unusual for this show, I found myself in his story like you wouldn’t believe. When I first watched it, my mouth dropped open–I know there are a couple serious episodes in every season, but I was surprised at how “real” they kept the storyline.

 

[Boy Meets World: Season 5 episode 13]

Opening scene: “That’s impossible.”

Mr Feeny, returning graded essays to the class, says, “An interesting thing happened when I was grading this assignment Mr. Hunter. Yours wasn’t there.” {insert Feeny-ish dry sarcasm}

Before Shawn or anyone can even breathe, Cory sticks up for him, “Oh, oh- I can explain that!…” and makes some excuse about how they think so much alike they turned in one paper. Mhmm.

So Mr. Feeny gives them a “B”.

Then divides it by 2. Which is a “D” each for them.

Cory: HEY!

Shawn:  Still fair, still fair.  {laughter}

Cory:  C’mon! It’s senior year! Why are you being so tough with your assignments?

Mr. Feeny, getting frustrated, responds, “Fine! Make it two “F”s!”

Of course you know Topanga has to butt in: “No don’t fail them!….’F’s will haunt you for the rest of your career”

Cory says it doesn’t matter because they’ve all turned in their college applications……right? Wrong. Shawn speaks up. He hasn’t. Cory, quickly whipping around in his chair say, “What?! I filled them out for you!”

Shawn sullenly says, “What’s the point? People like me don’t go to college. Even if I get in, how am I going to afford it? There are so many things standing in the way…. (pause)

……Why are we doing all these assignments anyways? What else is there to learn?”

-SILENCE-

Cory echoes this statement, trying to back him up, but only digging a deeper hole.

-longer awkward silence-

Mr. Feeny, with a grave face, asks the entire class to leave, except them two.

Topanga chimes  in again, begging him not to fail Cory and Shawn. Feeny says, “You better stay too you little control freak.”

Turning to Shawn, Feeny states, “I want this assignment brought to my house by 5 o’clock today.

Shawn, with wide eyes, retorts “5 o’clock? That’s impossible!”

Uh oh. Feeny no likey. Shawn sarcastically blubbers to Cory, “Why doesn’t he just ask me for tickets to the Superbowl?!”

Feeny: New assignment! Come up with Superbowl tickets by the end of the week…..Mrs. Topanga!-I have an assignment for you too! Butt out of other people’s lives for one week. Otherwise, you get an “F”.  (she can’t help them)

Topanga: But I’ve never failed before!

Feeny: There’s a first time for everything. …And as for you Mr. (Cory) Matthews, since you feel so responsible for their fate, I have put their fate in your hands. Their success is your success; but if either of them fails, so do you.

 

Next scene: Silent Topanga

it cuts to the trio sitting around the kitchen table, brainstorming how to do this impossible assignment. The radio is playing in the background as Shawn and Cory come up with ridiculous ideas. The DJ announces a contest: call in for a chance to win tickets to the Superbowl! But only Topanga hears it. She frustratingly blares the radio in their ears, mimes the words, and even jumps on Cory’s back to get them to understand. It goes against everything in her nature not to yell outright it in their stupid, oblivious faces. She wants to help so bad; it’s killing her. She’s not good at suggesting; she’s good at telling people how it is. The boys finally hear it (without listening to Topanga), call in, and find out they’re the lucky caller!

Shawn (on the phone) : “Wait?! I have to do what now?!”

 

Next scene:  “He’s not going anywhere soon.”

Shawn, with a few others sitting on top of a billboard. One man is rolling by on a stretcher, being treated for hypothermia. A radio station is broadcasting live, from the street below the billboard. They’re holding a contest: whoever can stay up there the longest wins.

[By the way, it’s REALLY cold outside, where this takes place in Philadelphia’s winter.]

There are only 3 people left. Cory brings up some hot chocolate to his best friend, which Shawn gleefully taunts the other contestant with. Shawn drinks it in front of him and the man gives up. \

Only 2 left.

