Monday, April 9, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading!

I re-read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch over the weekend, more for personal reasons than for professional reasons. I read this book a few years ago and I need to return to it at least once a year because it contains so much wisdom. Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon and died of pancreatic cancer, after giving his “last lecture.” Many of the chapters and lessons in this book resonate with me as a teacher and as a parent. Here are just some of the highights; there are far too many to try to list in a relatively short post.

·        Life contains two kinds of head fakes. One “teaches people things they don’t even realize they’re learning until well into the process. If you’re a head fake specialist, your hidden objective is to get them to learn something you want them to learn.”

·        Ask yourself if you are spending your time on the right things. Doesn’t this apply to all ages? Think about how this short line changes as we gain life experiences!

·        “Rethink the telephone.” I wonder what Pausch would say about all of the cell phones in our world. Actually, I don’t really wonder. He would emphasize that the more important people are the ones in front of you. How do we teach students the value of inter-personal connections since so much of their worlds are virtual?

·        One of Pausch's chapters dealt with how people can work together effectively. To summarize:
o       Meet people properly.
o       Find things you have in common.
o       Try for optimal meeting conditions.
o       Let everyone talk.
o       Check egos at the door.
o       Praise each other.
o       Phrase alternatives as questions.
These can be found in the chapter called Start By Sitting Together  and it's worth the time to read the explanations for each one.

·        “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” I love this line! It goes along with the concept that students should be analyzing mistakes and that they learn best when they understand what they didn’t know.

·        Many of the chapters address the proverbial brick wall and the importance of finding a way through or around it. Within the commonly adopted 21st century skill sets, I have not seen many mentions of resilience and perseverance but these are valuable skills for today's students. I recently came across the video about creativity that emphasized that problems are not solved on the first try. People solve problems and discover creative situations when they persistently look for answers and solutions.

·        Apologizing is a skill and there is such a thing as a bad apology. Don’t apologize with a “but.” Pausch emphasized apologizing with an acknowledgement of a wrong and an offer for retribution.

·        With rights come responsibilities. Pausch called this Communitarianism and the basis of it was that “when we’re connected to others, we become better people.” I think that this is an incredibly important concept in our classrooms!

Thank you to Randy Pausch for so much wisdom in one place and also to Jeffrey Zaslow for helping him to write it. The short chapters of The Last Lecture inspire me as a parent, teacher, and human being.


  1. Thank you for giving us a look at some of the important points you believe are of value, for us and for the classroom. I like that 'don't apologize with a "but"'. It could start a good conversation with students. You've given me a lot to ponder today!

  2. I haven't read at the Last Lecture but I've heard of it and saw it at B&N recently and thought I should read it. I love inspirational texts. I like all the bullet points so I'm even more interested to read now!