Saturday, November 26, 2011

If You Had One Lesson Left to Teach Your Students Before You Die, What Would It Be?

I asked myself that question after reading the National Bestseller: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, Professor Carnegie Mellon. While reading the book, I typed up quotes that I found inspirational and realized that they can be applied not only to education, but to life in general.


If I had one lesson left to teach my students before I died, my lesson would be this: You are all unique and valuable and you all have a purpose in this world, it is up to you to go out and find it!

What would your last lesson to your students be?


Below are my favorite quotes from The Last Lecture that will always teach a lesson regardless of the subject that you teach:

What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance?

All parents want to teach their children right from wrong, what we think is important, and how to deal with the challenges life will bring. We also want them to know some stories from our lives, often as a way to teach them how to lead theirs

An injured lion still wants to roar.

What makes me unique?

What do I alone, truly have to offer?

If you can dream it, you can do it.

We cannot change the cards that we are dealt, just how we play the hand.

If there is an elephant in the room, introduce it.

Never make a decision until you have to.

Just because you’re in the driver’s seat doesn’t mean you have to run people over.

How many men are on a football team? And how many people are touching the football at any given time? So we are going to work on what those other twenty-one guys are doing.

When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you.

There is really only one way to teach kids how to develop self-esteem. You give them something they can’t do, they work hard until they find they can do it, and you just keep repeating the process.

The second kind of head fake is the really important one—the one that teaches people things they don’t 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.

Shatner was the ultimate example of a man who knew what he didn’t know, was perfectly willing to admit it, and didn’t want to leave until he understood. That’s heroic to me.

The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.

Brick walls are there for a reason. They give us a chance to show how badly we want something.

You can always change your plan, but only if you have one.

Time must be explicitly managed, like money.

Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think.

It is an accepted cliché in education that the number one goal of teachers should be to help students learn how to learn. I always saw the value in that, sure. But in my mind, a better number one goal was this: I wanted to help students learn how to judge themselves. Did they recognize their true abilities? Did they have a sense of their own flaws? Were they realistic about how others viewed them? In the end, educators best serve students by helping them be more self-reflective. The only way any of us can improve is if we develop a real ability to assess ourselves. If we can’t accurately do that, how can we tell if we’re getting better or worse?

It’s a thrill to fulfill your own childhood dreams, but as you get older, you may find that enabling the dreams of others is even more fun.

Getting people to welcome feedback was the hardest thing I ever had to do as a teacher. It saddens me that so many parents and educators have given up on this. When they talk of building self-esteem, they often resort to empty flattery rather than character-building honesty.

Give yourself permission to dream. Fuel your kids’ dreams, too. Once in a while, that might even mean letting them stay up past their bedtimes.

Don’t complain, just work harder. Too many people go through life complaining about their problems. I’ve always believed that if you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things can work out.

Treat the disease, not the symptom.

Don’t obsess over what people think.

Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer.

Get people’s attention.

Write thank you notes. You never know what magic might happen after it arrives in someone’s mailbox.

If we kick him out right now, we’ll be missing the whole point of what we’re here for. We’re here to teach, to nurture.

I find the best shortcut is the long way, which is basically two words: work hard.

Eaten By Wolves Factor: Yes, I’m a great optimist. But when trying to make a decision, I often think of the worst-case scenario. If I do something I think to myself, what’s the most terrible thing that could happen?

I mean, I don’t know how not to have fun. I’m dying and I’m having fun. And I’m going to keep having fun every day I have left. Because there’s no other way to play it.

He’s just this phenomenal ball of positive energy; completely physical and gregarious. When he smiles, he smiles with his whole face; he’s the ultimate Tigger. He’s also a kid who’s up for everything and befriends everyone. He’s only three years old, but I’m predicting he’ll be the social chair of his college fraternity.


I’m aware that Chloe may have no memory of me at all. She’s too young. But I want her to grow up knowing that I was the first man ever to fall in love with her.

As I see it, a parent’s job is to encourage kids to develop a joy for life and a great urge to follow their own dreams. The best we can do is to help them develop a personal set of tools for the task.



Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams



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