Sarah’s Diary Episode Twenty-One

Jenny was excited to continue having the class explore the creative potential of the Malcomb children. She actually had two excerpts from Sarah’s diary to share that concerned Mary.

“You may recall that the last time we heard about Mary, she had won the regional debate championship. What I didn’t share with you was what I read in Hiram’s memoir about how Mary prepared for the debate: she didn’t. At the time, debaters were coached and their responses sounded like prepared scripts. Mary’s teachers knew that she would never accept such coaching, and they realized, sometimes painfully, that she could be very convincing. In today’s jargon, we would say Mary was allowed to go with the flow. This natural approach was compelling to the judges who had gotten tired of the scripted approach. Here’s the diary entry from May 30, 1889.

“Mary is our state’s debate champion. I don’t think anyone else was even close. The other kids were so serious and unemotional. But Mary was exuberant and came across as someone who really believed what she was saying. Her approach really seemed to impress the judges.”

“Now the second diary entry was just a few days later on June 3, 1889. You may remember that Mary was a challenge for her teachers. She often criticized them for the way the taught the material. Here’s the diary entry.”

“I can’t believe it, Mr. Hodgkin’s our teacher, asked Mary if she could help him with his lesson plans over the summer. I guess she finally convinced him there’s a better way to teach. I know that the students will really value the changes that Mary is going to suggest. She really believes that children need to learn by doing rather than just being told like Mr. Hodgkin’s class         has been doing.”

“Now would you rate Mary’s innovation potential based upon the criteria we discussed in an earlier class,” Jenny asked after reading the second diary entry. The results were as follows.

Question 1:  Do you seek out new information regularly just for fun and then share this information with others? Score 4.2

Question 2:  Do you seek out new information when you are anxious about not knowing something you feel you should/must know? Score 4.5

Question 3:  Do you try to understand how other people are thinking by observing them or asking them questions? Score 4.8

Question 4:  Are you willing to take risks to gain new experiences? Score 4.8

Question 5:  Are you comfortable with moving out of your comfort zone in order to gain new insights or knowledge? Score 4.7

Jenny was amazed by their scores. Few of them had ranked Mary very high as an innovator earlier in the semester. She then pointed this out to them and asked them why they changed their minds. Some of the prominent responses were as follows.

“As my friends would say, Mary is an acquired taste. She could be a challenge but sometimes innovators need to challenge.”

“She just seemed to have both the creativity and advocacy that I found to be impressive.”

“I’m impressed by how she was determined to go her own way.”

“Wonderful insights,” commented Jenny. “I really like how your thinking is evolving.”

* * *

“All advocacy is, at its core, an exercise in empathy.” –  Samantha Power (journalist)

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