January 12, 2017
by LIOR ZOREF @lior
When I was a child, I thought that I’m not that bright. I had low scores in high school, went to many private tutors and still I didn’t manage to do so well in most of the subjects. My matriculation was very disappointing. When I told one of my teachers that my dream is to study in the Technion (a very prestigious tech college), he told me I don’t stand a chance.
Towards the end of my military service, I began studying in a private school in order to improve my final diploma from high school. Suddenly I got perfect scores in advanced math and physics. Only then, I realized that most of my teachers as a kid were terrible (If you’re a teacher, I apologize for using such harsh language. There are many wonderful teachers but unfortunately, I didn’t get to study with many).
After I improved my diploma, I was accepted to the Technion and I finished with honors my BA and Master’s degree and continued to pursuit a PhD. Still, as child who thought he was not smart enough, I have a big scar. Deep inside, I still remember how my teachers said I don’t have a chance. Lacking self-confidence, without friends and without the understanding that all of it is about to change!
In recent years I am fortunate enough to meet highly successful people around the world. I am always surprised to learn how many of them were bad students. Some were socially rejected. Many thought that they had no talent and doesn’t have a chance to reach significant achievements later in life.
No one told me that my life could be changed. No one told me that there are good teachers and bad teachers. No one told me that the countless hours I spent on a hobby I loved so much (computer programming) will be the foundation for a great career.
I was not told that even if other kids were boycotting and laughing at me, everything could change. They did not teach me how important it is to persevere and be determined to succeed. No one explained that this difficult period will be so meaningful to me in the future.
The sad truth is that even today almost no one talks about these things with children and teenagers who fail at school. Those who exceed are being labeled as “gifted”, “future scientists”, “next generation leaders” etc. There are many NGOs, scholarships and special educational programs who invest in making them realize they are gifted. I was never even considered to be a candidate to any of these programs. I just stood aside and watched those “gifted” kids thinking to myself that there’s nothing I can do about it. The “gifted” will succeed in life while I won’t. That’s life.
I accidently met someone recently who was in my class and came to one of my lectures. I told her how I managed to improve my scores and only then I realized that we had terrible teachers. Only then I realized that I was not that stupid after all. At that point she started crying… saying that until this day she feels that she is not smart or particularly talented. That’s why she never tried to do anything to change her life and follow her dreams.
Our educational system is filled with great teachers and students who can thrive with good grades and good friends. I was not one of them, and when I lecture in less shiny schools or boarding schools, I find there are so many kids like me.
Almost every week I am invited to lecture for excelling students. They tell me with pride “you have no idea how wonderful they are. They are the future”. Then they tell me about all of the wonderful lecturers who come to speak with them. Nobel Prize winners, Olympic medalists and many more… now don’t get me wrong, I am all about investing in those who excels. It is important to keep nurturing them with motivation to success. But it seems there are enough good people who come to speak with them.
My heart is in a different place. When I get back from a lecture in a boarding school and I see a kid who argues with his teacher, telling her he don’t feel like sitting in the lecture while she is forcing him to sit down quietly, I know I am where I should be. Then, at the end of the lecture, he approach me with shining eyes to tell me how he related to what I have said, and thanks me quietly.
This is my place.
This is what gives me meaning.
This is my destiny.
In recent years I decided to dedicate 20% of my time to volunteered lectures. I get many invites to speak to NGOs, teachers, judges and public agencies with limited resources. They are all important. But I follow my heart and my scar. I go to those who needs me more than any other. I choose to go and speak to kids will low achievements. Those who usually don’t invite me to lecture. I look deep into their beautiful eyes and tell them what no one told me. That they could do amazing things even if right now they have low grades. They can succeed and do amazing things. I ask them to never give up on their dreams.