“Yes dad,” a brief silence follows over the phone: “It’s over.” My son was called by his very dedicated mentor that he has passed his final exams.
A huge relief for him, myself and probably more people involved. Late nineties I promised myself never to work anymore for schools or teachers. I had stepped in for a colleague to facilitate a meeting for 100 teachers. Only after the meeting I heard from my colleague that they had been very disappointed in me and that I had done a lousy job. I didn’t know of anything and hadn’t sensed it during the day. I was so angry about their ‘dishonesty’ that I told myself this is for once and never more.
But I didn’t keep my promise. I felt that my son was not living up to his potential at middle school. So I applied for the works council of the school as parent representative. There my hunch proved to be true. Never had such demotivating meetings for three years. And no, I was not able to make any difference. When I was approached by an University to support them defining the role of the teacher of the future, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. For 2 years we worked with the management team, the teachers and the students. We did sensing journeys, presencing workshops and organized a large meeting in Amsterdam with key stakeholders like publishers and innovative schools, philosophers and iPad addicts. The CEO of one of the largest banks told us that he expected from schools that kids were taught to develop their ‘moral compass.’ His people felt totally lost and didn’t know any more what was good and what not.
I didn’t have a good time myself at school, many years back. But I ‘behaved’ and went through the chores. Not my son. He counted how many times he could skip classes without being punished and loosing the opportunity to redo exams (after 15 times skipping, several times he miscalculated). This last year he took the initiative and the responsibility to finish school: calculating how often he could sit with a friend instead of going to class, what extra lessons he needed from other teachers at home or from other schools, what University crash course he would attend and when to drink and go out and when not. And he succeeded! He knows now how much time and effort he needs to put in to realize his goal. I am extremely happy for him. And for myself. And my wife. And everybody involved.
First picture: entering school. Second picture: celebrating his 18th and my 50th birthday 3 months back.