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On Being "Interesting"

A class co-ordinator’s perspective on GenWise and its uniqueness.

I’ve been told by many, as to how I ‘manage to meet such interesting people’. And to be very honest, it baffles me as well. It feels surreal to look around yourself, and see so much good in the world, and feel as though you are part of it. Some might say that these people you meet are a reflection of your own character, or mere pawns in a chess game you’re not aware of being in. But whether I’m the interesting person, or the Rook or King or Bishop (although I’d very much like to be the Queen), it seems to me that the more intriguing factor is why these people are considered ‘interesting’ at all.

There is an essence that ‘interesting’ people carry. In my opinion, this essence seems to be made of equal parts of curiosity, intent and open-mindedness. It comes off to others as confidence, yet when you speak to them, the utter humanity and humility shows that confidence is the least of their concerns. The three components of this so-called essence can also be used to describe another thing – a learning environment. An environment where knowledge is imbibed with intent, where freedom and open-mindedness are celebrated and curiosity is nurtured. This is where GenWise comes in.

For example, here are courses where children are able to learn astrophysics, math through origami and even modern cryptography. But adults can also learn Montessori parenting skills, and Hool for adults. The options are varied, and significantly challenging as well. Depth is valued over topic coverage. These may be things that parents, or even the participating children on these courses may be able to tell you. As a coordinator, my experience entailed this and so much more.

Working on the back-end of things may seem boring: oh, homework to submit and reminders to be sent. Although, seeing a full class and getting to sit through this mind-boggling session is where the real satisfaction lies. Of course, deadlines need to be met and everything isn’t fun and dandy all the time. But as someone (I don’t know if they were wise or not) said, the people you work with are far more important to said work than the difficulty of it. This may have just been quoted from my mother, but it definitely sounded cooler when I said it. You get the point, though – this is what GenWise means to me.

I also have much to say about my interactions with this amazing human Jerry Burkhart, whose courses I have been coordinating recently. The one thing I find that strikes both the children of the class, as well as anyone overseeing it, is his distinctive style of teaching. One might argue that every teacher’s way of getting children to imbibe their knowledge is different, however, (in my not-so-humble opinion) Jerry’s takes the cake. From a third-party point of view this seems to be because he allows the children to grow exponentially, by giving them the time and space to do so. Answers, although important, are hardly a priority here: the way that a student’s mind is able to twist around concepts; ricochet off ideas – both old and new – is what Mr. Burkhart sees as imperative.

One example of this is through our most recent course with him. The ‘Perplexing Patterns” sessions saw a variety of students, all of different levels of mathematical prowess – some flew through homework, whilst some had difficulty understanding the questions itself. Parents contacted me on submissions day, with qualms of not being able to submit homework – because their children were stuck, they did not find the answer, nor understood the question. Naturally, this may be a source of some distress, which I immediately felt. Although, when passed onto Jerry, was immediately dissipated and filled with a sense of adulation: it was alright, he said, if children did not understand. Their thought process into coming to that faulty solution; the steps they took to wind down the ‘wrong’ path, and ultimately arrive (or halt) at a particular unsatisfactory conclusion was what was more important. This struck me as rather fascinating, because it meant that he wished to visualise how they thought, to somehow vicariously live the solution through them – and therefore keep learning, even if he went through the same material with a dozen different sets of children. It truly is a delight to watch these sessions in progress, because one immediately notices this sense of togetherness that is brought by a collaborative learning environment around Mr. Burkhart. The children learn new concepts, Jerry learns new ideas around these concepts, and we learn a whole new way of looking at teaching.

And this, my newfound friends, is exactly what I mean about the essence of being interesting. It becomes less about the person, and more about the feeling. Or, rather, feelings. Plural. It might seem important to note that I describe this as an innate quality; something out-of-reach and special only to those who possess it. It is special, although I feel like its components – the intent, the open-mindedness, the curiosity… These are things you can learn. These are things you can feel and react to, and hence why Jerry’s classes are so cooperative and smooth, so fun for the kids. These are things I wish to transmit to students if I ever teach them, and things that other GenWise mentors probably practice unknowingly (or knowingly) as well.

It is in this effusion that I feel the company as a whole has collaborated. Why so many like-minded individuals (psst- I heard someone call some of them geniuses!) have come together into one large conglomeration of learning. As a part of this experience, I feel as though my time here has taught me all of this, and will continue to spark in me many more note-worthy responses to take into consideration. I’m a psychology student, and maybe it’s a habit of mine to try and analyse why a system such as this seems so fascinating, and why it runs as smoothly as it does. And this is what I’ve come up with so far.

About the Author

Shivani is a 19-year-old human who likes to create. Currently waiting to start university, she dabbles in art, dance (and some bathroom singing) projects. Of course, she writes as well, and is also working with GenWise as a course coordinator. She doubles as a professional badminton player on some (i.e. most) days, and is really passionate about physical activity in general.


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