A Good Lesson: Fake It
According to Paul Tough's new book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, the most important thing that kids learn in school is not knowledge, but how to improve character traits such as resilience, the ability to delay gratification, and diligence . . . and so the most important lesson I've taught my students is probably not one related to essay writing . . . my best guess is that the most valuable thing they will take away from my class is a policy I instituted last year, a protocol on how to approach me after being absent from my class; you may not come up to me before class and ask, "What did I miss?" because I won't remember, and even worse, you can't say, "Did I miss anything?"because then I'll make you read this wonderfully sarcastic poem . . . so what you must do is provide one piece of information about the lesson you missed, which you must acquire from a classmate, so that you can make a statement like this: "Dearest teacher, I know we read an essay about bee-keeping yesterday, and I heard that we had a quiz, so I was wondering what I should do to make this up?" and though I know the process is complete baloney, and that I am forcing the student to pretend they care about something they don't care about, I think this is an important skill to have: the ability to pretend you that care, and I am always surprised at how adept they are at it, how quickly they adapted to my demand . . . in fact, sometimes they are so convincing with their facts and queries that they actually fool me, and I truly believe that they care about what they missed.