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Passions. (or my impressions upon my visit to Puget Sound Community School)

by Nicholas Barnard on February 7th, 2011

On Wednesday, I visited Puget Sound Community School. It was a bit odd for me, because my fellow visitors were mostly prospective parents and students, whereas I was just curious. I’d like to adopt kids at some point, and PSCS will be on the plate as an option for their schooling, but at the moment I don’t feel like my life is stable enough to care for a kid. (Hell, I don’t think my life is quite stable enough to care for me, but thats a different story.) In hindsight, I also realize that I didn’t fully answer my questions because I visited the classes I was interested in, not the ones that might elucidate my knowledge of PSCS.

Some of the happiest people I’ve met have been ones that excel at and love doing jobs that many of us think of as grudge work. I’ve come across many people in this position in my life, but two of them stick out in my mind:

  • Sherita – She was (is?) a bus driver for TANK driving the 8 and 25. (The 25 was through-routed with the 8 and vice versa) I rode the 8 all the time as it took me home, and the 25 sometimes as it picked me up at school and took me right home. She first came to my attention because she had the most boisterous and fun announcements of where we were on the route. We’d have lots of little discussions, but it was always clear to me that she loved what she was doing. It was always a joy to get on her bus, versus some of the other drivers who we doing the job because it paid them.
  • An server at this Bob Evans whose name I forget. I ate there several times. (it was also on the 25/8 and it was near the spot where I got my hair cut..) The fact that she enjoyed her job was obvious; it wasn’t something that I had to spend time staring at her to divine. I remember asking her about it once, and she said something along the lines that this wasn’t her first choice, but she decided to enjoy it, and did.

When I think about things I’m passionate about many things pop into my head, but one long running one is playing handbells. I first played handbells in 1993. For many years it was simply a choir that I performed in. (Although, I remember one week when I was in handbells as a non-academic activity, as an academic performing choir, and we were playing handbells in music class as well. I was spending three out of seven periods a day playing handbells!)

When I was planning my senior year of high school there was a conflict between the Handbell Choir and AP Stats. I had always enjoyed math, and I made the decision to take Stats. I think this would’ve been a good decision if life was going well.

But, life wasn’t going well. I was dealing with the fall out from having had undiagnosed clinical depression for three years. In addition I accumulated enough baggage from being in the closet that I couldn’t and didn’t want to keep the closet door closed anymore. However, given the atmosphere of Southwest Ohio in the late 90s, I felt I had to keep the closet closed with all my might. Given everything that was going on in my life, I really didn’t give a shit about school. As a result, I got really good coasting my way though classes; I did enough work to get by and that was it.

Coasting through classes is something that partially works in normal classes, I also managed in honors classes, but I got killed in AP classes. I couldn’t get my head into AP Stats, and after realizing the futility attempting advanced level studies with a lack of motivation, I decided to drop AP Stats and take up handbells.

I still took the AP test and getting a 2 without a cram study session. I took a quantitative studies class (e.g. Stats taught by the political science department.) which was more or less a breeze, but after I transferred schools it ended up as one of the sixty or so elective credit hours I had, well in excess of what I needed.

Twelve years later, I’m still using what I learned in handbells, but I’ven’t touched stats in quite some time.

Its really amazing what you can learn when you want to learn something.

I knew nothing about Javascript when I started in on metro mobile but the whole thing is written in Javascript.

I spent twelve hours or so on a Friday night researching the federal debt which has given me a nice background on government debt in this country.

When I started playing in a handbell quartet I realized that I didn’t have the ability to look at a note and instantly tell what note it was, I put daily effort into flash cards to learn this, because it was something I needed to play in a handbell quartet. (Whereas when I was playing piano, it was like pulling teeth to get me to use flash cards.)

I also find that it is quite amazing what people can do when they’re going after something they love or are fascinated by. GPS has its roots in nerd heaven tinkering and geeking out over Sputnik. (The GPS story starts at 12:30.) They were just fiddling at first.

I want people doing what they’re passionate about. I despise that people “hate their job” although they keep working at it as if they have no choice. I find it disheartening that hordes of people went into Wall Street (including those who had studied something completely different) just because there was a bunch of money there. We spend so much time at our jobs, why not make it something that we enjoy even if we can’t make it something we’re passionate about?

PCSC is really about pulling kids passions at the forefront from a young age in high school, instead of them struggling to pursue them on the side or not at all. People do amazing things when they’re passionate about what they’re doing, and even moreso when they have a mentor (a boss, a teacher, a friend) who helps them move obstacles in their way, and pushes them onto greatness.

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