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The toughest assignment I have had of late

Most folks think I have it pretty easy as an academic. And they’re right: tenured professors at a big university in a nice Midwest college town ain’t exactly breaking rocks for a living. But occasionally I am stretched a bit.


Yesterday was one of those days. An Iowa school district asked me to come talk to its high school students about the laptops they’ll be getting next year for its 1:1 initiative. Although my work primarily is with adults, I was fairly nonplussed at the time of the invite. After all, I taught 8th grade history to students from housing projects and have had several recent occasions to work with high school students. What was there to worry about?

Thursday evening, however, I got the full skinny about what my visit would be like. 300 students jammed into an auditorium. No opportunity for group work. No real opportunity for hands-on work. And, of course, no chance that they could access any materials on the Internet. Just me on stage with my laptop and a projector and speakers. And 300 of them, arms crossed, minds skeptical, waiting to see if I was worthy of their attention.

On the last day of school. For the last 90 minutes of the day.

How’s that for a recipe for success?!

The students were great. I apparently did well enough that they didn’t throw stuff at me or mock me mercilessly. And then they were off to the buses and whatever summer plans they had…

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The whole thing reminded me a bit of a quote I once read from 1998 National Teacher of the Year and Disney American Teacher Award recipient Philip Bigler:

I have personally seen $400 per hour K Street Lawyers, who are comfortable debating the most intricate and obscure point of law before their peers, quiver in fear in front of a group of 16-year-old students.

Have YOU been stretched lately?

Photo credit:Faces of fear


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