I never meant to become a teacher. In fact, it was my intention to be somewhere in the IT world ever since I was a sophomore in high school. But there have been three outcomes in my life–guidance by a sort of invisible hand–that shoved me down a career path that I could never have anticipated. The first was my freshman year of college. My declared major was Computer Science, I was hired to work on campus as an IT department receptionist and help desk attendant, and I was taking my first Comp Sci class – Java. Meanwhile, I was also taking expository writing, a required class for all freshmen and not liking it a bit. But that didn’t stop me from succeeding at it. In fact, as my grade in my Java class plummeted, my grade in writing had skyrocketed. By the end of the semester, assessing where the chips had fallen, I had re-declared myself an English major and ceased further pursuits in Comp Sci (though I kept my job and was even promoted within the IT department). The second outcome came during my last semester as a senior, applying for the Peace Corps. I had wanted to go to Sub Saharan Africa, specifically Namibia, where I had studied abroad as an IT volunteer. Peace Corps thought otherwise and offered me a position in the Philippines in Southeast Asia…to teach English. By the time I was on my way home from that, I was sitting on a plane waiting for takeoff in Tokyo, lost in a daydream of an IT job, an apartment and a girlfriend. Over the course of the flight, however, I started talking to the guy from L.A. next to me, who was on his way home from teaching English in South Korea. Well, that put a bug in my ear, which finally got the better of me about two weeks after I arrived at home. And that’s how I wound up teaching these last six years, two in the Philippines and four in Korea–and Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that put Students on the Path to College by Doug Lemov should have been the first book I read before I ever even got on that plane back in 2008, and maybe again for a refresher in 2010.
Before I begin I feel as though I should explain myself, reviewing a second Gladwell book right after the first. I read Blink last October and my review of that book can be found here . As a matter of fact, it’s been quite a while since my last post and I have been rather busy reading and contemplating what my next post should be about. I have read the Ender Quintet by Orson Scott Card, Clash of Kings, second in the Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin, a biography of Jony Ive, the lead industrial designer for Apple and, for throwback’s sake, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Between all these books and the thousands upon thousands of pages they occupy, I’ve decided to review Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell for a very simple reason: it had a far greater impact on how I see myself as an American, a Westerner, a visitor living in South Korea. While the books that I have read were exceedingly captivating, entertaining or informative, none of them had a greater affect on how I perceive my life in context of who I am and where I live than Outliers. And after all, I could gush about how much I liked Speaker for the Dead (second in the Ender series) and it’s exploration of Old World colonial mentality and religion in a futuristic context or I could take this opportunity for genuine self-reflection and it is the latter of which I wish to share with all of the strangers of the internet.