The Last Lecture

I’m making a pre-reading  (i.e. scanning) of The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.  I became interested in this guy when I saw him on Oprah where they also showed a short video clip of him delivering his last lecture.  Randy died shortly after that.

I flipped through the book before buying it and I landed on this chapter that’s entitled “Start By Sitting Together”.  I’m quoting the relevant parts:

Being able to work well in a group is a vital and necessary skill in both the work world and in families.  …

(His) tips … Try for optimal meeting conditions. Meet over a meal if you can; food softens a meeting. Let everyone talk. Don’t finish someone’s sentences.  And talking louder or faster doesn’t make your idea any better.  Check egos at the door: When you discuss ideas, label them and write them down.  The label should be descriptive of the idea, not the originator: the “bridge story”, not “Jane’s story”.  Praise each other: Find something nice to say, even if it’s a stretch.  The worst ideas can have silver linings if you look hard enough.

I remembered something after reading “check egos at the door.”  One of my earliest music videos (in the 80’s) was USA (United Support of Artists) for Africa’s We Are The World which had many big artists singing the song to raise funds for Africa.  There were Michael Jackson, then at the peak of his career, Stevie Wonder, Cyndi Lauper (also very popular then), Elton John and many others.  Quincy Jones (my idol!) was the music director and it was reported that he put a sign on the door leading to the recording studio that said: “Leave your egos here”.   (O.T.: Many years later when I was teaching and I had many brilliant students, I thought of putting up the same sign at the door of my classroom but, at the last minute, changed it to “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  That step begins here.”)

Praise each other” … the other day, I was watching Bill Gates on video making a pitch for two things: eradicating malaria and KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program which I first read about in Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell).  He said that one of the reasons why teachers in KIPP schools succeed is because, when they meet together and evaluate teaching performance, they praise a teacher if he does something well.

Many years ago, I read a book that said when we are evaluating somebody’s performance, we should avoid saying anything negative (like, “you did not do this well” or “your method/answer is wrong”).  Instead, we should suggest something positive.  I don’t know if my method is correct but, in my classroom, my students usually know that they’re wrong when I ask, “Are you sure?”  I never say, “You are wrong.”

Tip:  Watch Bill Gates on video (start at past the 7 minute mark) saying about how great teachers make great students.  I especially loved that part when he showed statistics saying it’s not the master’s degree that counts.  Yehey!

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