One teacher’s bonus: Watching students grow

As any teacher will tell you, the big ‘bonus’ we get at the end of the school year doesn’t involve zeros after a decimal point. Instead it is seeing the outcome of the work put in – watching students move up.

This was evident last evening, as I wrapped up the communication class, COM 225, which I taught at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. It was their final exam, one part of which was a prepared speech. Watching them put into practice material they learned over five months was the exclamation point at the end of a long chapter. The kicker, if you will. Their speeches were top-notch. Their confidence -and use of techniques learned –on full display.

Before they left, I recommended they sometime watch Randy Pausch’s ‘Last Lecture.’ Why? Because it is both an artifact or Public Speaking that embodies everything found in the text books, plus one of the most motivational messages students could take away on their journey.

Farewell, Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch never met a brick wall he didn’t like. The Carnegie Mellon professor of computer science who inspired his audience -and in this digital age, millions of those who listened to him and watched him and followed his blog — died yesterday.

Pausch came to be known as a fearless fighter against pancreatic cancer. His ‘Last Lecture‘ delivered 10 months ago is now in the public domain. It became a best seller, and is being translated into Chinese. He once said the lecture was never meant for the public.

Pausch however went ‘public’ with his blog about his fight with what he knew was a terminal illness, and was constantly upbeat (“I’ve still got gas in the tank”) about his condition:

“I’m recovering much faster this time from the congestive heart failure (practice makes perfect, I guess). I’m still hideously fatigued, but today I was out of bed most of the day.”

He used it to communicate his ongoing story with his wider audience, commenting on things like a great design of a prescription medicine bottle, the death of Dith Pran (who also succomed to pancreatic cancer) and the media frenzy around his book.

Diane Sawyer is running a special tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 10pm on ABC. People who know what I’m really like will doubtless be throwing tomatoes at the screen ; -)

Yesterday, when the sad news came, Google did something it probably has not done for anyone before. It ran a small line under its usually clean search page with In Memoriam: Randy Pausch [1960 -2008], linking to the YouTube video of Last Lecture that’s been viewed over 3.9 million times.

The brick wall reference is from a metaphor he often used about the importance of facing an unsurmountable problem, and what it teaches us.

Quotes for the week ending 26 July, 2008

“Randy died this morning of complications from pancreatic cancer.”

Posting on Randy Pausch’s web site, on Friday 25 July announcing the sad news of the American professor of computer science known for his “The Last Lecture,” that became a New York Times best seller.

“I get that many consumers of online-transmitted information don’t like print much anymore…What I don’t get is why those Republic readers who haven’t sworn off computers altogether would simply ignore the logical digital complement to their dirt of print-based information.”

Paul Maryniak, General Manager of The Mesa Republic, inviting print readers to make better use of the Arizona Republic web site.

“To the average flier, this isn’t a case of the boy who cried wolf; It’s a case of the wolf who cried wolf.”

Editorial in Advertising Age about the disingenuous attack by the CEOs of 12 airlines asking their passengers to support them in their fight against oil companies to restrict oil speculation.

After 9/11, Mr. Bush had the chance to summon the country to a great nation-building project focused on breaking our addiction to oil. Instead, he told us to go shopping. After gasoline prices hit $4.11 last week, he had the chance to summon the country to a great nation-building project focused on clean energy. Instead, he told us to go drilling.

Thomas Friedman on on the significance of 9/11 and 4/11

“The gnashing of teeth from the left took on the odd cast of intellectuals congratulating each other for recognizing the satire of the image …”

Ann Marie Kerwin, on the New Yorker cover that sparked an uproar by the Obama campaign last week.

“The Web is not stealing audience away from TV, but rather helping them to build it.”

Mitch Joel, commenting on the fact that 45% of the CBS TV audience, watches their shows online.

“A throng of adoring fans awaits Senator Obama in Paris …And that’s just the American press.”

John McCain commenting on Obama’s visit to Europe and being neglected by the local media.