From Randy Bennett Ed.D. [email protected]  847 809-4821

I had one of those life changing experiences that I just have to share with you. It also changed someone else's life in crystallizing something that he had been trying to figure out for 38 years. He had chills, goosebumps from the realization.  

 This story is a lesson in how we can get caught in our assumptions and stereotypes about people and don't realize that we may have it all wrong about what we are thinking and feeling about them.  I had a complete awakening, waking up, a 360 degree reversal in perception and understanding. 

When I was a high school teacher, two of my classes were Adult Living and Psychology/ Sociology.  The Adult Living was for the near high school drop outs, you know the trouble makers, losers.  The Psychology/Sociology was for the college bound, A students, hard workers, the role models.   As you can imagine, the most desirable class to teach was of course the Psychology/Sociology (PS) class, and the one you wish you didn't have to teach was the Adult Living (AL).  The PS students were hardworking, cooperative, behaved well and did everything they could for the best grades.  The Adult Living students were the opposite--difficult to manage, could care less about grades or schools, and made little effort or did just enough to get by.

 Nevertheless I did everything I could to help out the AL students to keep them in school, assist them with their homework, work with their behavior.  I would stay after school and meet with them earlier before school started. I even arranged to go to one of the student's house in the evening to help them with their homework so he wouldn't have an F and flunk out. I remember not being able to find his house and scared that I was set up to be the students 'laughing stock' when I went to class the next morning.  I was about to leave the street when I thought to get out of the car and check the address more closely that the student had given me.  It was there.  The reason I didn't see it because there was no electricity, only candles.  The student's family couldn't afford the electricity.  The student was there, and I helped him in candlelight.  All of sudden, I saw that student differently and the others in class, and my mind started racing.        

Now the PS students were not exactly perfect. Yes, they were well behaved, participated in class, completed their homework,  However, all they cared about were grades and getting As or the highest grade they could, and could be so pushy about it.  That got me thinking or reflecting about those students. 

As a result of those two experiences and other incidents, something started dawning on me and then an awakening.  While the AL students were difficult, not interested in school, broke rules, they were at least raw, real, in touch with their feelings and desires, and completely themselves. 

The PS students were excellent students, highly motivated and bound for success, but they were living out a program, a script and only connected or aware of the college bound track, and what their parents wanted.  They were not in touch with what they really thought, felt or were interested in themselves. The PS students seemed unreal, programmed. 

The AL students were not, although they had a hard time controlling themselves and being considerate of others.  Maybe that was because they did not feel understood, that anyone was walking a 'mile in their shoes', or really cared about them.   

Wow, what occurred was a 360 degree reversal and a huge aha or revelation. I now appreciated and preferred to be with the AL students, to walk in their shoes and show that someone understood and cared for them.  And to provide them with some career guidance that they were not getting.  For the PS students it was just helping them with their college plans and wishing them much success, and may they at some point do some honest self-assessment.  


Tom Gauthier's picture

A really inspiring reflection--thanks for sharing, and making me think about how I view the difficult people I deal with.