Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
This is a quotation, attributed to Albert Einstein, which is repeated over and again all over the internet every time our government makes a proposal about education that some people disagree with. To me, it’s one of life’s little annoyances. Why?
Well, for starters Albert Einstein never actually said it. If you don’t believe me take a few moments to Google it now, and if you find any proof at all that he did, please leave a link in the comments below.
Secondly, it’s untrue. If fish had never climbed trees there would be no tree-dwelling animals now and there would be no humans. We’d all still be swimming round at the bottom of the oceans.
Thirdly, it’s even more untrue. There are actually fish, living today, which can climb trees. Seriously. Google it.
Fourthly, it’s a downright lie. Not everyone is a genius. Most of us aren’t. The ones who are make it into the history books.
And Lastly? It’s just a cop out! It’s a way of absolving ourselves from the responsibility of educating our children.
When I look back over my childhood, there are two types of teachers who stand out. There are the ones who made me believe I could do anything if I tried and who then gave me the confidence to try, and there are those who told me I’d never climb trees because I was a fish. I’ll never forget Mr Holmes, who saw the potential behind the timid little mouse and gave me a speaking part in the school play. I’ll also never forget the music teacher (who I won’t name) who told me that with a voice like mine I really shouldn’t sing, because over 30 years later I can’t even sing along to the radio if I think someone else is within earshot .
Our job as teachers is not to look at our class and sort them into runners, swimmers, fliers and climbers. Our job is to equip every child with shoes, flippers, wings and ropes and to make sure that every single one of them achieves all of the skills to the best of their ability.
Some of them may run marathons and some may never run further than the corner of the road; some may swim the channel and some may just about doggy paddle their way to a 5m badge; some may soar high above the ground and some may only hover a few centimetres from the floor; some might make it to the top of the tree and some may never make it past the first branch. But with the right teaching and encouragement, there is no reason why any child in a mainstream school, and most children in special schools, shouldn’t run and swim and fly and climb.
So you’ll never find me retweeting nonsense about Einstein and fish. Instead you’ll find me in my classroom, helping some of the children build a ladder to reach the first branch and holding a safety net to encourage the others to reach for the top of the tree. Who’s with me?