Everyone knows the classic story of Karate Kid (or most do). Some random kid meets Mr.Miyagi and becomes a karate legend, through some trials along the way. Classic “teacher-meets-rough-kid-teaches-him-discipline” type of thing.
Coming into Sooner Discovery, I was ready to be the sensei that our students needed. I wanted to be the smart, charismatic, always-put-together, leader that I thought the kids would admire and trust.
The best place for me to express this leadership has been in Scientific Principles of Health and Disease, a fast paced course that I was taking with six Sooner Discovery Students. The first week of class I came prepared. I had printed off notes and syllabi before that course even started, emailed the professor about our special program, and even bought the students Honey Butter Chicken Biscuits (thanks Whataburger) before the first exam.
I was ready to be the hero, the knight in shining armor. I knew in my mind that these kids were going to struggle. They were smart. Too smart. The type that breezes through high school without studying or opening a textbook – yet still excel. I was ready to show them the ropes of college, how to succeed, how to study. Training had prepared me to be their Mr.Miyagi.
“the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”
I’m always one to admit when I am wrong, which is a lot.
- WAS. WRONG.
Much to my surprise the tables had turned. The first day after class my students were in the lounge, noses in their notes, talking about the topic at hand. They wanted to succeed, not because of my prompting, but because they had the drive to give their best effort.
I wrongly assumed that these students were like me when I was their age. I never put my best foot forward and barely slipped by with a 4.0. When concurrent classes became available to me, I rarely attended classes and earned Bs, complaining that the class was too hard to attain a good grade.
I was a slacker. These students are achievers.
Every morning THEY were the ones who motivated ME to study. Each evening they showed up to study hall, ready to talk about quizzes and tests. Throughout this program they have become close friends, and my biggest motivation. When I don’t want to study, they do. When I want to slack, they don’t.
How is it that I, the teacher, has become the student?
Because Sooner Discovery is not just about leadership. It isn’t just about academics, activities, or experience. Sooner Discovery was made to allow students, old or young, to discover themselves.
I have seen the students grow friendships, learn their strengths and weaknesses, gain confidence, and, most importantly, take control of their own destiny. Through that, they have inspired me. And, as much as I hate to admit it, there’s a new sensei in town, teaching me that age is merely a number, that wisdom comes in all shapes and sizes, and that you’re never too to become a young grasshopper once again.
International Security, 2018