I never did read Huckleberry Finn, but I passed the test...

I was notoriously bad at doing my homework. My Grade 10 English teacher assigned us a reading: Huckleberry Finn. The day we were supposed to have completed our reading he sprung a fill-in-the-blank pop quiz on us.

I hadn’t opened the book.

I had 70-minutes to look at a blank sheet with absolutely no clue what the answers were. This wasn’t a multiple choice test that could be bluffed, but rather a pretty foolproof validation of whether or not the book had been read: “The colour of the fence was [blank]. The name of the town he lived in was [blank].

So I filled in the blanks writing my own story. It wasn’t the same story. Nor were any of my answers correct, but it hung together. And it was rather comical as I recall.

Before the tests were handed back the teacher read through the answer sheet with the ‘correct’ answers. He then announced to the class that he would read aloud one more test before returning them. It was my version.

As he read some students laughed - many looked confused. I was the only one that knew what was going on. I could feel the warmth rise in my body as I was certain this was the prelude to my public humiliation and a lecture on doing homework.

He announced “that paper got an A++” as he walked across the room and handed it to me. I was as shocked as the others.

The goal of English class was to promote creative thought. My teacher recognised that I had achieved that goal - though not in the way he had prescribed. He rewarded me for reaching the goal, rather than judging me on the path I took.

We have become so focused on keeping score and making sure everyone is following the rules, we too often lose sight of the bigger picture. Kudos to that English teacher - and to all those workplace managers, that can step far enough back from the activity to reward the goal and stoke the creative spirit.