Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “hero”

A Nondescript Hero – Roger Ingalls

A few days ago I was thinking about teachers that influenced me in my younger years. There was Mrs. Bailey who introduced me and the rest of the second grade class to the Little House Series books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It turned a shy kid into a pseudo celebrity for a week or two and, as it turns out, I am actually related to the author. Then there was Ms. Lee from San Francisco; exotically pretty to a sixth grader. She opened my eyes to the goodness of ethnic diversity. I can still count in Cantonese…”yat, yee, sam, say, mm, lok, chat, baht, gow, sap, yatyat, yatyee and so on”.

The teacher that influenced me the most was Mr. X. Yes, that’s right, I can’t remember his name. It was the mid-seventies and the formalities of public schools were melting away. Most teachers tossed the traditional gender dress and became hip and cool. But not Mr. X, he wore black slacks, white shirt buttoned to the top and a dark unmarked tie. We thought he was a nerd and uncool, even the other teachers acted like he was a misfit. It was a time when educators were embracing friend-relations with students but not Mr. X. He kept a strict line between himself and us students. He was a teacher not a friend and we did what he told us to do; it was simple and straight forward.

math

Mr. X was a junior high school math teacher and I now believe a damn good one. When I moved onto high school, I was considered an advanced math student without ever trying to become one. I may not recall his name but I do remember that he focused us on one goal for that semester. We had to take the four numbers in our junior high graduating year (without rearranging their order) and make them equal 0, 1, 3, 4 and so on, all the way to 100. He would teach us different mathematical theories and then break us up into small groups and turn us loose on our one goal.

To get an idea of how we were to achieve our goal, here are some examples for the year 2013: 0=2+0+1-3, 1=|((2+0)x1))-3|, 2=2+(0x1x3) and so on up to 100.

Looking back on this some 30-something years later, it was brilliant. He made the class seem like a breeze because we only had to achieve one thing. The defined goal was made important to us because it was centered around the numbers used in the year we were graduating from junior high; it was personal, important and we owned it. Mr. X broke the class of thirty into five groups of six. The smaller groups made students more open to participation and simplified the teacher’s job because he could focus on five entities instead of 30 individuals. We achieved by working together; rehashing the theory which effectively created repetition in learning…we taught each other. Mr. X disguised his theory lessons by calling them hints for achieving the goal. He’d give us the theory and then we’d group up and apply what we learned to the goal and this deeply ingrained the lessons. It also groomed us for higher levels of schooling where lab work follows theoretical teaching. Without realizing it, we were taught some pretty complex math along with important workforce skills such as teamwork and cooperating to achieve goals.

Mr. X was not focused on or concerned about being cool, hip or friendly; he was focused on teaching. His methods were deceptively brilliant. He’s a nondescript hero and perhaps that was by design too.

Interview with a Blogger – Kymberlie Ingalls

Roger Ingalls has been authoring on this blog for just over a year now, and through his posts, you’ve learned his philosophies and hopes for the world.  But who is the man behind the words?  Here, in this exclusive interview, we learn more about the wizard behind the curtain.

I asked Roger what the most important advice is that he’s ever received.  “When in doubt, fake it. This advice came from Mr. Davis, a high school teacher and it got me through many a tough circumstance. As a leader, you’re expected to be the guiding hand in most, if not all, situations but the problem is nobody knows everything. So you have to fake it to instill confidence in your team. In reality, very few people will challenge you because they’re either scared or lack confidence themselves. However, faking it should be used as a last resort tool and not as a primary game plan.

Roger agreed that books are a most important influence on us as a society.  “I can’t choose just one because they’ve both taught me so much.”  He responded when asked to name his favorite.  “The first book was written 2500 years ago by Sun Tzu called the Art of War. The second book is titled Competitive Advantage by Michael Porter. Both books teach strategy and tactics with one being from the perspective of war and the other from business. They’re both great reads for people wanting to develop competitive thinking skills.”

Having survived decades in the competitive hi-tech industry of Silicon Valley, then transitioning in to blue-collar ownership, how has he survived this downtrodden market and economy?  “Adaptability or willingness to change. If we don’t. we become obsolete. The sure way to gain advantage over a foe or competitor is to change because they will always be one step behind.”

Everybody has a hero, and Roger is no exception.  “Muhammad Ali.”  He goes on to explain: “He was strategically the greatest fighter of all time. He studied his opponents and adjusted his boxing tactics accordingly.  He overcame racism and fought the U.S. government when his beliefs were attacked. He became a great humanitarian and is the most recognized person in the world.”

Roger has touched on religion often in his writings.  I asked him what he considered to be the good, the bad, and the ugly.  “Religion is good for discipline. But it also teaches inflexibility and squelches thinking outside the ‘good book.’. In western cultures, those who routinely practice the three original monotheisms (Judaism, Catholicism and Islam) are the hardest and the most devoted workers. Religions that promote discipline through routine are synonymous with a good work ethic. The down side of this is a lack of understanding of different cultures and religions.”  He paused, seeming to reflect upon his own past.  “Sometimes straying from one’s path is the best plan.”

To sum things up, I asked Roger to give us the world in a nutshell.  “We are a naïve society. Immersed in greed and the belief that Earth has an endless supply of resources to fuel an economic system based on perpetual growth. In the back of our minds we know this is not possible but few of us are willing to step up and say so. It’s a tough situation because the whole world now follows this economic agenda.”

“Only the inevitable collapse will force a change.”

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