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When a Student Gets It

November 12, 2012

As if often the case this time of year, I have fallen behind on my blog.  The reason for this is because of the beginning of the school year, which has been especially busy for me this year. Classes are larger, staff is smaller, responsibilities are spread amongst fewer teachers, and I have stepped forward to be my district union president.  Before I knew it, the first quarter had ended, but I had not yet managed to get back to the blog until now.

Spending so much of my time thinking about the stress of  teaching got me reflecting on the rewards of the job.  Sure, the frustrations are legion, and I have certainly expressed those in this space before.  I don’t want to do that today, though. I want to share with you an assignment that made me extremely proud to do what I do.   In the high school philosophy class, the students’ final exam is to watch Randy Pausch’s powerful “Last Lecture” and then go off and create their own version of the lecture as high school juniors and seniors.  It is, by design, an extremely unstructured assignment.  Some students are intimidated by the lack of structure, and find themselves at a loose end trying to figure out exactly what it is they want to say, and how it is they want to say it. Others find this challenge exciting, and relish the opportunity to create a project that is truly their own–which is the whole reason I leave the assignment so unstructured.  Mind you, not every assignment calls for a lack of structure, but I believe strongly that this one does.

I am not certain if Morgan, the student who produced the video below, was intimidated or excited, or perhaps a little of both.  All I know is that I was totally moved by what she produced, and the thought of the work she did has gotten me through some very trying days in the classroom.  When a student does work like this, I am reminded why it is that I do my job, and why I still want to keep showing up every day, in spite of the stress and irritation it presents.   Check it out–I think you’ll enjoy it:



In his lecture, Pausch discusses the notion of the “head fake”–the idea that we learn something best when we think we are learning something else (recall Daniel-San learning to “wax on, wax off” in the “Karate Kid”).  Morgan cleverly includes her own head fake when she mentions at the end that her video wasn’t really for my assignment–it was for her kid brother.  And if you are concerned, Morgan has given me permission to show this video here.  She is now a college freshman at Ithaca college, no doubt impressing her TAs and professors up there.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Ben Swinehart permalink
    November 12, 2012 9:27 pm

    This presentation truly left an impression on me, it was wonderful indeed, as most of them were! I must project my thanks for that class in preparing me for writing, philosophy, sociology, and history classes I am involved in as of this juncture. I talked to Casey recently on the topic of the Last Lectures, and he admitted to me that he was thoroughly impressed by the “When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Orangeade” presentation. Also, if you are interested, I give you permission to use any or all of my writing material from that class as you see fit.

  2. Morgan M. permalink
    November 13, 2012 12:22 am

    Thank you, Mr. Brodie.

  3. November 16, 2012 3:17 pm

    You are very welcome!

  4. November 24, 2012 3:46 am

    Wonderful. Done with love, sensitivity and wit. Kudos to Morgan and you, Kevin. You should be so proud!

  5. November 24, 2012 2:48 pm

    I’m glad you enjoyed it! I am very proud indeed.

  6. Morgan permalink
    December 18, 2013 2:29 pm

    Hi Mr. Brodie, I hope you are well! I was trying to view my video, and apparently it has been muted due to copyright….?

  7. December 22, 2013 6:31 pm

    Evidently so–it’s due to the presence of the Brimstone Boys song and the Sheltons. As it’s a school project, it seems a bit draconian to crack down on it, but there it is. Sorry about that! You do still have the original, yes?

    • Morgan permalink
      December 25, 2013 9:15 pm

      I think so….. I’ll have to search around on the computer. The file is probably too big to send in an email, right?

      • December 26, 2013 1:37 am

        Maybe…I can always put it on a flash drive and give it to your brother. How long before you head up north?

      • Morgan permalink
        December 26, 2013 2:37 am

        I won’t be going back until I think the 16th.

      • December 26, 2013 4:50 pm

        Ok–have your brother stop by and see me on the 6th. I’ll give him a flash drive. Sound good?

      • Morgan permalink
        December 26, 2013 4:51 pm

        Yes, thank you!

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