My girlfriend wanted to go to McDonalds a few days ago. I got tea and she got some of those Chicken McNugget thingies.
As we were sitting in the booth I heard a guy in the next booth, who had an Eastern European accent and appeared to be in his late 40s (short grey beard) teaching a little girl, about eight, some math. Both were sharing a whiteboard, drawing on it with some sort of erasable black marker.
This is what he was teaching her:
This is the Cartesian Coordinate System, which is a combination of algebra and geometry. It isn't that hard, yet it took a polymath like Descartes to discover it - and he didn't do it until the early 1600's.
As I walked by I glanced at the board and saw he was teaching her the number line. When I sat down and listened, next thing I hear is X and y graphs, and and as I listened further up comes the Cartesian Coordinate System.
The girl seemed to enjoy it immensely, too. Sitting in McDonalds, some Eastern European guy, teaching an eight-year-old girl something I didn't learn until I was in middle school.
I mean to tell you, I was impressed.
He was a mentor to this girl. I felt a twinge of envy, because I never had a mentor, and I have always regretted it. What I had was sitting in ranks and rows in school and being bored and daydreaming the day away. Which is why I got notes on my report cards about not doing my homework (which I don't believe in), not paying attention in class, and not "fulfilling my potential."
Mentors are supposed to be wise elders, and we don't have those anymore.
I'm also a great believer in kids teaching kids. I realized that over 20 years ago, when I walked into my sister's house and found her eight-year-old daughter at a standing whiteboard, also with an erasable black marker in her hand, teaching the alphabet to her two younger brothers, age four and five. All of them appeared to be having a good time.
Why do not the older teach the younger in school? Are they supposed to have college Education degrees, which are utterly worthless? Are teachers' union terrified an eight-year-old will be a better teacher than they are? Are they afraid their pay will be cut or their positions eliminated? Damn, I hope so.
I graduated from a large university that was the largest producer of teachers in a very large state, and I never met a smart Education student. Except for one of my friends, and he left the field because he was so disgusted with it.
I wonder what would happen if we had mentors, like the Eastern European guy? I guarantee you that little girl will remember her wonderful times at McDonalds for the rest of her life.
And I would like to see her teach younger kids at school.
It'd be a better world.