Monday, September 15, 2014

Did I Miss Anything?

In early September, I came across a poem and a TED talk that both illustrate the importance of thinking and learning and participating.

The poem is delightful - two responses to the question that must drive teachers crazy: Did I miss anything?
Did I Miss Anything?
by Tom Wayman

Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours

     Everything. I gave an exam worth
     40 percent of the grade for this term
     and assigned some reading due today
     on which I’m about to hand out a quiz
     worth 50 percent

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose

     Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
     a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel
     or other heavenly being appeared
     and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
     to attain divine wisdom in this life and
     the hereafter
     This is the last time the class will meet
     before we disperse to bring the good news to all people
          on earth.

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

     Everything. Contained in this classroom
     is a microcosm of human experience
     assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
     This is not the only place such an opportunity has been

     but it was one place

     And you weren’t here
Jim and I watched a TED talk by Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy fame. He talked about his experience playing Jeopardy against a supercomputer, and how he felt that his skill - being a know-it-all - was being phased out. But then he talked about the advantages of just knowing things, and shared a remarkable story.
I always think of the story of a little girl named Tilly Smith. She was a 10-year-old girl from Surrey, England on vacation with her parents a few years ago in Phuket, Thailand. She runs up to them on the beach one morning and says, "Mom, Dad, we've got to get off the beach." And they say, "What do you mean? We just got here." And she said, "In Mr. Kearney's geography class last month, he told us that when the tide goes out abruptly out to sea and you see the waves churning way out there, that's the sign of a tsunami, and you need to clear the beach." What would you do if your 10-year-old daughter came up to you with this? Her parents thought about it, and they finally, to their credit, decided to believe her. They told the lifeguard, they went back to the hotel, and the lifeguard cleared over 100 people off the beach, luckily, because that was the day of the Boxing Day tsunami, the day after Christmas, 2004, that killed thousands of people in Southeast Asia and around the Indian Ocean. But not on that beach, not on Mai Khao Beach, because this little girl had remembered one fact from her geography teacher a month before.
Isn't that a great story? Who knows when some bit of knowledge is going to be handy. He talks about choosing to keep on learning, and offers this:
We make that choice by being curious, inquisitive people who like to learn, who don't just say, "Well, as soon as the bell has rung and the class is over, I don't have to learn anymore," or "Thank goodness I have my diploma. I'm done learning for a lifetime. I don't have to learn new things anymore." No, every day we should be striving to learn something new. We should have this unquenchable curiosity for the world around us. That's where the people you see on "Jeopardy" come from. These know-it-alls, they're not Rainman-style savants sitting at home memorizing the phone book. I've met a lot of them. For the most part, they are just normal folks who are universally interested in the world around them, curious about everything, thirsty for this knowledge about whatever subject.
It's a interesting and entertaining talk - go watch it!

Of course, if Bonnie asks did I miss anything? she is talking about either food, or Good Smells:

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