When I went for my compulsory National Youth Service Corps after graduating in Nigeria, I was peeved because I was posted to a school. I really wanted one of the various federal ministry postings, I was sure I would function better in those kinds of organizations. Plus I was a shy person so standing before students was not my idea of a good time. But I didn’t have a choice and that isn’t really the point of the story.
When I got to the school I met all kinds of students with differing backgrounds and personalities. Some challenged me, a couple interested me, and some just made me weary. As expected, I didn’t care much for those that challenged me and made me tired. Those that I found interesting were much more fun. But I was responsible for bringing them together and teaching them in spite of their differences. Not only did my monthly clearance depend on it but, more importantly, I felt a moral obligation to the children.
Now, I didn’t come to this conclusion by interacting with them in class. Dull students did not usually participate in class and I just figured they were quiet. I drew the inference during the first time I graded their papers. There were two boys in particular who gave weariness another meaning. To say marking their scripts was exhausting is saying the least. I had to decipher their spellings and find coherence in their gibberish before I could even fail them.
So naturally I wrote them off.
A short time later I found out that one of them was an amazing artist. He drew and designed so well that the Fine Arts teacher was always at his tail, requesting his assistance for design projects around school. The other boy turned out to be a fantastic orator. He had both a good command of English and the presence needed to attract the audience of his classmates.
Then I had an epiphany: I had written these boys off because, in my opinion, they were dull. But really they just functioned better in other capacities.
Most of us are guilty of writing people off when we feel they aren’t what we expect them to be; but, maybe, they are so much more than what we expect.
Give them a chance.