“Filip, you are a clever and intelligent boy,” exclaimed the teacher, as she recorded two failing grades in my school report. Even in the sixth grade, I could see the contradiction. I couldn’t understand how she could say that I was intelligent and yet give me a grade that clearly stated the opposite. “You could achieve so much more if you tried harder and weren’t so lazy,” she added.
Like most of my peers, I wasn’t interested in school at all. Computer games, translating subtitles for Pirates of the Caribbean, street hockey, the internet, guitar, and my attempts at writing songs and poems were much more interesting to me. The most interesting part of school was its surroundings, which my classmate and I had perfectly explored through our truancy. We tested the loudness of firecrackers, the effects of tear gas, and our physical fitness. The biggest challenge of the school day was to keep an unwritten homework assignment a secret. It required talent for improvisation and the ability to hide empty notebook pages from the eyes of teachers and snitches. When I managed to make the teacher and the whole class laugh, it was a good day.
On that day, I had bad luck. My talent for improvisation failed me miserably, and my artistic works in the notebook also didn’t meet with understanding. But on the other classes, I managed to handle things. If the homework could be described in 10 minutes at school, there was no reason to spend half an hour on it at home. And if I had already forgotten my notebook at home (of course with the homework in it), it was time to pull out this old trick. From time to time, an old textbook would be sacrificed, and a page would “accidentally” fall out.
Don’t get me wrong, when it was necessary to perform, I succeeded. On the day when a short essay or a five-stanza poem was due, I made seven poems during breaks for my lazy classmates, five crowns each.
Most of the time, I managed to “lower” my grades to an acceptable level by the end of the semester. However, according to my teachers, if I had tried harder, it could have been better. But they considered me too lazy and that had to change first. However, I had no reason to change what didn’t bother me, and so I managed school even with the label “lazy.” I didn’t bother with producing performances that my teachers would like.
According to the criteria given to me by the school, I was a lazy person with untapped potential. I was not happy with this label and somewhere inside me, I felt that it didn’t fit me at all. I couldn’t name why. Under the influence of this label, I perceived the world as a place where mainly things that I didn’t want to do were appreciated. It evoked in me the idea that everything useful is boring, and a person has to force themselves into it. And that’s why I intuitively tried to make things easier for myself at all costs. Others saw it as laziness, but for me, it was efficiency.
With hindsight, I stand behind these methods. The school constantly pushed me into things that were outside of my interests. In my own way, I learned the rebellion against what was required of me. Thanks to that, I developed the ability to dedicate only as much energy to it as was necessary. I learned to find creative ways to streamline my work. They weren’t always honest (fortunately, I grew out of that), but they taught me to solve problems creatively. And I still enjoy what I like. Today, I don’t write poems for five crowns, but I can put my full effort into things in which I feel useful. I am still insanely curious, reading articles from all possible scientific and non-scientific fields, and learning to program in my free time. I can work hard when needed, and when I’m tired, I take a break.
Actually, my teacher was right. If I had tried harder, I would have gone far. But I would have gone in the wrong direction. However, thanks to my “laziness,” I managed to uncover where to direct my efforts to be effective.
I don’t think schools kill their students’ potential. Often, however, they fail to help them discover their talents. The ability to discover talent is, according to Alexander Havard, one of the key characteristics of a good leader*. With a class of 30 students and pressure on didactics from the school, all teachers who have succeeded in this with their students have my respect. They are the ones who have understood that laziness is not just resistance to school but also a space for exploring potential.