That Gut Feeling – More than Numbers

This blog post has been swirling for a while (see a pattern) but I kept second guessing it. Did I have the right to write it? Was it really that meaningful? Maybe this post is more a reminder for me than a learning piece for anyone else.

Have you ever had one of those weird feelings in your gut? That feeling that something doesn’t sit right, something is off, but you can’t tell why. I remember feeling that way whenever chatting about Social Risk Index data and I was baffled.

Then one day it hit me.

My final year of high school I remember going to an OSAP meeting in the library. I can still picture standing across from the OSAP officer and a guy I had a crush on (a small miracle considering I forget what I have for breakfast). We had been back from Italy for a year and I was still adjusting to the changes of high school in a small town. At the time I believed OSAP was the only way I was going to university (Looking back now, I’m sure my grandparents would have helped). My worry wart tendencies started to make me panic so I just went up to the OSAP officer, told her how much my parents made and asked if I would have any problems getting assistance. She chuckled and dismissed any concerns I had. I think that was the first time I truly realized how little my parents made.

For most of my childhood I would have been reflected in the social risk index. 

  • Speaking a different language at home
  • Moving every few years
  • Didn’t own our home
  • Mom dropped out of high school to raise us (Went back to university later in life. Way to go mom!)
  • At times my parents were on student visas not officially employed, at others making a limited income

img_1220See all those stats are true but they don’t tell you my story. I have had the luxury of often blending in which helped as well as the fact that going overseas makes it sound exotic today. It really was an amazing childhood looking back. As I was watching a 60 minutes clip with Bruno Mars shared today, I loved how he mentioned it was the best of times. As kids we often don’t notice any of the above.  Michelle Obama had a similar note in her commencement speech at CCNY, reminding us that our struggles are really advantages in the long run. Looking at just the checklist misses the lessons I learned, the adventures had, the strengths that I developed.

Then I got that terrible gut feeling again.

How often had I let a set of data, labels or checkboxes lead my conversation about learners (big or small)? Was I letting the numbers become an excuse or see them as opportunities for growth and learning? How often had I stopped to connect to the learner’s individual story?

What did I learn? Data is important. It helps us see trends, needs, a bigger picture. But data should never come before the wonderful being behind it. Humanity first, numbers second. Another reminder to #listenclosely.