Let's play 20 Questions! This week's guest is Waldorf School of New Orleans Grades 7 / 8 Teacher Steve Pauzolis. He took some time out of his busy schedule to play today so that we can get to know him a little better.
1. What three traits define you?
Humor. I can't help but see the comedy of our world. Irreverence; I think everything is mutable and should be questioned. Honesty and respect, which I feel are inseparable. 2. What is your personal philosophy?
With regard to my teaching philosophy, I believe children only learn if they don't feel as if they are being spoken down to or indoctrinated. I feel as if teaching is a relationship, and the things I choose to teach them must be things they actively want to learn from me. One of the biggest differences I discovered when I first found Waldorf teaching was the idea of getting to know and forming a relationship with them, which enables me to figure out what and how to share information with them. In my first year, teaching Geometry, I found myself reverting back to the way I had experienced others teaching me throughout my life. I watched the eyes of the children glaze over, and I lost them for the first time. I realized I wasn't teaching in the most genuine way, and they were not choosing to follow me. I stopped the lesson and apologized. They were surprised and admitted I was teaching them in a way that wasn't reaching them. I cancelled the lesson, and we went outside to play. The next morning, I greeted them at the door wearing a toga, and I took on the role of Euclid, Father of Geometry. I threw out everything I had been exposed to about teaching when I was younger, and I taught the material my way.
3. What's one thing you couldn't live without?
My little girl. Before she was born, I didn't know that anything could matter that much to me, that any person could matter that much to me. After she was born, she changed my perspective on everything. The question of who I was and who I should be suddenly became the most important things I could ever ask myself. I also realized that it is a question that you can never stop asking, because as much as she changes, I also must change. Making those changes always carries a reward, which is her smile. Her hugs. When she calls me 'Daddy Bear'. It makes every sacrifice worthwhile.
4. What are you reading these days?
Mostly stories to my daughter at bedtime. We are currently reading a thick novel that I chose thinking it was appropriate for younger children, called 'The Search for Wondla'. It's a book really meant for tweens, but my daughter has been avidly following the story of Eva Nine and all of the interesting characters every night: the evil Besteel, the ruthless hunter, and the friendly, alien creature Rovender. We have a giant pile of books waiting for us to dig through. I am incredibly excited to read to her every night and bring these worlds to light. 5. What is the best book you've ever read?
There is one book I have desperately wanted to re-read: Born in Blood, by John J. Robinson. I thought it might be full of salacious, conspiracy theories, but in fact it presented possible explanations that actually made good sense. It was written almost as a rollicking tale of the Knights of Templar, and what became of them. I have just begun reading 'Forever: A Novel', by Pete Hamill. It is an epic story about a man cursed with the magic of immortality.
6. Where is your favorite place to be?
In Boston, walking alone past all of the old houses, down side streets. I would take an hour-long walk home from work on purpose, just to be alone and reflective. I would listen to David Bowie and just walk, alone, with my thoughts.
7. What is your favorite thing to do?
In the incredibly rare free moments I have, getting together with ADULTS who like to play board games is something I truly love to do.
8. What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
I considered becoming a dental technician- a person who sculpts and sets dentures for people. What they don't tell you is that you are basically the equivalent of a medieval apprentice, so I spent all of my days standing in front of a polishing machine. Polishing dentures next to vats of boiling water and wax. It felt like I had gone back in time to a 1940's sweatshop. After I had an industrial accident that left me bedridden for a summer (remember that boiling wax?), I was done.
9. What’s the coolest (or most important) trend you see today?
Seeing people pull together to create concepts and designs for the public at large to use at will: open sourcing. How to build furniture, how to build homes, how to build complex machinery. Ideas such as MakerSpace movement, or a variety of open-source textbook and software movements, allows everyone to participate in a larger creative world. It allows for all of these goods and concepts to be at everyone's fingertips, instead of only accessible to a select few. It is my firm wish that school systems would all fully adopt e-book readers filled with open-source textbooks, so that everyone could have access to knowledge that is not filtered through corporate branding. Children should not be crushed by the weight of 50 pounds of books. They should be freed by learning.
10. Choose: Beaches or Mountains and tell us why!
Mountains. They are far more interesting. you never know what is around the next curve, and there is a mystery at the top that you won't ever know until you get there. No two people who go up that mountain will have the same experience. Mountains don't offer comfort like beaches do, but they offer adventure. Achievement. They offer the hidden, impossible beauty that only comes from a change in perspective the quiet lets you see the entire world.
11. What has been the most important innovation you have witnessed in your lifetime? The development of the laser cutter. It was something I always wished for: the skill to be able to accurately create shapes with incredible precision, to build much more complex objects. My father was a carpenter, and he was able to build things but he was always limited in what he could produce because he wasn't a sculptor. I could see he always wished to make things much more beautiful that what was available to him between his skills and his tools. I found I was able to create infinitely more complex designs on my computer, but I couldn't realize them until the laser cutter was created. Now, as an adult, laser cutters are available and are relatively inexpensive. They allow such an incredible degree of precision and beauty. They allow you to achieve something that would have been impossible before.
12. You’re hosting a dinner party. Who are the 3 people, from present or past, who you would invite and why?
Nikola Tesla. I love the fact that this world had a real, genuine, over-the-top mad scientist with the skills to back up his insane claims. I genuinely wish he had been given more of a chance to show us what he was capable of. David Bowie. He was an artist who was able to continually reinvent himself, not in reaction to a trend but rather as a herald of a trend. Someone like that must have a fascinating perspective on our world. Ada Lovelace. She would have been the world's first computer programmer, but she was born in the Victorian age when women didn't have many rights. She was the daughter of Lord Byron, and chose an analytical path rather than her father's literary one. She refused to be hemmed in by the conventions of her own time, and I would love to see the opportunities women have in ours. 13. What is your favorite food?
When I was a kid, my mother used to make me pancakes. Not pancakes as most people define them. Most people would claim they were crepes- they were as large as a plate, and very thin. But the edges were a little crispy, and she would slather them in butter. Often, she would stack a bunch- four or five deep- and I would sink my knife into them and eat them. Sometimes she would roll them up individually, but i never liked them that wAy. I liked having a giant stack of these enormous pancakes that weighed like lead in your stomach. I miss those. 14. If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?
I would design board games. The idea of being able to work with people who are like me, in that they recognize the beauty and possibilities that a game can bring to those who play it and that they might take it as seriously as I do, would be an intensely joyous experience for me. It was the one thing I always wished for that i have been unable to do.
15. What's your best advice?
When you're young, don't wait. Run out the gate, full tilt, and take chances as often as you can. You can't get time back. As it passes, you won't have the opportunities to experience what you can right *now*.
16. What would you most like to tell yourself at age 12?
That standing up to a bully is sometimes more important than a physical injury. Choosing to live in fear is a lot more painful, in the end. 17. Whom do you admire most?
This has changed for me throughout my life, but right now? Elon Musk. He had the nerve to stand up and try something people said couldn't be done, and to say what he thinks and feels even though he risks being labeled 'crazy'. 18. What is your greatest fear?
I'll take the 5th on this one. ;)
19. Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I'm actually a pretty serious person. Many things are funny to me, but nothing is a joke.
20. What is your favorite thing about working at WSNO?
The children. Knowing that I earn their respect and love, and that these things are reciprocal, allows me to show them so many magnificent things that the world contains without being immediately met with skepticism or a closed mind. It feels very powerful. They trust me enough to take that chance with me every single day, and it only becomes more satisfying as we grow together.