Thursday, April 10, 2008


Lately, I have been reflecting upon my future in teaching. I am looking for a motivational factor that exists in each human being. It is easy to get a hold on this. Being a child of Post-moderninsm, I start with what has motivated me to continue learning. Why do I have a desire to continue to read, think and digest ideas? Why does anybody pursue an education if it is not for financial gain?

The answer is epiphany. What is this? Why is this so important? What does it mean? Is it really that crucial for education? Consider; a person may easily memorize information, mimic exercises, perform operations, etc., and maybe they can even do them at a high level. Those who are capable of these types of pragmatic performances are said to be "intelligent" by our public and private academic institutions. Those people may even move from high school "success" to university "success" and yet never have a day in their life of epiphany. Their education is hollow, even if they went to Harvard, Oxford, or Stanford.

Epiphany is that moment when, after much work, a person is able to grasp an idea or concept that isn't simply on the surface of the pages in a book. It is an insight that feels like a payoff for all of the research and effort you have put into understanding something. For those who have achieved this, it is like discovering gold. At that moment, even the work you have done to get to that point seems like part of the payoff. You have been changed by it.

Epiphany is soul food. When I think of what a human being is capable of, most are being short-changed in their human development. If they could experience an epiphany once in their lives, they would want it like a drug. They would continue to pursue their growth and development without a teacher's prodding.

My time at the University of Arizona as an undergraduate was great. I mean, socially, I had a good time, and I even enjoyed some of my classes. My major was creative writing, and that was pretty fun. However, the most important semester in my three years there was taking Algebra. I had taken it in high school, and did o.k., but never quite understood it. As a matter of fact, I was so loathe to taking any math course again that I waited until my senior year of college to fulfill the math requirement for my major. I didn't place as well as I would have liked, and ended up in an Algebra basics class that prepared students for the regular class which fulfilled the requirement.

I was told that there was no teacher for the class. You simply had to study for the 10 quizzes and four tests and take them on the prescribed days. You were to read the chapters on your own and you could access math tutors in the lab during certain hours. I had to teach myself Algebra!

The predominant question in my mind during this effort wasn't how do I do this, but why do I do this? If I understood why, then the how would be easy. It was in the struggles of trying to understand the mathematical operations in the book that I had my first epiphany; Math is beautiful! That revelation wasn't possible with a teacher. It was only through the consuming effort to understand that success was born. At 21 years old, for the first time in my life, I had an epiphany. It has motivated me to learn ever since then. I am not satisfied with face-value answers, but work on things until I can uncover the truth. I have become relentless. And this change of humanity was not the result of a teacher, but a little epiphany.


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