Chances Are

A buddy of mine explained the likelihood of getting a book of poems published. Consider all money spent in entertainment industry. Movies make up the vast percentage of expenditures; books are almost an afterthought. Of all the books that are published each year, most are non-fiction--calendars, cooks books, political biographies. Fiction is a tiny part of a publisher's list. NEW fiction books have to compete with perennial best sellers like _The Hobbit_ and _Tom Sawyer_. Poetry is the smallest percentage of fiction and poetry by new authors is the smallest percentage of poetry. In short, the odds against a new author getting a book of poetry published are enormous.

If all the books that have been published were lined up on one shelf and you picked one book at random, the chance that you would pick a book of new poems is effectively zero.


Imagine a list of the names of all the people alive today, a "phone book" if you will with seven billion entries. What is the likelihood that you will pick a name at random and want to have a conversation with that person? Even limiting the list to the people with whom you COULD have a conversation--not everybody speaks the language(s) that you do--chances are that you'd pick someone you didn't want to talk to. Even in this country, you could end up thinking, "You voted for THAT GUY? How could you vote for THAT GUY?" And wish you were speaking to someone else.

What about the odds of finding a song you'd like to listen to? Of all the genres of music and all the songs within those broad groupings, you could very well get rap if you like classical. Or the reverse. With millions of recording, if you're waiting for Bruce Springsteen's "Pink Cadillac" to come around on the dial, you'll have a long wait.


Most importantly, the odds of getting into someone else's head is the least likely of all. Because there are more people with more different learning styles than there are songs or books. Even the best teachers know the frustration. "How can she not understand that? I've explained it three different ways! How could ANYBODY not understand that?" But the fact is that she still just doesn't get it.

"Then she's not trying hard enough. She's lazy; she's unmotivated."


Or maybe she's not ready; maybe the curriculum isn't developmentally appropriate. Maybe she has learning differences; maybe she's got emotional issues that prevent her from attending to what you're saying and how you're saying it.

Maybe you just don't know what's in her head.

Because just like you have a tough time understanding how someone could vote for THAT GUY, or how someone could like THAT KIND of music, it's hard to know what's going on in someone else's head, what someone else's learning style is.

As teachers and parents, we have a choice. We can keep hammering away believing that we are right: Everyone must learn THIS WAY. (Similar arguments "All Catholics should become Protestants;" "all atheists should become believers;" "all Republicrats should become Democrans.")

Or we can embrace those whose learning style is different from ours and invite a whole bunch more people to the party.

What do you think the chances are?

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