This “Eskimo”  isn’t moving anywhere soon.

This is Shawn’s only chance, and it is fading fast. It’s this or nothing, but obviously he can’t outlast the other guy. All options are exhausted. He sighs,

I thought I had a chance…..but

There’s always going to be an Eskimo standing in my way, isn’t there Cory?

As Shawn climbs down from the billboard, he mutters, “This whole thing was impossible.” Cory then says to himself, “Feeny knew that!”….

The trio returns to the classroom, saying they’ve “got it all figured out”.

“It was never about Superbowl tickets.”

Feeny: It wasn’t?

“Even though something is impossible, we still should have tried, because that’s all you ever wanted. You wanted us to try….even though it’s our senior year and there’s nothing left for us to learn.”

They think they’ve learned the “lesson” Feeny was teaching, as we (the viewers) are tricked into believing this is the moral of the story, nicely wrapped up– like every episode.

Wrong.

Feeny: Where are the Superbowl tickets?………

(serious pause)

Get the tickets, OR fail.

 

Next scene: “People like me”

 

In this clip, we find the climax of the story: After some searching, Cory and Topanga find Shawn, sitting alone, on top of the Billboard, thinking.

After they climb up, he blurts out, “Whenever I’ve wanted anything in my life, there’s always been an Eskimo standing in my way.”

He tells them about not being able to go to summer camp, like Cory did, and growing up in a trailer park, instead of a real house. These are basic examples for something that’s obviously a repeated theme in the story of his life.

Shawn suddenly stands up. “Well I’m going to the Superbowl!”  (Meaning, he’s literally going to find a way to San Diego, hitchhiking etc.)

Cory jumps on his feet too now, pleading with him not to go. “How?! You don’t have tickets. You don’t have a way of getting there.”

Shawn, with clear eyes and an unwavering voice declares, “Cory, people like me don’t go anywhere because they don’t believe they can get there. I’m my own worst Eskimo….If I don’t go, I’ll never go anywhere… Now be my best friend and get out of my way.”

 

Next scene: The grade

As Cory walks back into the classroom with Topanga, he says, “Mr. Feeny, I’ve failed you……..He was going to do this one on his own, no matter what.”

Feeny: Oh?…He said that? Those words?

“I guess I failed you on this one, huh?”

Feeny: On the contrary, you passed with flying colors.

…Cory, Shawn isn’t going to college and succeed because you want him to. He has to want to and believe that he can. You need to know that you won’t always be able to [help].

….Life is a lot tougher than school my dears.

‘In the final clip, everybody is watching the Superbowl at a restaurant.  Suddenly, Mr. Matthews jumps up and excitedly points out Shawn on TV, in the crowd. Feeny says to him, “How do you know?”

Because he’s holding up a sign: Hey Feeny, nothing’s impossible.

 

The Breakdown: My Thoughts and Questions about the Episode

Shawn learns the actual lesson, the most important one, though there are many to be gleaned here. He discovers the one we pass up oh-so-often in life, looking for a more neatly wrapped package. We want easy, simple answers, with rules, helpful hints and guidelines, along with a definite grading system.

Well life is a lot more complicated than school my dears.

Too often we stop at the first twist of the story, believing the lie that it’s okay to give up. As long as you “tried”. Whatever the hell that means.

It was mistranslated in our work-driven culture through the past generations, leading up until now. As I so similarly mentioned in my “Motionless Vagabonds” post, there are two ways to fail: from never trying or from succeeding at things which really don’t matter.

Somewhere along the way we started believing in the “As long as I just show up….” mentality

along with the “attempt the impossible” mindset….which doesn’t worry about actually succeeding in the reality of the situation.

It’s hard for us to envision the end goal, if we never believed it was possible anyways. We end up attempting short-sighted quick-fixes and frustratedly dragging our feet without purpose; We give up before we start.

