Wednesday, February 27, 2008

teaching a different kind of content

Amazing Coincidence:
In the space between 1:58pm - 2:03pm, two laptops embarked on similar paths to the cold, medicinally tiled floor.

One broke, the other sustained a mild concussion.

The students, in awe and merriment, said nothing.

And that's when I spoke:
I know that both were accidents, but what's most disappointing is that no one is taking responsibility and no one, absolutely no one, has said they're sorry.
One female student spoke. Out came a confessional that rang with as much sincerity as being side-swiped by a Prius:
But I did not mean to do it.
Absolute abdication in one, single syllable-filled sentence.

Amazing Timing:
On the Twit stream last night, Chris Lehmann shared a link. Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch gives his 'last lecture' on Oprah. Mr. Pausch is dying from pancreatic cancer. He is married. He has three young sons.

In his lecture, Pausch urges that a life worth living is heavy with integrity. He points to the importance of apologizing, and outlines three elements of an effective apology:
  1. Saying 'sorry'.
  2. Admitting fault.
  3. Asking how to make the situation better.
Amazing Flashback:
Seven years ago, while teaching Hamlet, a student decided to tell her classmates about her sexual escapades with her boyfriend. Shocked, I stopped the lesson by stating, "Well, I'm f-in' done."

I wrote the student up for inappropriateness. I included my reaction.

I earned a day off without pay, and a meeting with the superintendent.

At our meeting, he told me that environment, integrity, and respect matter more than content. He went on to say that the content is meaningless if the other three things were not firmly rooted in place beforehand.

To date, it was the best meeting I ever attended.

Amazing Foreshadowing:
I would call the teacher. We would decide that tomorrow's content needed to be put on the shelf. A different kind of lesson would be taught. Students would participate.

We'd start small, asking the students about protocols for handling the computers. They'd chime like Gremlins with answers.
"Two hands."
"No food."
"Close the monitor if you leave your seat."
"Keep cords from dangling out of the cart."
We'd tell them that the computers are things and that mistakes happen. We'd tell them about the absent apologies from yesterday. They'd sit silent like guilty creatures sitting at a play.

We'd show them Pausch's lecture. We'd ask them to think about the lessons Professor Pausch teaches. We'd solicit responses at the end of the video.

And they'd say:
"It has three parts."
"Say sorry, admit fault, ask how to make it better."
And that girl might say:
"I'm sorry for dropping the computer. It was my fault. Is there anything I can do?"
And that would be the best example of content learned.



Ian said...


This is a great example of why I love reading your blog. Technology is great and so is whatever content we teach. Preparing students for the world, however, is our ultimate job. Your intellectual story telling always makes for a good read. Thanks.

Taylor said...

Great post. And true. I think kids don't understand the difference between *fault* and *responsibility.* Because something was an accident doesn't mean you're not responsible.