Grandmas teachers open my eye

Today, I visited a whole new world by going to texas education conference, a room full of teachers. Initially, I didn’t have high expectations for elementary and middle school teachers, because I thought they are lousy. However, I was actually really impressed.

Indeed, they aren’t fancy tech people you will meet in San Francisco, nor aren’t they fashionable designers you can appreciate in New York, but they are really really kind and real. They thought and complained about kids as kids, not some far away “end users” that the Silicon Valley think. As I was always annoyed by ambitious, intelligent, but low EQ men in San Francisco, it feels safe and relieved surrounding by energetic old ladies.

“The amount of women I saw today was more than the sum of them I saw since living in SF.” It doesn’t feel real.

When I saw all these teachers talking about how they think about using AI product in the classroom, many sf startups look so dumb when they post “we have a users use our product for 70 days!” “My ARR is bla bla bla!” That difference of magnitude in impact is no where to be compared. This is also my biggest critiques on sf. When they talk about users, they are mostly someone far away on the screen or as a number that it’s difficult to care about their wellbeing genuinely. But when you are making products to help teachers and talk to them walking towards you, I doubt you feel morally comfortable if you only maximize your revenue and “do research” on your impact.

Another thing that shook me was seeing the passion from all walks of life. You know when we think of passion, the newspaper only talked about powerful and famous people, like successful entrepreneurs, researchers and politicians, Bill Gates, Einstein, and Obama. But if you see those grey hair teachers sitting together trying to use their Sunday morning learning about how to use AI for their classroom, you will feel speechless too.

They might not be as educated as I am, they might have terrible taste of dressing, and they might never get famous or respected, but they also care about their work as much as I am, as much as any other famous people are.

I talked to a Taiwanese-American VC about my frustration about education scene in SF (or in general). It feels small and no one cares or rigid, stupid, and unchangeable. It just felt impossible for me to work in edtech and be great engineer at the same time. I told her I wondered if I should give up for now and thought about it later. She told me not to, and told me her story from Stanford business school to be a 4th grade school teacher (unbelievable for a taiwanese family), and now, an edtech VC.

From the teachers and the VC, I feel humbled, honest, and hopeful. I grew lots of respect for those nobodies who quietly contribute the society, my arrogance of my intelligence and achievement has softened, and I learn it might be possible to build a career that is impactful for others while being fulfilling for me.

As I always have a hunch that I might be the chosen one, I’m definitely on the right way.