Now, I could be wrong (and we’ll leave room for that), but what I gained from this story is not that some things are impossible….but we should still give it our darndest–oh well if we fail; some things are impossible; A for effort.

I think the question it asks is “What do you call ‘impossible’?

Better yet, is the word “impossible” just an excuse you tell yourself? I’m not saying that “trying” isn’t good enough; don’t misunderstand me. I think it’s the point.

Let me put it this way: nothing can be finalized, written in stone as “impossible” until the point at which we give up. Even if it’s whimsical, it doesn’t matter; it cannot be defined as such while you are still trying to prove it wrong.

Maybe if we completely redefined “possible,” drawing it’s circle much larger (maybe even all-encompassing) it would make us reconsider how far our “effort,” or action should go before giving up

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Feeny learns to let go, as they will be graduating soon and he will not be able to teach them any further. This is the last lesson, if you will.

Oh, and by the way, Topanga fails. Yup. Because she must learn that perfection not the point. Topanga, who has never gotten an “F” before, realizes the assignment wasn’t about her speaking up, but her always trying to obsessively control the outcome. As Cory learned the opposite, she found there is a time and place when she indeed should be speaking up, regardless of the looming consequences (the “F”). If you dig deeper there’s a lesson about priorities in here and not letting the goal hypnotize you into trampling all the people along the way, thus defeating the purpose. Never trying may ruin you, but so will comparing yourself to perfection.

And speaking of a “time and place for everything,” some of us fall into each of these roles at some point in our life. Or maybe we just “put on different hats” at certain times, with certain friends.

Sometimes, we’re Feeny, the “jerk” or “teacher,” yelling hard truths and teaching the tough lessons when it isn’t popular. They may not see  how it’s out of love yet, but it’s best way to motivate or help that “Shawn” succeed.

Whereas sometimes we need to just shut our mouth, like Cory. Even if they’re you’re very best friend, ultimately you can’t want it so bad for them that it magically happens. Cory won’t always be around to bail him out. Shawn has to take control of his life. Point blank.

Other times, like Topanga we should stop fearing the consequences for ourselves, if we volunteer to fight alongside them, and just speak up already.

But if your story is more like Shawn‘s….my hope for you is that you raise your banner high and show everyone watching, “Nothing is impossible.”

 

Here’s the episode, in its entirety. Enjoy!

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10 Years From Now…[Part 2]

Sorry guys. I forgot to upload the video for the movie “10 Years,” which reminded me of this question, spawning this series of blog posts. It may help you get the gist.

 

So, to back up.

The hardest class I ever took in college wasn’t even required for my major. And the worst part of it was… I took it “for fun”. Ya, I was that guy in college. I took extra classes, “just cause”.

[So I totally understand if that makes you want to tune me out right now. But I promise this series of posts isn’t about school. Unless you want it to be. Hopefully, it will mean something different to everybody.]

Anyways, I took this Public Relations course, where your grades were judged from projects like raising money for a non-profit cause, by putting on a benefit concert, or selling raffle tickets. Stuff like that. Very unconventional class, to say the least.

Our groups created imaginary P.R. companies. If we didn’t succeed, we didn’t pass.

Ya, there was no pressure on us or anything.

This teacher was like Mr. Keating, but raging on steroids [Dead Poets Society]. I think I’ll call him “Dr. Reality Check”.

Instead of bubbling in scantrons, I found myself drawing up a business model and creating commercials for TV and radio, to promote our company’s cause. It was almost all out-of-class work.  In class, we gathered around for fireside chats and discussed, realistically, how we planned on executing our business plan – the specifics. No generic fluff. He spotted that quicker than a fat kid tastes splenda in his “sweet” tea. We quickly realized that proposing solutions for problems are easy, when everything is hypothetical and the hot air never rises beyond the classroom ceiling.

