I’ll always be grateful to the many teachers who patiently helped me try to reach my learning potential in school. I could name two or three who I still consider to be among the most influential people in my life.

Looking back, however, I believe that I did not reach my potential. Comments from elementary school teachers such as this were common: “Clay is bright and likes to have fun, however he is easily distracted and is not reaching his potential” (-Mrs. Herzer, 3rd grade). I would have to agree with her.

I believe there are some who are good at conforming to the school system, and some who for myriad reasons simply are not, among them possibly being energy level, disposition, disrespect for authority, attention deficit or problems at home — the list could go on.

When compared with some of my peers, my troubles were probably not that severe, but I would consider myself to have been a “troubled” learner who underachieved for two main reasons: Either 1) I did not understand concepts but refused to ask questions at the risk of embarrassment, or 2) I was getting it and had been for a few weeks and simply got bored and checked out. In any event, it was clearly my problem, not the system’s — I was either shameful, prideful, or indifferent. I did not maximize the usefulness of a HUGE amount of time because I was simply not “synced” with my teachers.

I’ve recently become excited about an alternative education model that effectively uses technology and flips what happens in the classroom and home. Students listen to lectures at their own pace at home, rewinding or speeding through depending on their respective rates of absorption, then go to school to do their “homework” with more one-on-one interaction with teachers, who with all the extra time from not having to lecture, become more like coaches and facilitators, targeting specific areas of deficiency.

I would have loved to have access to something like Khan Academy when I was a kid. It’s an online library of 10-minute, easy-to-absorb videos on a plethora of subjects that is growing each week. I’ll leave it to its founder, Salman Khan, to tell the story and hope you enjoy it . . .

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