Sleeping StudentI did a little experiment in the classes I taught today. I had four classes of about 28 students per class. We’ve been working the past few weeks on speaking/listening skills, specifically as they relate to the process of interviewing and being interviewed. This is a second semester session so each and everyone of these students has already had the introductory session of my speaking/listening curriculum.

I’ve worked them pretty hard on advancing their listening skills, on acquiring a voice with which to speak clearly and articulately. I have been really hard on them but they tell me that this is what they want. I don’t only want to give them theory, I want them to possess real-world skills when they graduate. They have had more instruction, role play and information inundating them than most people their age.

Back to my little experiment. I decided that the lecture and story segment of our class would take up the majority of our session, with time allotted for question/answers. I ran off more than 125 copies of my lecture notes, graphs, sample questions  and tucked them away in my bag. I kept three pages out for myself to refer to while I walked the room, engaging them in discussion and facilitating.

I purposely kept referring back to my pages and let them know how valuable the information was. Keep in mind, they all say they want to go to college and they all are vocally adamant about this fact.

Besides instructing them on the typical interview questions they might be asked during a college interview, I also kept reiterating the importance of advanced preparation.

At the end of 45 minutes of role playing, questions/answers and instruction I felt that the time to launch my experiment had arrived.

I let them know that we needed to bring our session to a close. I told them that I was willing to put my notes on the overhead projector if they wanted to copy them down. I let them know that I would give them time to copy my notes. I asked them, “how many of you would like me to put the information on the overhead so that you can write it down for yourself?”

I had four classes I worked with today and each one them had the very same responses. Once I asked who wanted to copy from the overhead projector, they all wailed and moaned vociferously asking me why didn’t I run off copies for them.

I was stoic in my response, “Do you guys want this information or not? If you do, I’ll put it on the overhead.”

They all grumbled once again. It was as if I had placed an undue burden on them that was making their lives more difficult. They were responding to me as though I owed them a greater effort on my part to make things easier for them.

I then asked to see a show of hands as to how many were willing to write down the information for themselves if I put it up on the overhead projector?

In each of my four classes, there were only 2 or 3 per each class who raised their hands. Each of my classes has an average of 28 students. Out of those 28 students, I only had 2 or 3 in each class who valued the information enough to be willing to take notes for themselves from the overhead projector. I had each of these students, willing to take notes for themselves, stand up.

Once the 2 or 3 in each class stood up, I let the rest of the class know that I really wasn’t going to make them write the information down for themselves. I, in fact, had made copies for everyone in each of my classes. I needed to know who was willing to put forth effort. That was my experiment. Real life is competitive. Those who are the most prepared are usually the ones who will succeed. I needed to know who valued the information I was giving them. I wanted to see which of my students was going to step up and take the minimal challenge of “writing down” the information I was imparting using their own hands.

Out of 112 students I had 8 total who wanted to take time to write the information down.

Yes, you read that correctly. I only had 8 students out of 112 willing to do the difficult work of taking their own notes.

In each class, I let those who were standing know that they were not going to be required to take notes. I told them that this was a life lesson. I explained to my entire class that each of them must be self-motivating if they ever expect others to be willing to assist them in achieving their goals and objectives.

In each class there was a sense of exasperation with me when they found out I had made enough copies to pass out to the entire class. They complained that I tricked them, That I was not being fair.

My response to my all of my students, “Life is not fair.”

I only passed out the papers to those who were standing.

If this isn’t a lot like life then I don’t know what is.

I will extend this lesson when I return next week, but it is very telling to say the least.

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