With Dr. Reality Check, the usual college-kid bull shit answers were not acceptable. We all feared the moment he lifted his pointer finger to call on one of us. There was never a “right” answer, it seemed. No quoting the textbook. He would pace back and forth, saying, “hmmmmm….does anyone else have a better answer? That’s not what I’m looking for.”

But in my defense, it wasn’t our fault. We had been programmed over the past 18 years of our life in the public education system to give the predictable, textbook highlighted “right” answer. It’s what the teachers have always wanted to see, grading our tests. I think it is every bit like answering “Jesus” for any given question in Sunday School; Yes, it’s expected, but never wrong. But that wasn’t what this teacher wanted. This dude required us to think for ourselves and show how we came to that solution.

We all hated him by the end of the semester.

Poetry would have been a whole lot easier to come up with, on the spot.

We barely slept. My classmates, to this day, will attest to having violent, PSD-induced night terrors, imagining him calling on us. We thought we had the school system all figured out, by this point in our college career. But this random class was more work than all my other classwork combined. This isn’t how it works! We had no clue how far off we were. But none of those are the reasons we dreaded his deep breath, before announcing end-of-class assignments. Well, mostly. I did enjoy sleeping and having a social life, before that semester.

Yes, we loathed, even feared, the inevitable homework  which we wouldn’t humanly have time for. But the real reason for this dread is, we couldn’t stand the fact….. the answers couldn’t be copied, word for word, out of the book. He made us think.

We just wanted our standardized testing back. And his hardest portion of the final test was the question:

 

What do you want to be in life? What are your highest aspirations, if nothing stood in the way?

[Give essay answer]

Sounds easy right? Everybody has dreams and shit– you know, the stuff that keeps you awake at night. Or daydreams at a dead-end job. Either way, we all got ’em. Everyone could write a novel here. But the second part was harder.

 

Now list 10 specific steps you will take to get from here to there.

“Oh.”

Ya, that’s everyone’s reaction. I dare you to get out a pen and paper. Because it’s really hard to commit to the second part, listing verifiable ways to actually see them happen. This is the part that stumps most of us. We have the first part, the easy part down, like our last name. We’ve rehearsed it a million times in our head. But the second part, we’ve contemplated about as many times as Lindsay Lohan has sobriety.

Dr. Reality Check said it is very easy to keep creating these elaborate dreams, if we don’t feel the pressure to follow through on them. No commitment factor= no pressure, basically.

 

Even today, as I write this, the question still hangs over my head.

So, what’s it gonna be? I mean, sure, I have an pretty good idea. But I sure as hell don’t have it all figured out.

There were no easy answers for the “solution” to this problem.

There never will be.

Because nobody can take control of your life for you. It can feel like others are integral to it sometimes, as they help guide you, walking along a similar path, in step, but nobody can walk it for you.

For example, a couple months ago I was sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting for him to show. I asked the nurse, “What kind of vitamin supplements should I be taking, as a 21 year old guy?”

Her response: “Oh, just Google it. I don’t know.”

Gee thanks.

But honestly, the secret is really this: nobody knows. Almost everyone’s faking it. The few who “get it,” have already been to the lowest place, the place where everything is stripped away, where only the bare truth remained, where they were forced to find the answers themselves, because those higher-ups who were “supposed” to know didn’t– a place where there is no Google solution.

We need to learn to be okay with that.

Especially in our (my) generation of get-it-quick-results and Googling damn near ev-er-y-thing.

High school and college can be great times for learning and thinking outside the box. Yes, I know that. I’m not discounting their importance. [More in part 3]

But, after that, what are you going to do–when the regimented structure and prodding is stripped away?

You will only have yourself consult. Only yourself to fault for failure, not the system.

No matter how much other people may want it for you, the choices in life are ultimately yours.

And, as I described in Part 1, not deciding to do anything IS making a choice.

 

So, 10 years from now, where do you want to be?

[To Be Continued……..in Part 3]

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