An old friend, really old friend, sent me the list of the 2017 Darwin Awards. Made me think about when I taught high school about a hundred years ago. At the beginning of each year I handed out copies of a 1-page list of instructions to see just how many of my daily 140 or so math and Russian language students would read the entire page.
The first instruction was: “Read the entire page before you begin.”
The second instruction: “Write your name on the blank space above the line in the upper right-hand corner of this paper.” Most of them got that right, but there was almost always one Darwin Award candidate in each class who wrote: “Your Name.” Most of the them tried to convince me they did that on purpose; as a joke. I only believed some of them……
The third instruction: “Read all of these instructions before you do anything else.”
The last instruction, number 20: “Disregard all of the above instructions except for instructions 1-3.”
Instructions 4-19: a collection of unexpected and somewhat silly things such as: “Stand up, turn around, and sit back down at your desk.” “Shake hands with the person on your right.” “Stand, walk around your desk, and sit back down at your desk.” “Raise both hands and wiggle your fingers for 5 seconds.”
You get the idea.
In every class, every year, about half the kids read to the end and sat watching the other half of their classmates do all the silly things in 4-19. Everybody got a good laugh out of it, although the kids who were standing up, wiggling their fingers, etc., laughed a bit nervously, not sure of what was going on. Within a few minutes everyone had caught on.
After a few words imploring them to make sure they read all that was to be read, we moved on.
To my eternal gratitude, many of “my kids” later told me that was one of the most valuable lessons they ever learned: namely, when someone puts something to read in front of you, read it all. Read everything carefully and thoroughly before taking any action.
I was convinced that high school teachers should toss in a life lesson now and then.....