Thursday, May 08, 2008

What do students hear?

A failing school with a high minority population brings a guest speaker to motivate students. The speaker, a minority himself, tells his inspirational story of rags to riches despite hustlin' during his teen years.
He talks openly about how he didn't see the value of "math or english" to help him get through the hell he was forced to endure. In the end, he figures it all out and is trying to make a difference.
He encourages students to have a vision, to have the courage to move up, and to read anything they can get their hands on. A great message.
But do the students hear that message, or do they pay attention to the model--"I had to do what I had to do to get by."
I enjoyed his message. I enjoyed his delivery. But I can't help but wonder what message was heard today.


At 6:50 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a teachable moment. Ask them. Ask them what message they took from the speech.

Follow up by asking them to write a commencement speech--imagining they have been asked to return to the school 20 years from now and to tell what they have learned from their own lives. Join them and write your commencement speech too. Don't forget to give them some model opening sentences. Have them share in pairs (you, too) and then ask to hear some of them. Pull out the themes that predominate. Talk about what might help them, what might hinder them in trying for their prestigious future. Relate it to the literature you are reading if possible, perhaps having them predict what will happen by writing a commencement speech in the voice of one of the characters.

Let us know how it turns out.

At 8:37 PM , Blogger Dan Edwards said...

We occasionally have similar events. In a big crowd, IMO, it has little impact. Too many students are focused on what is going on within about a 5-10 foot radius of where they are seated. However, what does work, is if the motivational speaker talks and listens and communicates with a small group.....5-10 kids or even less. Then they get the attention these kids need/crave and for some, lack the macho/show off for my friends aspect of youth. Auditoriums don't work.

At 9:33 AM , Blogger Mr. McGuire said...

Sometimes I look around my class after a long lecture of--oh, say two or three minutes, and I ponder the same thing. I know what I thought I said. I wonder what was heard.


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